Monday, September 03, 2012

"I'm not young enough to know everything"


“It takes a long time to become young.” - Picasso

So, last night I was happily hanging out with my son watching Doctor Who, and ruining a perfectly good piece of watercolour paper with watercolours, when my phone beeped to say someone on facebook had messaged me. It was Fred - OMG.

this was the coolest think I'd ever seen

Alright, to understand my last sentence we have to go back 34years, to my high school years (I know what you're thinking, and yes, I was only 3 when I entered high school being an especially precocious child). It was the end of the seventies, I had, or tried to have, Farrah Fawcett hair, bell bottoms, toe socks and a red and blue Adias bag (see BNL "This is me in Grade 9"). We saw Saturday Night Fever, ET, and Jaws in a movie theatre, which was the only to see movies then, we listened to ABBA before Momma Mia was even thought of, and after school we watched the Brady Bunch and Gilligan's Island, me, on bright orange shag carpet in our hip basement family room.  We were groovy and we knew it, well, we tried. I tried very hard, and generally failed spectacularly. These days they have 'product' for thick wavy hair, in high school I had a hair drier that made my curls frizz and a curling iron that made them flip in different directions. The waists of my jeans was 3inches above my belly button, I wore Earth shoes and scoop neck t-shirts.
NOT how my hair looked

It was the best of times... wait, who am I kidding? My high school career was like walking a mine field. It was divided almost in half, grade 9 - grade 11 1/3 were in Dundas, Ontario at Parkside High School while I lived with my mom, brother and stepfather. Grade 11 1/3 - grade 13 (yes we had 5 years of high school) were spend at Port Arthur Collegiate Institute in Thunder Bay, Ontario while living with my father and step-mom. The circumstance of my changing  residential parents and locations is story I may one day write, but not here.

I started grade 9 in a Saturday Night Live inspired outfit that I can only cringe at the thought of now, and rejoice that my mother was not the type to take first day of school photos. I was shy, awkward, and not exactly popular. I had a small group of friends, and thanks to facebook have reconnected to many of them. I did well in school, but pretended I didn't in an attempt to be cool, it didn't work. I met my first ever boyfriend, Lance, who gave me my first ever kiss on my girlfriend's Jodi's front porch. That relationship didn't end gracefully, or more exactly it ended typically for 14year kids in high school who had no idea what they were doing. One of the amazing things about facebook is 30years later, Lance found me, and sent me a friend request. I was stunned, but curious, so I accepted. We exchanged polite bits of small talk, and then one day he sent me a message that was an apology for how he had acted after we broke up. I was now speechless - quite a feat. It was amazing how that letter brought up that old hurt (and all the new hurts that I had neatly stacked on top of it) and took it away. It shifted how I saw myself, in high school, and now. I don't know why he did it, but I am very grateful he did. Also, Lance it turned out, had grown up very handsome indeed, ah those wasted years!

It's funny what you hang on to from high school, perhaps it is because it is such a formative time of development. Who you are, where you fit in the world, and if you didn't thrive in high school, if it was a painful experience for you, it seems to stay a part of your psyche through adulthood. Maybe that's why reunions are such charged events.

Okay, now we can talk about OMG Fred. Fred was my first high school crush, He was tall, played basketball and I don't know, was just that perfect combination for teenage girl idolatry. About a year ago I saw that he was on facebook, and in a fit of bravery sent him a friend request - 30 years later, I was still that goofy teenage girl. I didn't know if he would even remember me. He accepted, we really didn't chat, but I got to peek at him as a grown up - still good looking, married with two boys, it looked like things had worked out well for him.

So, last night, phone beeps, facebook message, OMG Fred! I stared at my phone and open and closed my mouth much like a freshly caught fish does on a dock. I had the same glamorous reaction to Lance's letter, yeah, I'm classy like that - heaven help me if I ever get a shock and someone has a camera. Fred, my unrequited crush, the cool basketball player with the perfect hair that I oogled secretly from the bleachers during basketball games was chatting with me, with me. People who meet me now likely see a friendly outgoing person with non-frizzy not-Farrah-wanna-be-hair (this is after coffee, and application of hair product naturally), but the awkward teenager is still in there, the one who didn't think she was worth loving, or even worth liking.  So here's Fred saying he'd been in Naperville last year, and had he know I was here would have looked me up -- GACK! About this point my generally obtuse son actually noticed the odd sounds and facial expressions I was making and commented that my painting really wasn't that bad. Sweet boy, he made me tea. So what was I to do, thankfully Fred could not see my face, and had only "my trying to sound witty chat banter" to go on. We talked, his kids, my kids, marriages, Lance - whole other story there, life the universe and everything. After about an hour, and one cup of tea later I thought what the hell, and I typed the sentence - "you know I had a huge crush on you in high school" and waited for the world to end. It didn't and we actually talked about it - he was, as I suspected completely oblivious but very gracious - thank god. I ended up chatting with Fred for about 3hours, stayed up way too late on a work night, but I was smiling the whole time.

