Monday, August 18, 2008

The ghost of X.Y. High School

So once again I was a no-show at my high school reunion. This was a biggy—the 40th anniversary of my nongraduation. The fact that I didn't join the procession in 1968 to get my diploma (I took off for Colorado as soon as classes ended) tells a lot about my attachment to the school and the tenor of the times. As I told my friend RR, who attended both the graduation and the reunion, I had only half a dozen friends in high school. I know what happened to three of the six people I cared about (including RR), and the other three were no-shows too, so if I had gone I would have felt as if I were at someone else's high school reunion.

But the flurry of e-mails (How did they ever find me, 2,500 miles away? Was it you, RR?) did rouse memories of what it was like to be an Out-crowd teenager in Silicon Valley in the '60s. I felt like a ghost haunting the halls of X.Y. High School. The casual cruelty of the In crowd ("Wow, I like your tan," sneered a blue-eyed, bronzed, blonde surfer girl when I returned to school pale and wobbly from foot surgery) was too predictable to deeply wound. But there were self-inflicted wounds of mortification: my too-big body; my sparse, shabby wardrobe; my hyperactive sweat glands; by jewfro hair (looked like pubic hair—on my head); my overeager smartness; my secret feelings of inadequacy relative to my honors-class cohort. If I hadn't felt conspicuous because of all those things, I would have felt invisible. I was a giant nobody.

And I pretty much remained a nonperson my freshman year at an all-women's college. Not until I transferred to an all-men's college did I begin to feel three-dimensional. (Ironic to find your sense of self in the very situation that's commonly thought to sabotage it.) And even though it was something of a blow after college to re-enter the real co-ed world where people weren't universally knocked out by my incredible beauty or my novel turn of mind or my sparkling personality, I haven't lost my sense of self again. Nonetheless, I guess I'm still not sure enough of my 3D solidity to take the chance that some suburban princess might wave her wand and render me invisible once more.

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