ICYMI: Dear Alma Mater

Class of ’04 week is officially ending today, but let’s have one last look at us at teens because you’ll never get to see these pictures again (jk this is the internet.)

Class of ’04: Traci & Molly’s High School Reunion

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.

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.

This was not in our school’s cafeteria, this was at the annual theatre banquet our senior year.

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.

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.


We went to a Catholic high school – in fact, both of us spent our entire early educational years in Rochester’s Catholic school system, so we were used to it. But for those of you public school kids who, like parents to Will Smith, ‘just don’t understand’, we’re here to assure you that really, Catholic school was fine.

 Seriously, You Guys, Catholic School Was Fine

At a party in college, a friend from my city asked me about the high school in my suburb. “Well, I lived there, but I actually went to Catholic school.”
“Oh God,” he answered, “I’m sorry.”

But the thing is? I’m not sorry at all. People sometimes assume that, because I grew up into a politically liberal adult who likes outfits, my Catholic school years were probably unbearable — a wasteland of conservative repression and hideous uniforms. Or that since I don’t regularly go to a Catholic church these days, I’ve probably turned against it and am all bitter about it.[1] It’s true that I could go my whole life without wearing another jumper or hearing On Eagles’ Wings[2] again, but for the most part, it was a pretty non-traumatic way to grow up. Here are some misconceptions I’ve run across, and how things actually played out for me:

A nun named Sister William Gerald[3] probably hit you with rulers. First of all, most of my teachers weren’t nuns. They were middle-aged married women[4] wearing adult jumpers. And the nuns that were there were actually pretty nice, usually. True, they didn’t take crap from anyone, but generally in a typical old-lady sense. And I’d be stern too, if I were them. My piano lessons were in the convent, and they had the saddest, smallest, antennaed black and white t.v. – and this was in the mid-90s. Vow of poverty and all that. I mean, you all know how we feel about t.v. around here, right?  Also they had to listen to 6-year-olds play Hot Cross Buns and Ode To Joy all day long. They had a tiny chapel with stained glass windows in the convent, and that was pretty cool, though. But having my own personal, tiny church would not make up for a sub-par television experience. I guess that’s what you get for marrying a famous guy who is also invisible (read: Jesus).

You were denied self-expression because you had to wear uniforms. This probably is just me being a nerd, but I loved my plaid uniform. I liked that I didn’t have to think about what to wear every day. Before a dress-down day, I would look through my entire wardrobe and consult with 2-3 friends by telephone to plan my outfit. There is no way I could have handled that pressure on a daily basis. In retrospect, it was nice that you never knew which kids had tons of nice clothes and which ones didn’t.  Everyone, rich or poor, tall or short, fat or thin, had an equal opportunity to look shapeless and terrible. In terms of creative expression, I had things like crayons and school plays, you know? I creatively expressed myself through clothing in my off-hours, and let me tell you, the results were less than spectacular. Lots of stirrup pants, really, as was the style of the time.

By first grade, this uniform hadn’t stopped me from becoming 39 lbs of concentrated sass.

Your teachers were unqualified, and you only learned about Jesus(/Mary/Joseph). This is the only misconception that I take sort of personally: first of all, I know I received a really good education, and second, my mother is mega-educated and is a Catholic school principal. All of our teachers had masters degrees, just like yours. The graduation standards of my high school were well above my state’s regents diploma. I started college credit courses my sophomore year, and I think senior year was an all-AP schedule for me. I swear we learned about evolution and all of that.[5] We just had religion classes on top of it. This paid off in college, when I entertained friends with Bible Story Time With Molly, where I’d share ridiculous, gruesome, or filthy stories that actually appear in the Bible. In high school I developed a theory that some of that stuff was written by ancient Israelites who ate bad desert mushrooms, etched their musings on stone tablets, then stashed them in a bunch of holy scrolls where they assumed nobody would ever look.

My former elementary is now a public school, but there’s still a cross on top, which I guess is allowed??

You didn’t know about any other religions. In college, I remember meeting classmates and friends who had gone to public school and didn’t know the difference between Catholics and Protestants (or “Catholics and Christians,” as a few maintained that the two were mutually exclusive. Ugh.). I’m not saying that public schools do a bad job of teaching about world religions, I’m just saying that going to one is no guarantee that you are better-informed than a Catholic schooler. My schools did a great job teaching about other religions, and my class even had an awesome partnership with students at a school in Israel. I’d also like to point out that (1) not everyone in my school was Catholic, or even Christian, and (2) like public schoolers, I had … you know, neighbors and friends from outside of school and stuff.

Those were the kids who got beat up in my neighborhood. Yep … okay, yeah. I can’t refute that, because that’s potentially very true. On Sundays, public school kids from our church used to use our classrooms for religious ed. Those punks used to mess with our desks every single week! They even left the cover off of our incubator when we were hatching baby chickens. Luckily the teacher checked on them right after, so no harm there. We were so pathetic that we got out our big classroom chart paper and wrote them a letter asking them to please stop taking our things, if you don’t mind.

1 I would absolutely go to a friendly, non-judgmental church! But do I have to memorize the new mass responses?
2 On Eagles’ Wings is engineered to make people cry at funerals, and vows that God will “make you to shine like the sun,” like a new car or a Twilight vampire.

This song was part of the “contemporary” Catholic music movement of the 70s and 80s. Usually this kind of music is performed by a “folk group,” which is comprised of 4-7 elderly people, one of whom has a guitar. All of the ladies have wavery old-lady church voices. In many churches, the “folk group” is still a “hip” attempt to “reach out to the youth.”

3 My parents have verified that, in the ‘50s and ‘60s, nuns with men’s names were all-around more terrifying that nuns with ladies’ names. So, if your substitute was Sr. Damian Louis, you knew you were worse off than if you had Sr. Margaret Elizabeth.
4 One time someone asked if my mom was a nun since she’s always worked in Catholic schools, and I was all, I don’t think you really get how this nun thing works…
5 In the interest of transparency, our health class was lacking. It was one semester long, and sex ed was basically just graphic descriptions of STIs, and a warning that condoms had tiny holes for AIDS to get through (maybe it was just my teacher? When talking about the id he pronounced it “the I.D.”. He was only on staff because he was a coach, and I think this kind of thing happens at public schools too, maybe? I am basing this opinion entirely off of Mean Girls.) That lasted for about a week, and the rest of the time we watched outdated TV movies about Tracy Gold overcoming things. On a related note, there were like 3-4 pregnant girls my senior year.

 

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