Wednesday, August 24, 2005
HS Reunion, The Finale. And Happy Birthday To Me
I'm thirteen in this picture, about to enter 9th grade. My bangs are self sheered and the color of my hair is bleached by the sun, not by lemon or straight peroxide like we used to use back then. This picture was taken about three months before I pierced my nose with an ice cube and a sewing needle which in 1982 was out there because even though the punkers were elbowing their way onto the scene, piercing was not a big part of their look yet. I self pierced my nose -- which took several excruciating attempts -- after I went to an African festival at UCLA. Missing from this picture is the woven red and blue Nigerian skull cap I wore almost daily. We call this the When-I-Was-African stage. My expression in this picture seems to fall somewhere between smart-assery and complete tragedy; and I didn't realize that my face gave away so much. Around this time, I wore huge army surplus pants and aprons as an accessory, and for god knows what reason I spray-painted my entire bike silver; tires, chain, handle bars, every single inch of it. It looked fantastic to me though I got a lot of shit from other kids for that one.
According to the consensus at my 20 year high school reunion on Saturday, this is exactly how my classmates remember me. Back then, I felt like an odd and quirky outsider even though I couldn't fathom acting any other way than what I was oddly driven to do. At the time my classmates also thought I was a little weird, but they told me at the reunion they now remember me as creative and cool. As a teen you would've loved to hear that, but you can't expect other 14 year olds to give up that kind of praise. They don't know how yet.
The most interesting part of the reunion was that when my classmates found out I brokered semiconductors for a living and that I lived in Orange County and that Husband traded stocks, they concluded that I was a major sell out. They believed I was the last person that would live the life that I do. They felt that I would most likely have a creative profession or an activist's one. And I thought, you know what? So did I. It doesn't matter that I have nine tattoos because I look extremely polished compared to my teen self. It doesn't matter that I am a writer because I didn't say that's What I Did. It doesn't matter that I'm a radical at heart or that I stroke my inner hippie daily because I don't put that side out there for target practice any more. And I gotta say all of this is mildly upsetting, to say the least, -- because today is my 38th birthday. Crisis anyone?
So, that's what floats to the top days after the reunion, but all in all I had a great time. It's a cartoonish experience to talk to people whose 16 year old image is tattooed in your mind, but they now have a slide of baldness or wrinkles or more padding placed over this image. The craziest part is that the original image still comes through the strongest.
Other things realized at the reunion:
1. A black strapless dress with an A-line skirt that hits at the knees is a smash at any age. And boys that you had a big crush on 25 years ago will seem very intested in you when you wear it.
2. High school was a dangerous place. I mean, I was aware that drugs and alcohol and gang violence were going on, but JESUS. Or maybe it's that the older I get (read: the older my daughters get) the less funny all these little fucked memories become. "I did three lines of coke before finishing my homework." What? "I fucked Mr. SoNSo." The swim coach? "Rob got shot." Yeah, I heard that.
3. You spend a little more time than you really want at the 20th reunion talking about who's died from high school.
So, back to my crisis . . .I have well-thought out reasons for not being a homeless writer or painter that still rents single rooms from friends. And I don't usually make excuses for wanting to make enough money to not only support my daughters but to give them comfort. It's the internal battle that most don't see -- The Grand Battle of Balance: Sheltering Them Too Much vs.Handing Them Too Much. Instilling Responsiblility/Discipline vs. Yielding to Creativity. Respect/Diplomacy vs. Staying True To Oneself. I'm teaching them the Balance Game now because I know it's a hard one to play and because personally I prefer the Fine Line than letting that 13 year old unintentional maverick pictured above slip through the cracks. And I prefer it over letting my internal, innate weirdness make me completely disappear into myself.
Right as my crisis was hitting critical mass this morning, on my birthday (the 38th one which seems dangerously close to the 97th), I received my Writing Well Is The Best Revenge tshirt from Mrs. Kennedy. And somehow this made me feel much better. I guess mainly because this phrase means - to me - that all of what I do is not for nothin': The Fine Line, the Battle of Balance because I HAVE NOT STOPPED WRITING. When the kids are asleep and when the semiconductors are bought low and sold high, when I'm done nodding and yes'ing other TaeKwonDo moms in Orange County . . . I still write. I yield to the creativity and am true to myself.
Happy Birthday to Me. My face still reveals all.