High school was neither the best nor worst time of my life. I think this sets me apart from people - those still in high school, and those people who are busy remembering it.
I wasn’t distraught all the time. Nor was I busy being head cheerleader, fucking the football team with a smile on my face. I was somewhere in between, and if I went back to high school now, I wouldn’t change that. The only thing that would be different now would be my level of confidence.
I’m still confused about a lot of things, still insecure in the areas I was nervous about as a teenager. I’m also still brave and risk-tasking and all the other good stuff. The difference is that the good stuff was mostly seen by people at my summer camp, not people at the school I went to. This time I’d be more okay with the bits where I didn’t feel okay. I’d be confused about my sexuality, but not really. I’d be openly bisexual, and no one would care because they would all be in awe of my bravery.
This time, when the principal yanked me into his office to ‘discuss’ my position paper on gay adoption, I’d be ready with more than downcast eyes and polite agreement. I’d still probably have dated That Boy, and maybe I wouldn’t have been so crazy this time around – except maybe I would, because that’s what first love does to you. I’d need that relationship to end so that I could find This Girl, but in the meantime there would be boys and girls – just like last time, except this time it would be okay.
I’d relish sitting outside with Mae more, whether by all night bonfires or on her roof. I would hug her mother and tell her just once, before she got sick, that I loved her. I would keep in touch with Mae after her (our) mother died, instead of leaving it fifteen years until social networking sites were invented.
If I was back in high school now, I’d have more body confidence. This would come from the knowledge (again, gained by social networking sites) that all the skinny, pretty people who were popular in high school would turn into not-very-skinny, semi-pretty people who would never really step out of their high school selves.
I’d get on birth control earlier. I’d have kissed that girl I was so busy fighting with all the time. I’d wear funky glasses and force myself more into the drama scene – perhaps transforming it from the geek squad of shitty actors into a geek squad of people wearing clothes so daring that principal would be angry – because we’d make sure to make sure they were still within the confines of the dress code.
If I woke up in high school tomorrow, I’d make smarter choices about my future. I’d ask MK to join a writing group with me, instead of hating him because he was so good. I’d sniff That Boy’s hair, so I could remember it more. I’d somehow find a way to connect with a gay community, somewhere. I’d be beautiful and blonde and bisexual - only this time I would realise it all. That I was bisexual, and beautiful.
I’d smoke a little more pot, not smoke any cigarettes, and not take that last sip of vodka. I’d hang with Gas Station J more, find some way to create a new social scene that was the best of her friends mixed with the best of my friends. I’d convince her to come back to camp.
I’d still have safe sex, fight with my parents, and get the very best grades. I’d just have more fun doing it.
Yes, high school wasn’t the best (who wants the best when your life has only started?), but it was not the worst. It was worse when I was younger. Every year I get older, it gets a little better. I do not miss high school. I miss university, very much, and the lifestyle and love I was surrounded with then. But high school?
What did I gain, really?
I guess the experiences of how to love and be loved. My first sexual experiences. Finally having a circle of friends. Sloppy kisses in the middle of the night behind Mae’s back. Mae’s mother. The unsettling experience of hating and loving my father after discovering him cheating on my mother. A stronger little unit: me, my sister, my mother. Screaming fights with my mother. Bell choir. The end of bad home perms. Political campaining experience – how we laughed in that little office, trying to persuade people to vote.
What did I gain? Four years of laughing and figuring myself out. Four years of not quite getting it right. Nerves and angst and extreme highs and lows. The first time I thought seriously about being a writer or a sex therapist (and fifteen years later I convert that ‘or’ into an ‘and’).
The question is also: what did I lose? A father. A secure home. My first true love. Myself.
I would like to take that younger me out for a good meal sometime, and just give her a little peak into what was in store. I’d like to look at her from another perspective, see what she was like, who she was. I think I’d like her. I hope she would like me.