As Class of ’04 Week comes to a close, we’re taking today to look back at our own personal experience in high school. Like everyone else who spent four years trapped inside a building with pubescent teens and seemingly endless piles of homework (that we may or may not have done), we have fond memories of our time together in those hallowed halls. From being theatre nerds to drama with friends and a trip that took us to meet our very first (gay) boyfriend in Europe, the anecdotes are endless. Since the odds of us attending our upcoming (official) 10 year reunion are the same as, say, Britney and Justin getting back together or my Beanie Babies collection being worth $1 mil, or ever knowing the real way to pronounce ‘Xanga’, we now share with you reflections on our teen selves as adults 10 years later – in lieu of a real reunion.
Introduction to Theater
M: We sort of had a weirdly politicized high school theater department, which I think is such a normal thing. Like, the same kids got all the roles even if they weren’t great, and it was impossible to edge your way in there. Both of us came in with more “experience” (whatever) than a lot of kids, but since we started sophomore or junior year it was like “nope, sorry.” And I was like BITCH I WAS IN AN EDUCATIONAL VIDEO ALREADY.
T: And I was all BITCH I’VE BEEN IN ALL THE PRODUCTIONS OF MY CHURCH MUSICALS DAMNNNN. But really. I think I went into the freshman year audition of Cinderella thinking I was the shit and ended up not even getting into the chorus. It wasn’t until junior year when both Molly & I got into Crazy For You – and I got in only because I was good at tap dancing and somehow made the “dance troupe/Follies Girls”. I felt like I finally had an in but senior year, I was determined to get a good role for the musical, My Fair Lady. I started taking voice lessons from a local music school just so I could properly prepare for my audition. I guess it worked because I played Mrs. Pearce, the head housekeeper. CATCH YOUR DREAMS, KIDS. SHACKLE THEM TO YOUR HEART.
M: But the most memorable theater experience by far was The Theater Bandit. During the spring musical, stuff kept disappearing from kids’ backpacks during rehearsals. After a while it became clear it was someone involved in the play. THEN a big sum of money went missing the day of our dress rehearsal, and the play was going to be cancelled – cancelled! – if the person didn’t fess up or turn in the money. The directors called everyone up onto the stage, one by one, and went through their bookbags to look for it. Girls were crying.
Honestly, even for the theater department, calling each kid up to be searched right at center stage was a liiiiitle dramatic. There were three chairs – one for the kid and one for each director – and in my imagination, a spotlight. Maybe some suspenseful piano music.
T: But really, in my head it looked like the “green mile” on So You Think You Can Dance right before they find out if they make the top 20 or not.
Turns out that the girl who did it finally got caught and mystery of The Theater Bandit was solved. I still don’t know if she ‘fessed up or you know, our director found a huge wad of cash in her bookbag, but to this day, we still call this girl The Theater Bandit. Also I think I remember someone else claiming they had something stolen, and during the interrogation, she came crying back into the theater saying her mom found whatever it is she thought was stolen – at home.
M: I don’t know if she was officially caught, because I found out later when our friend Sarah went to college with someone knew The Theater Bandit. If our lives were Pretty Little Liars, that was the moment I found out who A was.
Recess/Lunch (You Can’t Sit With Us)
M: I could still draw the social geography of our high school cafeteria from memory. Having multiple groups you sit with depending on the day was okay – I floated a bit – but going to a table that wasn’t part of your usual scene just wasn’t done. To the extent that freshman year when I went to the senior boy table to give my brother my leftover lunch money and stayed there a while, THAT was the moment he decided I was sort-of cool. One time they tried to start this Change Your Seat Day, and we were all like “this is some kind of crazy bullshit.”
T: I weirdly remember the geography too. In fact freshman year, I almost sat with the girls who played sports – because my friends from middle school played volleyball, not because I did HAHA – but I decided to sit somewhere else instead. That somewhere else was the theater/band/chorus section, where I usually sat. Although, like Molly, I think I floated a bit, between that table, the table that our group of friends started that was kind of a mish mosh of folks, and when I felt daring, the minority table (read: black table). I used to sit at the black table all throughout middle school, but that’s because we were all friends. In high school, it was like two of them were my friends and the rest were the guys who played football. Nope.
