• Bridge Ladies

    Bridge Ladies When I set out to learn about my mother's bridge club, the Jewish octogenarians behind the matching outfits and accessories, I never expected to fall in love with them. This is the story of the ladies, their game, their gen, and the ragged path that led me back to my mother.
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You Look Like a Movie You Sound Like a Song

It was my birthday yesterday and out of the CLEAR BLUE SKY, I received a birthday message from an old high school acquaintance. A nice chatty message filling me in on his circle of friends. Here’s what I remember from high school, the lockers breathing in and out as I acclimated to new medications. I remember the sound of the boy’s voice who did the morning announcements and how i cursed his cheerfulness. I remember a secret friendship with an athlete who also wrote poems, exchanging our diaries. I knew I had to get through it and life would start later, probably in New York City. I didn’t join the paper, the lit mag, the theater, the debate club. I pined for a boy who came over one night and we lay on the roof of my father’s Monte Carlo and got high, the stars obscured by the clouds.

How did you survive high school?

17 Responses

  1. I nearly drowned, until a camera, a kind teacher, and a high school newsletter saved me.

    It’s true what they say, one person (and chance) can make a difference.

  2. I nearly drowned, until a camera, a kind teacher, and a high school newspaper saved me.
    It’s true what they say: one person (and chance) can make a difference.

  3. I started college at 15, juggling the freedom of University Life against the slog of those last 2 years of HS (a whole, ‘nuther story on why my parents & the HS wouldn’t allow me to graduate early…). First hand knowledge of college life was the lifeline that kept me (mostly) oblivious to the nonsense and snark within my high school.

  4. And . . . happy birthday!

  5. How did you survive high school?

    Mostly by doing everything my mother said not to do.

    What I remember most is the year I entered high school. That summer I’d spent most of my time at the neighborhood pool. My hair had grown longer, and was below my shoulders. I had new glasses – wire frames! I recall thinking about how my grand entrance to the student smoking lounge would go. Everyone would turn – look! Is that Donna Davis??? Wow, she’s changed! Who is that girl???

    I even remember what I wore. Corduroy hip hugger Levis – white – and a sleeveless Jantzen top – lime green with orange trim.

    Of course it went nothing like that. They turned, they saw, they resumed their conversations as if I was but a passing gnat.

    As for me – I found my usual clutch of old friends, and settled into my usual humdrum misfit of a life, only now in HS. My grand entrance was over with barely a moment’s pause in the universe of popularity. Such is the grandiosity of the teenage mind driven by chaotic hormones.

  6. My friends and a secret poetry habit

  7. I went to three high schools thousands of miles apart.

    The first, modern and huge. Kids drove hot rods and had NJ attitudes. I was a ghost girl trying to find my place in the shadows. Flunked algebra.

    Second school, Midwest, small and old. One kid rode a horse to school. I was the Jersey girl from back east who wore black, the one the kids and gym teacher made captain of the basketball team. Got an A in algebra. (Had already covered that sh** back east.

    Third huge Midwest high school. I drove a sizzling red ’65 Plymouth Barracuda. As a street racer NO ONE beat me, not even the boys driving daddies Mustang. I was blond, fast and terrified people would find out it was all an act. Acting is fun. Dropped algebra.

    I was lucky because between Bobbi-socks and miniskirts I learned that redefinition of self serves survival.

  8. “How did you survive high school?”

    First, happy birthday, Betsy. Even though I saw you over on El Libro de la Cara and wished you HB there, I do it again here so people here will think I’m an okay guy, because we never leave high school, and one lesson we learn there is how important it is what other people think about us.

    How did I survive high school? You mean it’s over? Thank god, I’m free at last.

    I survived it with drink and drugs, which survival strategy began in earnest in my senior year, in the wake of the devastating loss of my first child. Was she my child? Ask her mother. I know where my dick was and when it was there and what it did and how. I signed the papers when it was time.

