Life's Little Lows Big Part of Going to High School
What is it about high school that makes adults wistful for the good old days? Perhaps nostalgia gilds those memories. Or maybe it's the very grown-up knowledge that, once gone, they never return. Whatever the reason, I'm still not one to gloss over the realities of those angst-ridden years.
The other night, at our sons' high school football game, a friend and I took time to observe the rollicking stands. It was a tableau of teenage life, all noise and color and movement. The students cheered. They swooned. They danced. They kept the concession stand busy. You would never have known it was a weeknight and school menaced in the morning.
"Look at them," my friend said. "They have it made."
I shrugged. Life has taught me that, for better or worse, nothing is as it seems.
"Wouldn't you want to go back?" she pressed.
I paused to consider the awkwardness of 14, the self-consciousness of 16 and the embarrassing shortsightedness of 17.
"Only," I replied, "if I could use then what I know now."
I thought of that brief conversation when the just-launched second season of Fox's hit TV show "Glee" prompted critics to analyze why a musical drama has attracted so many fans. The answer is simple: High school is the universal experience that teaches us humility.
"Glee" is the story of teen misfits who "fit in" through the glee club. Nifty vocal arrangements and dance numbers are the big attraction, but so are the quirky characters -- the cheerleader who heads the chastity club until she gets pregnant, the guitar-playing paraplegic, the gay teen with the accepting father -- and the real-life situations.
In "Glee," football players douse unpopular kids with grape slushies. Sound familiar? Of course. Who survives high school without suffering at least one indignity?
While TV and movies tend to paper over slushie moments with end-of-show epiphanies, in real life we carry the pain and insecurity long after we've cleaned out our lockers. The organizer of my last high school reunion said that when she phoned one classmate with an invitation, he responded: "Don't ever call me again." I was surprised; he seemed so popular at the time. Why wouldn't he want to return?
My youngest is a senior in high school, the year when rejection, in the form of college-application responses, turns painfully public. He loves his classes, his school, his team -- the whole kit and caboodle. Then again, what do I know? So much of high school happens in the hallways, away from the prying eyes of parents and teachers.
Maybe one day he will, as I have, look back with a gimlet eye. He'll recognize these past four years as a reminder that no one is as special as their parents once led them to believe. And that's OK. Whatever our place in the pecking order, high school invariably prepares us for life's little ignominies.
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Life's Little Lows Big Part of Going to High School
(c) 2010 Ana Veciana-Suarez