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Sunday, November 27, 2016

In which I answer a Facebook questionnaire.

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Tell us about your SENIOR YEAR in high school.

1.The year it was:

1973-1974

2. Did you know your spouse?

I’ve never married. Until 2014 it was illegal where I live. I never knew anyone gay from Shelby until decades later. Historically, we have always been export goods.

3. What kind of car did you have?

I didn’t. Those were the days of the Arab Oil Embargo. It was an event to be allowed to drive at all.

4. What kind of car do you have now?

I don’t. I choose to live in cities with public transit. Isn’t this off-topic?

5. Friday nights your senior year, where were you?

Working.

6. Where did you work?

In a textile mill.

7. Where do you work now?

At my desk. Isn’t this even more off topic?

8. Were you a party animal?

No. See question 3, above. Additionally, going out with friends required an FBI investigation and an FAA flight plan filing, submitted- in notarized triplicates- to my mother.

9. Were you a teacher's pet?

No. One teacher blocked me from membership in the National Honor Society. I got over it.

She blocked me from being on the yearbook staff, too. I got over it.
Another blocked me from becoming editor of the high school paper after promising me it, then caving to her pets. I got over it.

I joined a lot of clubs and bought my allotment of fundraising candy myself to avoid having to sell it door to door. I won several scholarships from those clubs, which proved an excellent ROI.

I learned, decades later, that the football coach, who was my world history teacher, considered me one of his academic first-stringers. I consider that as having earned my letter jacket.

10. Were you considered a jock?

No. I was part of a group that tried to start a soccer team in 1971. The principal laughed at our request and the school board refused to consider it. I didn’t consider trying out for anything else. At 6’3 I was too short for basketball, and at 180 pounds, not big enough or fast enough for football, and in any event, hadn’t worked my way up from Pop Warner in grade school. There were no walk-ons among The Golden Lions.

And there was the gas/car thing. See Question 3, above.

My extracurricular sport was unloading 500-pound cases of yarn from freight cars at work.

I was, however, on my college soccer and golf teams. This, I found, didn’t count on holiday visits home, as my college wasn’t in the ACC and didn’t have a football team.

I made my college’s varsity rowing crew at Oxford, started a crew club in law school, and played lacrosse for a number of years in the 1980s. That, I found, didn't count on holiday visits home because no one had ever heard of either.

I finished my jock career as a member of the Masters Committee of the US Rowing Association, and by then I had stopped going home for the holidays.

These days I hike.

11. Were you in band?

I was in the orchestra.  We spent six years rehearsing for performances that never came because the band director wouldn’t let them perform with us. A full orchestra rehearsal- never mind a performance- would have cut into field practice time for the football games.

Now the Shelby High Orchestra is a full complement, performs a lot, and is respected in the community. Sometimes karma works out as it ought.

12. Were you a nerd?

But of course. I was on the debate team.

I also ran Napoleon Dynamite-style campaigns for student office. Pedro was more popular than I was.

13. Did you get suspended or expelled?

No. I’m shocked you would have to ask. I was at school, at work, or at home. As my youngest sister once summed up, “All you do is get up, go to school, go to work, sleep, and take the trash to the landfill!”

14. Can you sing the fight song?

No. Did we have one? I don’t remember. I do remember the cheerleaders. They were 100% white and 0% talented. At pep rallies, kids threw pennies at them out on the gym floor.

15. Where did you go for lunch?

I skipped lunch. Navigating the endlessly changing socio-geographical pecking order of where one could sit was too much trouble, and would have been to no avail. You were either born in or your family, if new to town, bought in. During my last visit in the 1990s, an elderly neighbor at a church supper asked my mother, “Remind me, dear, how long have you been in Shelby?”

My mother replied, “Thirty years.”

The lady sighed. “I have so much trouble keeping up with all you new people in town.”

16. What was your school's full name?

Shelby Senior High School. I gather they have since dropped the "Senior."

17. What was your school's mascot?

The Golden Lion.

18. If you could go back and do it again, would you?

To quote from Neil Gaiman’s novel, American Gods:

“You’re a big one,” said Nancy, staring into Shadow’s light gray eyes with old eyes the color of mahogany, “a tall drink of water, but I got to tell you, you don’t look too bright. I got a son, stupid as a man who bought his stupid at a two-for-one sale, and you remind me of him.”

I threw out my yearbooks many years ago. I can only imagine how stupidly the things I wrote in others', haplessly trying to be liked, must read today.

19. Did you have fun at Prom?

It was not as awful as I expected in my junior year. I was bullied into it by a combination of mothers more concerned about the fallout for a socially prominent girl whom no one had asked.

20. Do you still talk to the person you went to Prom with?

No. I served my purpose. The girl traded up for the senior prom. I skipped it and got in an extra shift at the mill.

No, wait, let me revise and extend my remarks.

I didn’t hear from her again until AOL made seeing who else was on-line trendy. I enjoyed several years’ correspondence with her and also with her sister.

The sister came out to Seattle on business and wanted to see me and meet my then-partner. When we saw her into her cab, she told us what a lovely time she’d had, then begged us not to let her sister- my old prom date-  or her mother know she had dined with us. I gather there were inheritance concerns in her mind: embarrassing associations might be costly.

I never communicated with any of them again. Whether it had any connection with the rumors about their brother, I have no idea.

21. Are you planning to attend your next reunion?

No. I went to my 20th to please my parents. I was a momentary curiosity, as I lived the farthest away. Everyone wanted to know why I lived in Seattle: not because they wanted to know anything about my life, or Seattle, but because they couldn’t imagine not living in Shelby and wanted to hear it explained.

The high school football captain who beat me something like all the votes to zero for student body president, however, greeted me like a long-lost brother. He regaled me with all the highlights of the campaign we shared.

He died last year. A part of me wishes I’d gone to my 40th just to see how much more grandiose his retelling would have been after twenty more years. High school meant a lot to him.

See also Ralph Keyes, Is There Life After High School? (1976)

22. Are you still in contact with people from high school?

A few. We bask in all warmth and intimacy Facebook offers.

23. Do you remember where the school was located?

It’s still in the same place, I am told.

24. Would anybody recognize you?

No. No one did at my 20th. Everyone in my class pretty much stayed in Shelby, so they all knew each other day to day, decade on decade.

Even when they divorced, they married more Shelby people.

At my reunion, they sorted into their decades-old groups, then sent out scouts to read the name tags of the people they didn’t recognize, and report back.

All of the action was at private after-parties, to none of which I was asked. I went home and told my parents what a wonderful time I had. They were pleased. The next year I came out and it became a relief that I had no interest in ever attending another class reunion.

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