    Fathering and losing a bastardette can be distressing enough, stressful in so many ways, but the thing that sent me over the edge was when, in my senior year, I decided to run for Homecoming Queen. It was just a joke, but clueless I had wandered into the minefield of sexual politics. Some people thought I was making a bold social statement. They were the political ones. Some people thought I was an idiot and a fool. They were the correct ones. Some people thought I was a fucking faggot who needed to be destroyed. They were the football team, and they came after me, terrorizing me, punching me out, and attacking my home.

    That was what did it. I found that smoking a lot of marijuana was the way to make it all not matter, to not care about it, to escape from it. Pot was easier to get than booze, though I drank when I could. And pills, there were those, too. I took such goodies as pilfered Valium and Librium (all our mothers had a copious supply of those little helpers).

    And that is how I survived high school.

  9. Running. I ran and ran and ran in circles until one day I realized I could run in a straight line and just keep running. My stepfather was an alcoholic and he was miserable when he wasn’t drinking and pathetic when he was, a sad combination to an insecure teenager looking for guidance.

    I also edited the school newspaper and wrote some really juvenile crap, although I did score some tickets to a new show opening in Greenwich Village by posing as the Arts editor. The show was National Lampoon’s Lemmings at the Village Gate and I managed to get 6 freebies for some anarchist friends and me. I’m sure the publicist knew we didn’t have 5 assistant arts editors, but I guess she wanted to pack the house. The show starred John Belushi, Christopher Guest and Chevy Chase making fun of Woodstock a few years before they became famous. If I remember right, it was the Woodchuck Festival of peace, love and death. To an 18 year old in the early 70s, that was pretty cool.

  10. Three different high schools in three years. Ugh. “I knew I had to get through it” – Exactly. Happy birthday Betsy!

  11. They say that high school is a toxic environment for an introvert, which I discovered way after the fact. To survive I lied to myself: cheerleading, field hockey, boyfriends I didn’t like. My only true times were with my journal, camera, books and my cat, all hidden from everyone. To say it was confusing is a nuts, though some of it was fun. I still have friends from that time, too, which is good, I guess. Still, I like life now and would never go back.

  12. Happy birthday Betsy! Great to have old friends take us back, isn’t it? I actually had a good time in high school, it was the 20s that were harder for me. Still, all that writing material…..;-)

  13. I studied. Complete nerd. Lots of unrequited crushes. Always on the periphery of the popular girls. Very much in my interior world. I wasn’t unhappy, exactly. But not happy either.
    Hope your birthday was great, Betsy!

  14. I survived it by leaving the day I was legally old enough, 14 years and 9 months. I’d never skipped school, not until that very last day — but that day, at lunchtime, a friend suggested we go to the city, as all we had left was Library class.

    I’d never stolen a thing in my life, and I didn’t give a shit about the city — but I had a book I was supposed to return to the library, and I’d fallen in love with that book. That poor book had sat in that high school library six years, and I was only the third person ever to borrow it. If I’d left a week earlier I’d have missed it too. I had no idea who Hemingway was, but still — how many fucking of us heathens went through that school and ignored that perfect book? All but three, I suppose. And the other two were so foolish they returned it to the library, instead of just leaving school forever so they could keep it.

    And so began my life of Hardly Any Crime, Ever. I went to the city with the book in my school bag, and 45 years later I’m sitting here looking at it. The book, not the bag. Blue hardcover, 32nd printing. I’d read hundreds of books before that one, but never one like it. The Old Man and the Sea, it was called, and still is.

    I probably should have begun this little story on Careers Day a month before I left, with the disinterested teacher telling me I was incapable of becoming a journalist or writer of any sort, and that I should find a laboring job as soon as I could, and forget about schooling and writing completely. He was an English teacher too — a lazy failure who couldn’t be bothered to offer a word of encouragement.

    I did not become a journalist. I labored — as he’d told me I should — among other things. I wasted whatever writing talents I possessed for more than the next 30 years. I have written some good books since then, and better readers than that piece of shit have enjoyed them. But I’ve never written one nearly so good as that little blue fucker I stole.

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