La La How The Life Goes On

Fast Times at Jonesmont High

Posted on: August 7, 2011

Bambina has recently become very interested in and enamored of teenagers, as long as they don’t refer to her as a “little sister” or any other diminutive endearment. It’s cute to a point, but her curiosity has now focused specifically on one teenager in particular: me. What did you look like? Did you like school? Did you drive a car? Did you kiss a boy? On and on, each question prompting an answer, but never really the truth.

AnyoneW who is still alive to tell the tale knows that high school is rarely on most people’s bucket lists as “places I’d love to return.”. Or maybe you were that kid. The one who just sailed through adolescence with tons of friends, no insecurities, and a double dose of genuine confidence. I haven’t met that kid yet, upon reflection; but I spent a great deal of the late 80’s convinced that I was the only living girl in Jonesmont without it. Which makes my reminiscences for Bambina semi-fictional, for reasons of her age and my discomfort.

What did I look like? Well, I tell her that I looked ridiculous by today’s standards, but that I really loved High top sneakers, color- coordinated socks and shirts, and enormous hair. She finds this revelation funny. I don’t tell her that I was going for Debbie Gibson cute meshed with Pat Benatar Love Is a Battlefield edge, and failing. I don’t tell her that the winning caption for any of my high school photos would simply read, “Reeks of Effort”. I don’t tell her that I spent unhealthy quantities of time worrying about how I looked, what people (=boys) thought of how I looked, how much I would just totally seriously DIE if my hair got flat in the rain and I had to spend a day feeling ugly. I don’t tell her that more than anything, I want to spare her those obsessive hours, those worries about features she cannot change, people she cannot impress. I want her to love herself in a way that I, and I suspect most high schoolers, did not.

Did I like school? I tell her half the truth: I really really did, big fat nerd that I was. I tell her that i loved most of my teachers and found almost everything I learned interesting. I tell her that my favorite subjects were English and History. She gets this because she likes school too. I don’t tell her that my classes were a welcome reprieve from a social structure I never quite understood or managed to conquer. That academics shielded me somewhat from the insanity I perceived around me. That I embraced the Smart Girl designation because the others (slut, bitch, troubled drinker) scared me or (scholar-athlete, drama and music girl) eluded me due to my rather hilarious lack of talent. I don’t tell her that I pondered serial killing in any math class with poor befuddled Mr. [redacted] who took Calculus, a subject I already feared and loathed due to its complexity, and made it even more confusing. I literally watched the clock every single minute of that class, plotting how I could perhaps cut his brake line or pull a fire alarm to avoid another day in this academic purgatory.

Did I drive a car? I tell her Sometimes. I tell her I was not allowed in cars with boys until sophomore year. I tell her that I was in a serious car accident in which I was not wearing a seat belt. I don’t tell her that the accident caused my dad to re-invoke the parent-must-drive-me-everywhere rule, much to my rage. I don’t tell her that I hated him with a passion I have never felt before or since, for stealing my freedom, clipping my wings, killing my social life as I imagined it. I don’t tell her that, because I ignored my parents’ seatbelt rule, my father could not forgive me, could not trust me, could not trust anyone else with me. I don’t tell her that I now, as a parent, understand him to the point of tears, when he said after I had screamed, “You’re an asshole!! I hate you!” and thrown stuff and then slammed some doors, “you can hate me all you want, as long as you’re alive to hate me.”. I don’t tell her that once you stare down the cold metal barrel of your kid’s potential end you are never the same person again…and hate from a clueless, self-involved 16 year-old becomes the least of your concerns.

Did I kiss a boy? I tell her yes. I consider lying to encourage chastity, but even I can’t pull that lie off. I tell her that she shouldn’t feel like she ever has to kiss a boy (or girl for that matter) if she doesn’t really want to. I tell her that her life will be full of days for kissing, so there’s never a reason to start early just because. I tell her that someof the nicest people I still know are boys I used to, or wanted to, kiss. She finds this revelation “gross and yucky”. I don’t tell her that she will no doubt be physically interested in “kissing” (hey, it’s a family blog) looong before she has the mental and emotional foundation to understand it’s implications. I don’t tell her that sometimes, maybe, a boy you kiss will also hit you. I don’t tell her that her future will depend upon her getting far, far away from that person. I don’t tell her that girls suffering the same adolescent lack of emotional skills will sometimes be nasty or mean or petty just for kicks, or maybe because you are kissing a boy they would prefer to be kissing. I don’t tell her that shit involving boys, how to get them, how to keep them, how to escape them when you are in over your head–if you make the wrong choices–can totally fucking ruin your year. I don’t tell her that I already know I’m capable of putting a bullet in the brain of any boy who physically harms her.

Bambina says I should have told myself at 15 that I was pretty and smart and that boys are yucky. I agree, on 2 out of 3, and then wonder what would I tell my 15 year-old self if I could chat with her as I do Bambina? I think I’d paraphrase an old Chasidic quote and pray she’d understand:

I fear the things that cannot harm me
I long for things that cannot help me.
What I fear is within me,
Within me too is what I seek.


1 Response to "Fast Times at Jonesmont High"

Oh, Mrs. Jones… you DO have a way.

Thank you for this. I will call upon it next time the questions start in my house.


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