As an adult, who is raising three teenagers, I appear pretty together, I'm generally clean, remember to put on pants the right side out most days, and can speak with what sounds like general intelligence. Underneath this cunning exterior lives that teenage girl who pops up occasionally. She felt like she was too much trouble to love or to like, that she was inherently lacking in some very basic aspect that the rest of the world had and scorned her for not having. When you see yourself this way it is very easy to find confirmation. No matter how you see yourself, you will find something or someone to validate that - which is great if you think you're not too bad, but not so great if you think you are less than whole.



not us, but pretty close...
Then two months into grade 11, my mother decided she did want me living with her any longer so with a week's noticed packed me up and shipped me to Northern Ontario to live with my dad and his wife. I started at a smaller high school and was exotic for a period of time because I was from Southern Ontario and was about 2months ahead in music trends. This did not last, but by that time I starting drinking and smoking so I could fit in with the cool crowd in Thunder Bay. And here, I met Jim, my next high school crush that continued through the rest of high school, all through university and still lingers today. I look at my 17year old dairy entries - I could tell you Jim's highs and lows, outfits and comings and goings for that year, because that's basically all I wrote about. These diaries are very (VERY) carefully hidden, just in case any of my children are reading this. They say you regret not the things you do, but the things you do not do. My biggest life regret is not my failed marriage, not my present job, not my relationship with my mother, my biggest regret is not kissing Jim when I had the chance (at least I think I had the chance....). I still want to pound my head against the floor when I think about it. I had asked Jim to the girl's choice semi-formal, he had said yes, we had a great evening, he was a wonderful attentive date, we went to after parties and after all this fun I found myself sitting in Jim's car as he pulled into my dad's driveway, parked the car and pulled up the emergency brake and turned towards me. Here was my chance, and what did I do? I babbled, and flopped about spasmodically as I gathered my things and I raced out of that car like it was on fire. Yep, I panicked. I don't know for certain if Jim would have leaned over and kissed me, but I like to think he would have. As it was we stayed friends, he met this gorgeous Scottish girl and married her, and I married my husband, even invited Jim to the wedding (he couldn't come). Neither marriage lasted and I hear from friends he's as good looking as ever. If only he were on facebook....

my second high school, as it was
I've realized I had it in my head that things and people would remain static, no good reason why, and those friends of mine who stayed in the towns they went to school in and raised their children there may not have this notion because they could plainly see everyone growing and changing. Perhaps it is because I had to move so much that I took mental snapshots of the communities I was leaving and stored these static images as my memory of each place. Had I ever got to a high school reunion I might have had this notion soundly thumped out of my head, but alas, I've never been to one. Never had the opportunity to show people that in the end I turned out alright. It was a very bumpy journey at times, and I made many (many, many) mistakes, but in the end I managed to learn from most of them. At 48years old I am more comfortable in my own skin than I ever was in adolescence. At 16 I had a firm flat stomach and nice round perky breasts, long strong legs and arms, none of which had experienced pregnancies, breastfeeding babies, gaining and losing 50-60pounds with each, or had ever been in a violent car accident, or cut open with surgeries, and yet, it's in this body that has it's lumps, scars and wrinkles, roundness where I would prefer firmness that I am the most comfortable. Actually I'm probably in better shape than when I was 16 - because at 16 I was an expert and ditching gym and sneaking off to drink and smoke with my friends (not that I want any of MY kids doing that). Now I practice Yoga and Hapkido and have very defined arm and leg muscles - my abdomen is nearly flat, but is definitely lagging behind muscle tone wise.

So, here I am, older, wiser, with better hair and three teenagers. Not the future I had pictured for myself in high school, but it's a life I can live with. I don't know if I will ever marry again, I see myself on my own with dogs and horses and my kids visiting me, but if I've learned anything it's that I'm not usually the best judge of what will happen in my life.

2 comments:

Unknown said...

Ruth-

I hope you get notifications of comments, since you wrote this years ago. A strange path brought me to this page. I had happened to notice an old picture of my girlfriend (at the time) and me, from my Senior prom, posted on a tumblr page.

I became very curious, and did a reverse image search on google, and discovered it had spread far and wide, though mostly on tumblr pages. Your blog was one of the few places outside of tumblr it is being used - which by the way is perfectly fine.

We lasted as a couple only nine months after the picture was taken, but we had been a typical high school couple, dating for two and a half years prior. We did remain friends for a long time, but did drift completely away the last fifteen years or so.

The odd coincidence is she lives in Naperville!

Reading your blog brought back memories of my friends and life back then - it was not perfect, but it grows in fondness over the years. I'm happy to say I have kept many of those friends...

You write well, I enjoyed the glimpse back into your past.

Michael

Ruth Elliott said...

Wow! I don't update this blog as much (I have a newer one), but I do get notifications still) Thanks for reaching out Micheal. That's wild about your prom picture, Naperville especially.... My kids all went to Naperville Central. Funny, small world sometimes..... thanks again for the message.