Thursday, September 25, 2008

Be My Friend

I like to think that with my blog I pretty much have free reign to speak my mind on people and events in my present and my past. I’ve felt particularly cavalier about condemning the cruel wenches of childhood. After all, that was a lifetime ago. They’re never going to read this.

Then a funny thing started happening: my past starting friending me.

Ah, the joys of online networking sites. One day I was startled to see a friend-add from a guy I went to high school with. I wouldn’t have said we were BFF but there was also no hostility there so, tickled by the novelty of connecting with someone from those dark years, I accepted him as an online friend.

Over the last months I’ve had several friend-adds from other high school people. It’s funny, at the time I know some of them would never have called themselves my friends and now here they are. Do they remember what it was like? Am I the only one not grown up enough to let go of the bitterness?

You have to understand I am the furthest thing from a rah-rah ‘wasn’t high school great?’ girl. In fact I always said you couldn’t pay me enough to have to go to a reunion. Those four years were a living nightmare with exclusionary cliques and shallow bitches, why would I ever want to relive them? “How shallow?” You ask? There was a girl in my AP English class that wrote an ode to how her favorite barrette completed her Gucci outfit.

One friend of mine did in fact go to our reunion and he confirmed that it was just as we thought it would be. Planned by the same clique who had fancied themselves queens of the school, it was all about them. He said of the 1000+ pictures the hired photographer took, he found himself in one.

Anyway, in my new fabulous life, I have considered myself fairly insulated from that time and those people. I thought I could freely write about the bitches and the injustices with abandon – without fear of the actual bitch reading it. Now it’s suddenly a real possibility.

I had been about to write a post about a girl I’ll call Holier-than-thou Harriet. Harriet and I rowed together and also staffed the peer counseling center together. Once at a crew team party, she’d offered me a party cup of keg beer. Terrified to actually let down my parents I told her I didn’t drink.

“Oh good for you,” she sneered, raised her chin and wobbled away.

A few days later in the peer counseling center, we’d been discussing breakfast, health and recycling. Even back then, Harriet was extremely proud of her earth-conscious life. She’d been singing the praises of her mother’s bulk-bought, home-made, stone-ground oatmeal when I said I ate the kind from the Quaker packets. She shook her head tragically like she was scolding an ignorant five-year old.

“Those paper packets are such a waste. You’re really doing a horrible thing to the earth by eating that way,” then came the familiar chin raise. I wish I’d called her a holier-than-thou hag then but instead I just got quiet – my favorite high school defense mechanism.

These memories of Harriet had sprung to mind the other day and I sat down to write about how ridiculous the whole experience of knowing her was. And suddenly there she was on another friend’s friend list, heavier (thank God) but still looking imperious and fake-friendly. Maybe I shouldn’t write about those memories. I thought about censoring myself, trying to play nice and be innocuous so they’d like me. Just like I used to.

But…ooops! I just went ahead and wrote them, didn’t I? Screw it. I’m saying what I want with the small effort of changing the names of the guilty. I only wish I’d been so willing to stand up for myself and speak my mind in High School.

The other weird thing about online networks and past friends and loves is the profile pic. Will someone please explain to me why people who’ve reproduced feel the need to include their offspring in their profile pic? It’s YOUR profile, I want to see a picture of YOU. Besides, I have that singleton grip of panic seeing former friends happily married with children. Will that ever be me? I am a firm believer that living well is the best revenge but if some of these old frenemies look like they’re living better than me, well, that’s a life failure on such a grand scale I’m not willing to consider it. Did I mention that I may be the only one here not mature enough to let go of old bitterness?

I did find my high school crush online. I’m happy to say he looks…meh.

And then there was my best friend. I’ll call him Sam. Sam was one of those guys everyone loved no matter what clique they were part of. My family loved him. Everyone thought we would end up together. It was very “When Harry Met Sally.” In fact our song – yes, we had a song – was “It Had To Be You.” Flavorless Phyllis had beat me to the punch and asked him to prom (I went stag) but she was conveniently absent when they played that song so we got to dance to it. I loved Sam with my whole heart but I was always afraid of ruining the friendship by taking it to that next level.

And there he was too on another friend’s list with – my lungs tightened – a baby. The baby looks just like him, mop of curly hair and all. I stared for a long time and wondered how I had ever lost my friend. It wasn’t like I could be sad about him having married someone else. I didn’t really think we’d end up together like Harry and Sally. But there was something that tugged at me to know that this person who had meant so much to me had gone on and had a whole life I knew nothing about. Some friend I am.

So in the end I’ve decided that the sudden proximity of my blog and my past is not a reason for censorship. The days of going quiet are behind me. Maybe in the coming weeks I’ll be able to explore some High School folks pages through eyes looking at humans rather than enemies. Perhaps I’ll be able to see that they were hurting and confused back then too and that I never really knew them at all. Maybe I’ll be able to finally assuage some of the old bitterness and grow up. Maybe. But for now, I’m having fun gloating over who got fat and bald.


If you need a soundtrack for finding friends online, I highly recommend “Be My Friend” by the fab Scots, The Hedrons.

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Blogger Carlo said...

I went to my reunion and it was mostly as you described. Few people I actually hung out or was friendly with went. But a handful did. And as a result I have two good friends in Los Angeles -- my high school classmate that I didn't even know lived 3 miles away (3000 miles away from where we actually grew up), and her boyfriend. And I've reconnected with a couple others.

But yeah, I'm not a huge fan of kids in profile pics. I suspect the world looks different when you have one. They're so much a part of your identity that of course you'd put them in, I suppose.

And down with censorship!

2:09 AM  

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