All the baby dyke talk on our recent episode of The Lphabet got us reminiscing about what we were like back in high school.
Grace Chu: I come from a left wing town in a conservative state next to three colleges; pretty much everyone was the kid of a professor. The “cool kids” in my high school were the artsy/drama/literary dorks. The science/math/economics/journalist nerds were one echelon below them; I was part of this crowd. The jocks and cheerleaders were made fun of and were regarded as idiots and people who would never escape our town and move to big cities. Everyone else was at the bottom of the heap. No one went to homecoming or spirit day. In fact, an enterprising pair of punk-identfied kids made “[High school name here] sucks” T-shirts during homecoming week and made a killing. But because we had to vote, a theater gal with retro glasses and dyed hair was homecoming queen and a skinny, very pretty boy who was also in theater who everyone had a crush on was homecoming king. We openly ridiculed our more conservative brethren, which included some of our teachers. The teenage years can be pretty awful, but by some miracle I landed in this environment.
I did not know I liked girls, but I knew that boys had cooties.
Elaine Atwell: I remember being 14 years old and asking one of my few friends, in a great deal of distress, why I was not more popular. She said, “Elaine, you are always reading a book so people assume you don’t want them to talk to you. If you put down the book, you will make more friends.” Ultimately, this was a sacrifice I was unwilling to make. I spent so much of high school trying to bridge the divide between the things I actually liked (reading, hiking, writing) with the things I thought I was supposed to like (watching boys play video games in their shitty apartments between gravity bong hits). My one saving grace was theatre, where I learned to open up a little, but I didn’t really learn how to be happy until college. In high school I learned to get the most out of being thoroughly unhappy, a skill that has served me in good stead ever since. And I thought I was straight as an arrow even though I wanted to make out with my best friend.
Ali Davis: Too busy writing in my journal and trying to find a decent plume for my marching band uniform. Also, I’m finding an excuse to stay after school and talk to that one French teacher for reasons with which I am not yet ready to deal.
Dara Nai: I might in the minority on a site full of self-described nerds, but I was one of the “cool kids” in high school. I had a car, a ton of smart, hilarious friends, a girlfriend on the down-low, and a job at the mall with a really hot boss who never acknowledged my crush on her, but kept giving me raises and, years later, named her daughter Dara. Every weekend was a huge party in the woods, or at someone’s house or behind the elementary school. We cut school to go down the shore (as we say in NJ) or into NYC to kick around Greenwich Village. I had so much fun as a teen, my mom used to yell at me, “This is not a hotel!” because I was never home. I thought I would be sad to see it end but my 20s turned out to be even more ridiculous.
Chloe: Teenage me was ghastly. Always the smallest girl in class, I grew up looking at least two years younger than everyone else while quietly cultivating the interests of an elderly British gentile, which gleaned parent-teacher feedback like, “Chloe is seven going on 30!” and “It’s not unheard of for a 13 year old to still be losing baby teeth, but attacking her classmates in Shakespearian dialect is abnormal.”
When high school rolled around I decided to pour myself into the mode du jour (denim mini skirts, polos, extracurriculars, straightened side swept bangs) and bludgeon the weird into submission.
I was very quiet, sat in the back row, and only spoke when spoken to. I loathed P.E. and routinely lied, forged, manipulated, cried, and hid to get out of athletics. Show me a volleyball and I’ll show you a sociopath.
Obsessively aware of my own physical flaws, I would mentally recite the list of deformations at least once a day, methodically working from top to bottom with chilly precision. Scrawny little girls become naturally thin women, and I was very proud of this one small thing I was the very best at. When not sobbing in the Abercrombie & Fitch dressing room because the size 00 boot cut jeans (GAGGG) were cutting into my imaginary fat flaps. What a twit.
Onto the sad feels: I always knew that the way I felt about boys wasn’t like how my friends felt about boys and that I loved certain girlfriends far more than they loved me. I always knew than in the depths of my grubby little soul festered something grotesque that must never be acknowledged or discussed. At the time, I assumed this was a normal part of puberty. Maybe it was. Hard to tell. Once a shrink told me that if she had to diagnose all teenage girls, they’d overwhelmingly qualify as bipolar. So I don’t really put much stock in the importance of pubescent happiness.
Miserable bastards all around. Except for the tan.
p s. To boost myself into creative overdrive/case of chronic “fuck-its”, I’ve decided to pull an all nighter and drink lots of coffee and write. But I also love writing excessively long responses! But mostly coffee. Perfectly normal!
Bridget McManus: I was the same but my boobs were much smaller.
Lucy Hallowell: I feel like my teenage years contained at least three different versions of me. In middle school, I was surly and miserable because there was no room to be smart without either getting made fun of or being asked to teach the other kids in class. The charming kids in my rural, east bumblefuck school regularly made fun of me for my appearance and often asked me if I was a boy or a girl.
Boarding school was a great as middle school was awful. I was a jock and a nerd and that was just fine because everyone fit into several different categories and no one blinked an eye. I was still surly and sarcastic and spent a lot of energy trying to knock down my debilitating crush on my straight best friend. It was like some deranged game of wack-a-mole but with feelings.
When I got to college I was still sarcastic but was finally ready to give up pretending to be straight. By the end of my teens I met my future wife and couldn’t believe my dumb luck that this gorgeous person would give me the time of day let alone kiss me.