July 18, 2000
Pigeonholed

 


 
I'm still receiving the occasional amused/intrigued/slightly baffled/"What the hell??" e-mail from former high school classmates, who have stumbled across me on Classmates.com and have followed the link I've posted there, leading  --  like a little trail of *cyber breadcrumbs*  --  to this website.

I suppose I can understand how bizarre this whole "Internet journaling" stuff must seem to the uninitiated.  I can further understand how jolting it must be to encounter a journal written by somebody you used to know. The truth is: that's half the fun for *me.* And half the cathartic value.

Another such e-mail landed in my mailbox over the weekend:

"Hello.

Well, this note comes to annoy you - to make a long story short - courtesy of classmates.com ... only one out of all the 76ers I checked had a web site, and recalling you kindasorta, I thought to myself, thought I, yes, Terri might be the sort to do web site design or some sort of cyber-dweebery, for a living, perhaps even ... [so] I used Yahoo to look for your name.

This plopped me right into your journal, in the late 80s.

Whoa.

Yow.

Oh my.

You have had an interesting life (reference the - allegedly - Chinese curse).

I recall at Midway U we shared a world lit class; Harrington, was that her name? I recall you not being there a lot, and when you were there, I recall you not being a lot there. I mean the impression was distracted/ bored/preoccupied ... but what I recall most of all is that I took no initiative to say so much as a hello to you. It's funny how little initiative I had in that area. Never spoke to [your boyfriend] then either. Ah, well ...

So now the obligatory rumination. (Wait, wait, I have to go look up that word to see if I am saying what I mean.) (OK, I guess it's what I mean, no obvious unintended connotations.) Spanish class ... and of course Journalism class, which I guess led to the flea market and roller-skating outing. I recall Terri being very much at ease on roller skates, gliding along effortlessly. I recall being surprised how little my ice-skating experience helped keep me vertical. (Advice I needed that day: With the rental basic figure-skating ice skates - you can get away leaning back a teensy bit. Do NOT lean backward on roller skates without a pillow duct-taped to your backside. If you fail to do this, you will experience tailbone agony.)

Anyway, there was no way I felt I could pass on saying 'Hello' this time. And, 'Gee, you sure have chosen to live a very public life.' Yet this sort of thing is really hidden in plain sight. Curious. (Pausing to contemplate the implications of one web site in the WWW, and the chances for a random search leading there - OK, must stop now, for fear of head exploding.)

Terri, I recall you being one of the few truly kind people at Sunset JHS - a place where I can say that but for people such as you, I had a truly miserable time.

At the same time, I know d*** well I did everything I could to be just another obnoxious, leering early-teener-guy. I am sorry for that.

I also hope that time indeed wounds all heels, er, heals all wounds.

Encouraged to see you have a goal of publishing (paying the rent with writing, even???). Your style is very... engaging, I guess I'd call it. And ah! if we all could see life's little tortures as humorously as you write of them - then everyone might get along just a bit better. Especially for the morning commute."

I recognized him right away, of course.

He didn't sign his name -- just his initials, and a list of schools he/we attended, and the year he graduated ... and his e-mail address was sufficiently anonymous as to be useless ... but it wasn't hugely difficult to figure out who was writing to me.

Kerry L.

Nice guy. Glasses. Smart. Cute. Sorta quiet. Vaguely dweeby, before "dweeb" had even made it into the lexicon.

I remember I was a little intimidated (and more than a little annoyed) by his consistent Grand Honor Roll status ... particularly since, until eighth grade or so, *I* had always been the smartest kid in the class. (Once I hit junior high school, I stopped giving a crap about things like grades or homework or planning for the future. Mostly I was just trying to get Kenny Robbins to notice me.)

I'm pleased to hear that I was "kind" to him, though. I always naturally gravitated to the smart guys for friends. I still do.

We had a ninth grade journalism class together, cranking out the crappy school newspaper every month. This was circa 1973. (Can't you just smell the mimeograph paper?)  I wrote florid articles all about Torch Club Meetings, and conducted dopey class polls ("What's your Favorite Song?"), and drew little cartoon illustrations for the newspaper.

I don't remember what KL wrote about.

If he was the Class Nerd, I was the Class Slut. A 100% virginal Class Slut, mind you: I held hands with my nice boyfriend on the church bus once in a while, but that was pretty much *it.*  Over the summer months between eighth and ninth grades, however, I had quite dramatically sprouted breasts the size of ripe casaba melons ... and in junior high school, an ample bosom automatically equals promiscuity. Even KL admits to "leering." 

It was not a happy time for me.

One Saturday afternoon, he and I and a couple of the cool kids from the journalism class went on a field trip/roller skating "party" with our teacher. It was part of chemically-imbalanced Miss Langlitz' ongoing plan to integrate the popular kids (represented on this particular outing by perky Pep Club Officer Girl and groovy Foreign Exchange Student Guy) and the not-so-popular kids (KL and me). I remember it as one of the more torturous afternoons of my junior high school *career.*

KL and I went to the same junior high together for three years, then to different high schools, and then -- apparently -- had a class together at junior college. I honestly don't remember the college class. (Like he said: I wasn't there much, but when I was there, I wasn't really much *there.* Mostly I was just trying to get Jerry Wagner to notice me.)

Whenever KL has crossed my mind, over the twenty-odd years since we shared a classroom, it has been with a sort of lingering sadness over the way we are pigeonholed at such a vulnerable point in our lives  --  "Nerd" or "Jock" ... "Slut" or "Cheerleader" ... "Most Likely to Succeed" or "Most Likely to Grow Up and Write About Incontinence on Her Website"  --  and how some of us manage to rise above it and become the people we were meant to be, and others of us cart that old pain around with us for the rest of our lives, like an unfashionable jacket we outgrew thirty years ago ...

... but for most of us it is an uneasy mixture of the two.

I also think of him with the fond and fervent hope that he grew up to be smart and rich and happy, preferably by inventing someoranother fabulous software program and founding an enormously successful company and building a house the size of the f**king Taj Mahal, right there on the banks of scenic Tub Lake.

And that he kicked some serious Cool Kid Ass, in the process.



one year ago


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