Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Running into high school's A-list decades later

Weirdness. I ran into one of the "princes" of my high school this week.

The school from which I graduated was Class B; there were 350 students or so in my class. It really wasn't hard to get lost in a crowd of 1400 students on campus. Getting lost was even easier if you were one of the invisible ones, the folks on the periphery, the folks who were A-list in grades but not A-list in terms of popularity.

I've exchanged emails with one of my high school peeps about this incident (you know who you are). I think we're on the same page when it comes to understanding the nature of invisibility among high school students. He was five years or more ahead of the crowd, grokked punk before it had a name. (And yes, I'm dating us making that statement; we are no longer spring chickens.) During the two years I attended the same high school with this chap, he managed to transcend that veil of invisibility through which no geeks typically passed. It was humorous to watch at arm's length the response of the A-list personalities as he began to "pass".

But not me; I never passed. I was too much of this or that or deficient in something else to ever "pass" and become visible. Too articulate (which some would label "mouthy" or "opinionated"), too independent (which some would call "bitchy")...and not emotionally bonded to anyone in my classes. There were a couple chaps who very nearly were my boyfriends. I still regret not going out with one sweet soul. I ended up going steady with the older brother of the other candidate (eventually living with him and moving out and now evading him years later). Dating a much older guy put me at a disadvantage when it came to campus gossip; I had nothing to ask, nothing to contribute since my boyfriend had already graduated a couple years before. It made me all the more invisible since I didn't go to high school dances or parties.

Running into one of the A-list personalities all these decades later brought back memories of that state of invisibility. Funny, I used to feel a bit left out, like an odd duck, not that I would have changed anything. I don't know that I ever would have chosen to be A-list, save for the raw desire for power to influence that comes with being A-list.

I introduced myself to him, the former "prince" of the campus; I know we never talked when we were in high school. Whatever socially-constructed wall there was between our different statuses on campus was gone; he was just a middle-aged guy whose hair is still thick but too long by today's standards and whose belly is equally thick; I'm just a middle-aged woman who could stand to lose a few pounds and needs a manicure.

Both of us visible. He no longer a "prince", me no longer a geek when geeks had no name.

It felt weird. In some ways I relish the fact that I write this invisibly now; I've protected tooth-and-claw my anonymity for decades for other reasons, and now for the ability to write freely without guard. I felt as if that cherished veil had been pierced, as if I was giving a recital in the nude in front of my classmates.

It felt like a portent, too. There may come a day in the not-too-distant future when I will have to lift this veil and out myself. Running into this A-list personality made me realize I might have to deal with that sooner rather than later, since my life in the political and business worlds makes me far more visible than I ever have been.

In some ways I have a high-schoolish envy of an A-lister that I never had as a teenager. I envy this "prince" his being out and known; he's always been visible, public, even now as an adult in a role that makes him part of public record.

But perhaps he envies me the privacy I have, the ability to click POST below and have only a couple of folks in the entire world know who it is that hit that key, the ability to step away from this desk and go out into the world without the world knowing who I am and what I will do next, the queen of my own private realm.

Hmmm. Interesting.

I was known in high school, although not terribly popular in terms of being granted, possessing and using that odd brand of teenage power. Too smart and too mouthy, I think. Plenty of the popular girls were smart, too, but they learned quickly that in those years brains wins you little in the way of boyfriends or invitations. Once I figured it out, it was too late for me. Once a sarcastic brainiac, always a sarcastic brainiac.

Funny thing, though. My sisters still live in the town where I grew up and they encounter high school classmates of mine from time to time. Often, one or the other of my sisters will say that so-and-so asked after me and I find that I have absolutely no memory of the person. Apparently, I made more of an impression in those years than I thought. And all this time I thought I skirted through without leaving a mark.
Nuts, Marsha, you know I didn't notice your comment! Yeah, I can relate to the smart-mouth brainiac thing...but in hindsight, that wasn't such a bad thing. It weeded out the chaff and left only the ones who were worth getting involved with emotionally.
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