M: The volleyball thing reminds me of that period right at the beginning of freshman year when you’re trying to get your bearings, and you hang out with people that you end up not even saying hi to in the hall four years later. The same thing happened in college, too. You befriended some random group of people, figured out who you really want to spend time with within a few months, and by graduation you didn’t even know their names.
T: And I’m still friends with those people on Facebook. Still trying to get myself to unfriend them, but stalking is just so satisfying on the internetz.
M: I was never properly at the center of any actual teen drama. I did have a few of those random girls who seemed to dislike me for no reason though. One girl from my tennis team hated me. She was sort of a poor student/bad girl type. I think she took my “Exceeds Expectations” personality type as a personal indictment, when in reality I couldn’t have given less of a shit about her. Also this one girl who used a lot of hairspray was always kind of snide and I was like “get over yourself, you leave the girls’ bathroom under a heavy fog of Aquanet.” If there is a tiny ozone hole directly above the science wing of our high school, she is the reason.
I did talk a lot of shit, though. I’ll own up to that. But I was always joking! I felt like it was okay to rip on people as long as it was funny. I hope I’ve gotten better, but that might be a lifelong journey.
T: I mean, we’ve gotten better to the extent that we know when it’s warranted because people are jackasses. Yeah, I don’t really remember any real teen drama happening, besides the normal secret romances, secret (not so secret) pregnancies… but senior year is when the real shit happened. One of my friends decided she was just going to stop talking to us – I honestly don’t even remember why – and as a last “olive branch/I’m going off to college peace offering” I sent her a copy of that video I made for everyone (see yesterday’s post re: Closing Time by Semisonic), and never got a response back. Until like 2 years ago when we met up when I was home and we made up, I guess? IDK I don’t have a problem with her anymore, I just think it’s funny that I still have no idea why there was a rift in the first place.
M: I was waiting for you to tell that story because I couldn’t figure out what had actually happened and figured I either forgot or wasn’t in the loop! It turns out it was just legitimately for no reason?
T: No reason. If there was a reason, I’ve clearly forgotten it with my old age.
M: Junior year, we went on a school trip to Spain. We brought along computer print-outs of Friends episodes and read them aloud in our hotel room. I feel like this is an important thing to know about us as friends and just people in general.
T: I clearly remember us in our hotel room in Valencia, maybe (?) sitting on the bed and reading the scripts between the two of us and our two friends. This was also the trip where we tried to convince one of our friends that Cups was a real game during the flight.
M: We totally did, too. I remember her being like “I think I’m getting it!”
I’d like to take this moment to publicly apologize to all of the other people on our flights, in our hotels, in restaurants, etc. We were probably all so loud and annoying. A German couple did ask us to quiet down one morning when we were watching “That’s English!”, which was like the Spanish-to-English version of Destinos. Sample dialogue: A: Do you like ham? B: I like ham. A: Here’s a ham! Have some ham.
T: oh my GOD I forgot about That’s English! We also did a lot of ‘staring at European children and promising we would dress our kids like that one day’ too. The friggin tots looked straight out of Zara.
M: I’m still trying to work out how my future children can wear school smocks (is that even the right English term? IDK. Babis.) and speak French.
T: Since we went through the school, we were on one of those EF organized tours that give you a free backpack and a tour guide to join you the entire trip. Our tour guide’s name was Pablo *sigh*. I was pretty much obsessed/in love with him and his Spanish accent and knowledge of so much about his country. I even bought one of those novelty name plates that said PABLO on it, which still sits in my bedroom at home to this day. Looking back… he was absolutely, 100%, no doubt about it, homosexual. FORESHADOWING OF MY LIFE WITH THE GAYS.
M: I remember debating whether he was gay or straight, and then he walked into the hotel lobby in a rainbow-print Dolce & Gabbana sweater. We were like “maybe he’s just European?” But Europe has gay people, too. And he was one of them.
T: Kids these days don’t know just how good they have it. Someone was recently telling me that they saw a group of like 15 year old girls at the airport who kept taking selfies for 20 minutes while waiting for their flight. When we were 15, we had to take pictures on either our disposable KODAK cameras or actual point and shoots with real film (do kids know how to put film in cameras even?). When you got pix back after they were developed and you looked horrible in a picture, too bad. That’s why when there was a picture where everyone looked great, it was like the holy grail.
