Besides this blog, I’ve got Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat accounts. My oldest is going to start fifth grade next year and I feel the need to master as much social media as I can before she does, so I can monitor her digital footprint. I’m OK with everything so far but Snapchat, which feels like one big seizure waiting to happen. I know there are others; I have sources who see me as a harmless square and will tell me what everyone is using on their phones.
The Internet has a perfect memory, and anything–ANYTHING–stupid is helpfully archived for perpetuity. I’m so thankful we didn’t have it when I was my daughter’s age. Middle school was difficult enough with call waiting, in which one person would be on hold while the other two talked about her.
I was reminded of middle school (and all of the emotions surrounding that time in my life) yesterday when one of my former classmates posted our eighth grade graduation photos. I couldn’t even tell you why I’m Facebook friends with this person, because she barely talked to me when we were in school; she ran with a much more popular crowd. But she sent me an invite a few years ago, I shrugged and accepted her request, and didn’t think too much of it. During the past year or so, she posted random throwback photos, and it culminated in her yearbook post today. Now there is a permanent worldwide digital evidence of me at my most awkward.
We graduated in 1990 and as you can expect the hair on the girls is pretty egregious. I remember fretting over my hair for hours, trying to tease and spray my bangs just so. I have a cowlick smack dab in the middle of my forehead and there was no way I should have had bangs in the first place. My hair wasn’t nearly as tall as some of the other girls in the class, but you definitely can tell I had a mullet: it was my mother’s version of a compromise. I wanted to grow my hair out and she wanted it short. In seventh grade, one of the nuns was standing behind me and thought I was a boy. I was so mortified that I became obsessed with becoming more feminine. There was nothing I could do about my bust, so that left my hair. It easily was the number one topic my mother and I fought over until I grew my hair out at 15. It’s never been that short again, although I had bangs until senior year of college.
But there’s more than the hair! There’s the large glasses; I’ve been near-sighted since the third grade. There’s a monstrous overbite that wouldn’t get corrected until high school, after a two-and-half year stint of orthodontics.
A few classmates liked the photo; others responded to reminisce about the school. (It was closed in the aftermath of a sex abuse scandal; the archdiocese shuttered several schoolsand parishes to make up the money it had lost paying legal fees to lawyers and settlements to victims.) There was a thread devoted to the nun who was our homeroom teacher. I’ll always remember her for being forthright and honest about the Catholic Church’s history (“Luther made some great points. The Church was undoubtedly corrupt.”) but she was incredibly nasty and in general an unhappy person. She would have us diagram long sentences and if anything were wrong, she’d write the student’s name on the board for everyone to see, and she’d assign difficult homework. You know, instead of actually showing us how to do it correctly so we wouldn’t make the same mistake again.
I ended up not saying anything because I didn’t have anything to productive to say. I mean, most days I feel just as awkward as I looked at 13, even though I filled out and now lots of people (except my mom of course) like my hair. I certainly don’t miss that time in my life, although others said they did. But now I know I pretty much can’t run for public office.