Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Reflections on My Youth

Last Saturday I went to my 35th year high school reunion. 60 of us showed up to reassure each other that we are remembered and that we don't look bad for a bunch of 50+-year-old women.

I was making my usual wisecracks about my life, my husband, and our children when one of the listeners commented, "You are still as funny as you were in high school!" Uhm, I don't remember being particularly funny in high school. I mean, I wasn't the class clown. But I'll take the compliment.

Another person asked me where I worked and what I was doing. I have a real problem trying to describe my job in a meaningful ten-words-or-less way. So I was very general about it, although the words "database" and "web access" came up. "I knew you'd have some kind of technical job," the person replied. "You were always one of the smart ones." Me? No, there are some really smart women in our class, genius smart. I was in the second tier.

The reunion was held on campus, in one of the halls where we had class meetings. The floor is now parquet, but used to be carpeted, because we often sat on the floor, heedless of the fact we were wearing skirts (pants were not an option). Someone recalled the big class meeting that was called during our sophomore year because we were so "clique-y." I turned to a friend and said, "I don't remember us being so bad."

"That's because you were in the Photo Club Clique," she answered.

"Really? The Photo Club Clique was mostly the girls in the year ahead of us," I mused. I had never considered that I was in a clique. I always thought of myself as a "floater," one of those kids who is kind of on the B Team. I was one of three yearbook photographers. I was one of several in the Photo Club and the AV (audio-visual) club. I was on the swim team, although I never won a race. I heard of all the good parties--on Monday morning, in the bathroom.

I had a sense even then of who I was: a bookworm, a geek in glasses, with a poetic bent and a willingness to work hard enough to earn acceptable grades. I knew enough about my family's financial facts of life to know that I couldn't compete with cool clothes or the latest record collection. Hey--I came to the school as a freshman wearing Sugarplum Pink cat's eye glasses and left wearing the only-slightly-better fake-tortoiseshell cat's eye glasses. My family's car was an 8-passenger Dodge van, big and boxy and a stickshift. By the time I graduated everyone knew I was a Girl Scout because I was selling cookies out of my locker.

Fortunately, there were plenty of other girls either in my same situation or who didn't care. And because most of us were together for all four years, I learned that some of the "cool" girls were actually smart. And some of those who I thought had it together, didn't. So I go to my class reunions to see how everyone has turned out, to reconnect with those I shared some pretty significant memories and who I see only once every five years.

This year, the former Student Body President sat next to me at the table. Her life is pretty routine: kids, job, husband, house. "What can I say?" she quipped. "I peaked early." And we all laughed because, frankly, we all have moved on.

Even the Mean Girls have gray hair, laugh lines, and crow's feet.