I went to two different high schools. The first high school I went to was in a community in which I’d lived for nine years, which is, coincidently, how long I’ve lived in the South, thus making the South and this community tied for places I’ve lived the longest. The second was a tiny school in the middle of Illinois where I was stalked and where I learned that, if someone offers to teach you to drive a stick in exchange for a hand-job, you should make damn sure you learn to drive said stick first, because once the hand-job has been given, the impetus for putting up with your inability to drive his truck has been lost.
Anyway, I wasn’t invited to the ten year reunion at the second high school, if there was one. I also wasn’t invited to the ten year reunion at the first one, but when I moved, my friend Moe and I made a pact that we would go together and because Moe is a woman of her word, we did.
I should point out that, in high school, I was much like I am today, but moreso. So, I was smart, but not the smartest person in any given situation. I was not an unpopular nerd, but I wasn’t in the cool crowd. I didn’t play sports, but I was in the band. I had some issues–such as my desire to off myself–that probably stood in the way of me being happy, but I wasn’t on drugs or drinking. Though, in retrospect, maybe those things would have made me feel more at ease.
Anyway, my point is that I was amazingly ordinary, slightly-above average, but painfully socially inept and insecure in much the same way as I am now, but more intense because it was half my life ago, and though I am still not a beaming sun ray of togetherness and spectacularness, I try not to live in ways that actively make me unhappy, I am in a much better place than I was when I was fifteen.
I was friends with this girl, let’s call her Hot Topic, since, I believe that is the name of the store she now manages. Her family went to my church and she was in band with me. She also dated my good friend, Mike, briefly. Her dad was awesome–a big old red-haired Dane who spoke German and had a barrel full of books he’d let me borrow from, though he loved Hemingway and I did not. And her brother, when listening to me mope, even then about how no one would ever love me, once leaned over and kissed me right on the mouth*. But her mom clearly, and I mean clearly, liked her sister better than her.
Anyway, Hot Topic came down to my high school graduation, which was nice. And then I didn’t hear from her except to get an invitation to her wedding (about nine years after we’d graduated)–which I declined–for ten years.
So, when I show up with Moe to the reunion, I’m with the only person I’d managed to stay in contact with from my class. The rest of these folks? I don’t know them. I would say that I barely remember them, but many of them did me the favor of not having changed at all since high school. In fact, some of the popular girls were still having the same fights they had in high school, since, I would guess, 7/8ths of the people from my class never left town.
It was a little awkward, to say the least. Moe and I were well aware that people would think we were a couple and it was interesting to see how people tried to let on that they “knew” and how they tried to prove that they were either cool with that or not cool with that. And the bitches in our class still sat at the bar and glared at everyone like someone had pissed in their drinks. But it was cool to catch up with Moe and to discover that the kid who’d broken his neck water skiing had recovered and gone on to get married and have a kid and actually be really cool.
Needless to say, most folks made no effort to talk to us. Fine.
Not even Hot Topic.
But at some point, I’m headed to the bathroom and she’s standing by the bar (Did I tell you the reunion was at this crappy country club in their bar/dining room, which they did not even bother to keep other people out of?) and she starts yelling, “Oh, fuck you, B. You just walk around here like the people who know you will know you and the people who won’t won’t. Well, you know what? None of our spouses know you. You might think you’re so great and that if people want to know you, they should come up and talk to you, but that’s not how it works. If our spouses don’t know who you are, they aren’t going to know who you are unless you tell them.”
Seriously, she’s yelling this. And everyone’s just standing there staring at us, like I’m supposed to respond. But seriously, she’s right. No one’s going to know who I am if they don’t know me and neither one of us bothers to introduce me to them. I mean, how does one argue that? But she’s being so loud and just going on about how I probably think I’m so much better than her, but I’m not, because she’s married.
What could I do?
I just said, “You’re right.” and turned and went to the bathroom.
*Which, I must say, is the one of the sweetest things that’s ever happened to me. I hope you all will try it the next time I’m feeling insecure.