Thursday, September 30


"There's a big world out there. Bigger than prom, bigger than high school, and it won't matter if you were the prom queen or the quarterback of the football team or the biggest nerd. Find out who you are and try not to be afraid of it.”

Sometimes I have this nightmare, you know, the one where it's finals and there is a class that you've forgotten to go to and now you're totally screwed? For most people, the scary part of that dream is the failing grade. For me, it's being back in high school.

Now, before I go and blame my idiosyncrasies on high school, it's important to know I have never been a fan of the institution as a whole.  It didn't help that I was a fat kid in elementary school, tortured every day at lunch (I'm looking at you Gary-now-I'm-a-cross-dresser). Then, I was a chubby kid in middle school and was again tortured during lunch (I'm looking at you Clarke). I do have to give him some credit because he later apologized for treating me like Martha Dumptruck. Which is surprising for a guy that had once tried to shove me in a locker. Lucky for him I was too fat to fit. But he had done a great job of starting a case severe body dysmorphia- it's the gift that keeps on giving. Like Chlamydia, only you don't have fun getting it.

Body issues aside, by the time I actually got to high school I was painfully aware of my social status. Not all the way at the bottom, but nowhere near the top.* I figured this out the day I saw the girl in front of me filling out a "slam book." For those of you who aren't 500 years old, slam books were the 80s version of being mean on Facebook. As I looked over her shoulder I saw the question: "Do you like Ashlee?" It wasn't the fact that there were "no's" on the page that hurt my feelings, it was the fact I was a question at all. Questions like that were meant for kids who were booger eaters or wore headgear.

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"I got paid in puke."
I know by now, you probably think this very sad. I also know that you're also thinking "that poor girl had to wear headgear.” Let’s be clear, it was only at night, and sometimes during the day, and it wasn’t full headgear, yes it made me lisp, but not for long, because I “lost it.”  But before you start feeling bad for me, there is one thing to know. It was during this time that I was lucky enough to have a fantastic group of girls that I proudly still call friends. I doubt I would have made it through that long, dark rite of passage without them. They are all amazing women and put up with my crazy ass long before the medication, and still love me for the high-strung wack job that I am (an no, not the Heathers). 

So when I got a retina-searing email announcing my high school reunion, I was more than a little hesitant about going. It might have been the temporary blindness brought on by the purple text with the screaming yellow background, or the Humpty Dance that automatically played when you opened the website link (clearly whoever designed this thing has never done market research to learn that most people hate that shit, or they don’t have to worry about getting busted for opening personal email at work). I also got super irritated at the time I lost from my life trying to figure out the collage (yeah, that's what I said, collage) on the website. I mean, why in the world were there pictures of the 90210 cast when the show wasn't on until the October of 1990, after we'd graduated (for the record I graduated when I was 10)? Why was Nirvana on there? Nevermind came out in ’91, but more importantly what was the deal with the American Pie picture? Then there was the random picture of a Jeep. I dunno. I was so confused that for a minute I began to think that maybe I'd actually forgotten the year I graduated. Hey, it could happen. Sometimes I forget how old I am, which can be a good thing. 

Even though I could come up with a dozen or so other ways to a) spend a Saturday night (pins in my eyes and b) spend $70 (cookie dough), I succumbed to peer pressure and went. And before you can say "Proactiv" there I was standing in line to get my nametag. They had staff from the venue handing out the name tags, and I was truly disappointed that I didn't have the chance to say "fuck, off Toby" to anyone (see Romy & Michelle's High School Reunion).

Plus, what made this experience really awesome was that I had a baby five months ago and am still sporting multiple chin's and an inner tube that doubles as my waste.  Which might explain why I wasn't totally psyched to go. To make things worse, because of a lunch that I’d hosted earlier that day, and Tanner's feeding schedule, I had found myself with exactly 15 minutes to get ready. Also, I'd never found time to go get something to wear (that last part is my fault).  I mean, what girl hasn't imagined their high school reunion like that? Fat and in jeans (for the record, I told my friend Ashley that the only way I would go to this thing was if she made me a T-shirt that said "I just had a baby - cut me some slack." Sadly, the shirt never materialized). I mean, the whole point of those things is to show up everyone else and non-verbally express "I turned out better than you." Which sad to say, was a big FAIL.

It was like the moment I put that sticky name tag on (which my boss would call passé), I felt it searing into my chest, branding me with my high-school identity. Within seconds I was magically transported back to the last place I ever wanted to be. Once was actually inside, I can’t say it got much better. Usually I can mingle just fine with people I don't know, I mean I can at least fake it. It probably didn’t help that I couldn’t really drink (thanks a lot Tanner). Because a nice martini usually gets those conversation juices flowin’. In hindsight no alcohol was probably a good thing, since it winds up usually going something like this: “hey you, yeah, you. Wanna hear what I really think about you?” Instead I stood there slack jawed watching grown people, wearing clothes I could neither afford nor fit in doing da Butt with each other.  It. Was. Awesome.  I stood there with my jeans and my fat and for the first time felt no envy. Yes, these women apparently have way more time to work out than I do. Yes most of them are probably more financially secure. But I bet that there are few among them, these “chosen ones” of yesterday, who honestly and truly know who they are, headgear and all. 

"You see us as you want to see us - in the simplest terms, in the most convenient definitions. You see us as a brain, an athlete, a basket case, a princess and a criminal."

*that's what she said

I struggled with this entry for a couple of weeks. At first I had planned to go balls out and torch the proverbial bridge since I have absolutely no plans of ever going to another reunion. But when the venom began to spew (that’s a great word, isn’t it?), I realized how hypocritical it was of me to judge these people. Just because I once perceived them as assholes doesn’t mean that they aren't still assholes? Maybe they are super sweet adults. Hey if my middle school tormentor can apologize to me later in life, then anything is possible. However, the one thing I will say is that they should consider this epiphany a gift. Because when I chose to work in my medium of choice, acerbic wit and sarcasm, I’m fucking Picasso. Put that in your Humpty Dance and smoke it.