My 25th year high school reunion is coming up soon. I am not going to the reunion. Mostly this is because the reunion is in New Jersey, and I no longer have family there. It’s not worth the trouble and expense. But I’ve been reading about the reunion on Facebook, and all kinds of memories are surfacing.
Let me start out by saying I intend this to be as non-whiny a blog post as humanly possible. I want this to be an empowering post. I’m tired of thinking of myself as a kid who was lonely and unpopular in high school. I’m tired of feeling sad that I skipped out on our senior trip to Disney World because I was afraid no one would hang out with me. I want to start thinking about myself as someone who rocked the shit out of high school.
Here’s the part of the blog post where I risk being whiny and I summarize my middle school and high school years. I was the stereotypically bright child who severely lacked social skills and coordination. You know, the kid with the straight A’s who was always the last one picked in elementary school kickball? That was me. After my parents’ divorce, I started middle school in Pennsauken, New Jersey. Being the new kid in seventh grade would pretty much suck for anyone, but if you’re painfully shy, that’s a disaster waiting to happen. To top it off, the largely working-class, conservative town of Pennsauken was just not a good fit for me. I was a liberal professor’s kid, and one of only a few Jewish kids in the school. From the beginning, there was a pretty good chance that This Would Not Go Well.
Whining done. I have a mental library of painful stories I could tell you about my socially awkward attempts to fit in that ended badly. You don’t need to hear these stories, but more importantly, I don’t need to keep telling them to myself.
My sophomore year at PHS, I auditioned for Grease. I really wanted to play the part of Rizzo, the sexy bad girl. But then I read for the part of Miss Lynch, the curmudgeonly old lady teacher. I was hysterically funny and got the part.
For years, I told this story and emphasized how emblematic it was of my high school years that I had to play an old lady school teacher instead of a sexy bad girl. But these days, I’ve come to realize that Miss Lynch is the real badass. Because, you know, there are a lot of high school girls in the world who could play Rizzo. But I may be the only high school girl in history who could make the old lady school teacher the most memorable character in that whole play.
And when you think about, there’s no better musical to play the outsider than Grease. Grease is horrible play for high schoolers. The message is terrible. If you’ve never seen Grease, it’s all about Sandy, the sweet new girl who doesn’t fit into the bad girl culture at her new school. She had a summer romance with Danny, the king of the high school bad boys, but he won’t have anything to do with Sandy at school because she doesn’t fit in.
So, is Grease like High School Musical, where everyone learns that the most important thing is to be yourself? NO!! Sandy decides to change her looks and her personality, becomes a bad girl, and gets the boy. At the end of the play, the kids all sing “We Go Together,” and Sandy’s a part of the “together” now, just like I wanted to be. But she’s only part of “together” because she’s squeezed herself into black Spandex pants. Three cheers for conformity!
Miss Lynch, however, doesn’t give a crap what these self-righteous, conformist little greasers think of her.
A girl whose name I can’t remember came up to me after the play was done and said, “You know, I used to think you were weird. But now I think you’re cool!” So there you have it. Fuck Rizzo. Miss Lynch was the real badass.
On Facebook, I’ve come to learn quite a bit about some of the people from my high school. It’s been stunning for me to learn how many other students felt more like Miss Lynch than they felt like Rizzo. If I lived closer, I would love to sit down and have a beer with these people at my reunion and hear about what they really thought about PHS. I used to think I would never want to go to a reunion, but now I think I might try to go to the next one. And why not? I was Miss Lynch. I rocked the shit out of high school.