And for big events – such as prom – I remember the agony of waiting a couple days to get the photos back. And then we would scour over them during lunch.
M: But in a way, that was better. Because you kept your pictures, and if you looked bad, you either got rid of it or just didn’t show it to anybody. And if you looked bad in someone else’s pictures, only a finite group of people would ever see it. The downside was that if your pictures didn’t turn out you wouldn’t know til weeks later, and by then the moment was gone. I like how pictures used to be separate from events. Like you said, we’d all pour over them at lunch or study hall after they were developed. Now you’re expected to show everyone what you’re doing, while you’re doing it.
T: Are senior pictures still a big thing with high schoolers? I think mine actually came out pretty good, but can someone explain to me why I was wearing a jersey like shirt in this one? I never played sports. But we did use these pictures like trading cards.
M: Gotta catch ‘em all! You’d have people you weren’t even really friends with ask for your picture.
They’re still a thing some places at least – my little cousin is a senior now and she has like a hundred different poses that keep showing up on Facebook. When I got to college I learned that in other regions people only got that one picture that went in the yearbook, often where girls had to wear that weird off-the-shoulder black thing. We got straight-up glamour shots with three outfit changes, multiple settings, filters, etc. You had your yearbook pic and then like your sassy outdoor pic, your “wearing a prom dress on a swing” pic, etc. My wearing a prom dress on a swing pic was actually in SUCH demand that I ran out. My mom ordered more but, alas, she got extra prints of the wrong one. I was so ticked in the way only a seventeen-year-old whose mom is just trying to help can be ticked.
T: Um, I’m pretty sure I never got the one of you in a dress on a swing. That’s it. Friendship over.
M: Yeah, I’d love to give you one, but I still only have a giant stack of the wrong pose. THANKS MOM.
AP Life Class
M: While I think you really have to learn things by experience, there are still some things I wish I’d known:
♦ Straighten your hair or wear it curly, but please do not just blow-dry it and leave it sort of puffy and lumpy and sad.
♦ Being as young and enthusiastic and optimistic as you are at 17 is attractive no matter what you look like. But also, looking back at pictures I can’t believe I didn’t realize that I looked perfectly normal, not the ugly sewer-troll I thought I was. Besides, nobody cares what you look like; they’re all too busy with their own lives. Maybe that’s the biggest lesson: nobody else really cares what you look like, so you shouldn’t either.
♦ You really AREN’T going to use calculus.
♦ A high school teacher said this once, but I had to live it to know if was true: a lot of your best friends and people you’ll love most in your life are people you haven’t met yet. It’s easy to be myopic when you’re a teenager but your relationships when you’re 16 aren’t IT. Or at 27, for that matter.
T: Like Tim Riggins, I also have no regrets, but here we go:
♦ Pay attention during instructions for school picture day. I came from a middle school where you could dress up (aka not wear the required uniform) for picture day, and assumed it was the same in high school. So freshman year, I showed up in a long black skirt, white shirt, with a black button up short sleeve shirt that wasn’t buttoned up. I got pulled over by one of the vice principals who asked why I wasn’t in dress code. I blamed it on my stupidity. Probs my most embarrassing moment in my high school career.
♦ Hang out with your friends outside of school more. Because our school was a private school with kids from all over the greater Rochester area, my friends lived all over the city, not down the street. In fact I had no friends that lived down the street from me. Anyways, I didn’t really hang out with my friends on weekends for real until late junior year. I wish we had more nights together.
♦ Take that journalism class. Because it will help you for your future job, probably (aka the job I have now).
♦ Don’t be afraid to do more extracurriculars. I wish I could’ve done choir all four years, been involved in theatre somehow even when I wasn’t cast in the show, and I totally could’ve made the yearbook much better than it was our senior year.
♦ Don’t be afraid. Period. I think I was trying too hard to be “adult” by the time I was a senior that I forgot how to be a teenager and just not think about the possible consequences. I mean, it’s not like I was breaking any laws, I just mean I shouldn’t have have been so uptight about life in general.