Wednesday, July 7, 2010

On Debutantes, Bruce Springsteen, and Why We All Need Lockers

Busy working on my next novel, so haven’t written here much in a while.
My thirty-fifth high school reunion is coming up, and one of the characters in my book is (very loosely) based on someone I knew in high school.  So I’ve been thinking a lot about high school, which is something I don’t usually think about all that often.
My high school was located in a very affluent, very small town in northern California.  I moved there at the beginning of eighth grade, which is a terrible time to move anywhere.  I always felt like an outsider: I hadn’t grown up with these people, many of whom had known each other since kindergarten. 
There was a lot of culture shock.  I’d gone to seventh grade in Berkeley, which, in 1970, was awash in hippies.  My new school didn’t have hippies.  It had social-dance class and school-approved sororities and debutantes. 
I cannot say that I liked high school very much, but I wasn’t someone who was abjectedly miserable there.   I had wonderful teachers and friends, some of whom I’m still in touch with today.  My closest friend is someone I went to high school with.  She introduced me to the joy of eating raw cookie dough.  I wrote her from college in Pennsylvania about a singer I liked who was unknown in California.  That was how she found out about Bruce Springsteen.
I think the thing about high school is that most teenagers—not all, but most—are inexperienced in the business of having their hearts trampled.  They haven’t yet learned how to weather anguish.  High school will teach them, if they are lucky.  If they are not lucky, they will have to learn out in the big, bad world, which is a shame, because by then their best friends will have jobs and husbands and children and be too busy to leave sympathetic notes in their lockers when something bad happens. 
In high school, people really care when bad things happen to their friends.  They are really paying attention.  Otherwise, there is just geometry and John Steinbeck to think about.  (Note to teenagers: once you turn 18, you will never think about geometry or John Steinbeck ever again.)
Actually, as we all know, there are no lockers in the big, bad world.  This is too bad.  Lockers were one of the things I liked about high school: a place that was just yours, to be decorated as you chose, where you could unburden yourself of books and binders that would otherwise need to be hauled around all day. 
That is what we all need now: someplace where we can put the heavy things down.