Friday, January 20, 2012

Truth and Memory

The Boyfriend put a pointed question to me about high school during a conversation last weekend, and I ended up depressing myself so badly that I went and hid in my bed afterward. While I have a lot of memories from high school, some good, but quite a few bad, I can usually balance my reminiscences so that I'm not whimpering in the corner later; this time, it didn't work. While The Boyfriend's high school was a violent, drug-riddled Hillbilly hellhole in Eastern Kentucky,  mine was a relatively quiet, rather calm place in the central agricultural region of the state. His school featured beatings, stabbings and murder; mine featured a dance every Friday, well-attended school functions, and the kind of high school drama portrayed in a Judy Blume book.

Somehow, he encouraged me to evoke every moment of rejection and bullying that I endured, including the ones from the unlikelier sources. For instance, I only officially dated one boy from my school; I was such an outlier (not to mention that about half the boys in the school were terrified of my dad into the bargain) that I couldn't buy a date. I was lucky in that a couple of times, I lit upon some rare birds from other schools, so I could demonstrate that I wasn't a dateless loser. Of course, both of them treated me pretty shabbily in the end- at least I didn't know exactly how shabbily in the latter case until months later, when I ended up in the University Honors Program with his best friend- interestingly, it was the day after that particular boy had driven from the University of Louisville to take me to see The Princess Bride. When the cat was out of the bag about the cheating angle, though, Joe was over for once and all. I finally told my parents because Dad had really liked him; he was in engineering school. Must everything we cherish be sacrificed to Speed?*, indeed...

The gruesome reality about my own high school is that even the nerdy boys had no interest in me. In some respects, I was the asexual geek buddy; it simply didn't register that I was a girl. "Smart" was my entre' into the clicque...I was that other guy at the D&D game who happened to have boobs. It still scared the crap out of them when I did that 'teenage girl mood-swing' thing and went from hyper and slightly saccharine to bitchily moody. That forced them to uncomfortably confront my actual non-guy-ness and they didn't like it at_all_. It's so much easier if you can pat the girl on the head and pretend she's just one of the fellas (just be careful that she doesn't rip your arm off and beat you with it).

I'm the consummate actress; never let it be said that I failed to hit my marks. I managed to pull off the unheard-of fat girl coup of attending prom three years running, but the dark secret of that is that the guys I dated both my junior and senior years didn't invite me to their proms and took local girls instead. I rarely admit that, but it's the truth; I was especially bitter about my junior year, because I tried for months to get my parents to let me break my date so I could ask Hopkins- I think they were worried that I'd end up dateless when my backup plan naturally fell through. That particular guy, Edgar, not only came to our prom, but a) hit on several of my friends, b) tried to pick another fight with Hopkins (they'd had a little set-to at Beta Club convention the previous December), and c) made an ass of himself on the dance floor. It was so bad that the guys who were in the drumline with me cornered him and had a word, to wit, that they were going to beat him up if he didn't straighten up right. that. minute. This is excluding the fact that he tried to rape me later that night. What a swell guy. I should've let the guys beat him up.

It's telling that one of my best memories of that night was when we junior girls who were starring in the prom skit gathered in the foyer for a 'garter picture'. Hopkins passed by as I was trying to fish my leg out from under twelve layers of crinoline. The dress had a low sweetheart bodice, and what can I say? Still bent over my skirt, I looked up and waved, inadvertently calling his attention to my chest. He almost fainted on the spot. I was rather pleased with myself, although it didn't seem to have much lasting effect. Such was ever the way- lots of near-misses and me making a fool of myself in the end over yet another boy who didn't want me.

This all came out in the course of the conversation. By the time it was over, I retreated, pulled the covers over my head, and went back to sleep for several hours. Yes, I have good memories, but some of the most uncomfortable ones still drag me into personal hell. I suppose it's better to face them, but this time it really ruined my long weekend.


*Nota bene: Joe enrolled in the Speed School, the engineering college at the University of Louisiville. When my father was at UofL, this particular legend adorned the door of one of the guys who lived in his dorm. Daddy told me this story when Joe won a National Merit Scholarship and informed me that he'd declared in Electrical Engineering. I should've listened to my godfather and uncle, both civil engineers, when they told me that "E.E. guys are weird"...

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