We need to talk.
As my junior year of undergraduate study comes to a rapid close, my parents, my academic advisors, and my university urge me to look forward — forward to possible graduate study, forward to my career plans, forward to the days that I will rapidly decline in attractiveness with each lost follicle.
But, modern-day Orpheus that I am, I've always been unable to restrain myself from looking back. And at this point in our lives, it's especially hard not to reminisce about years gone by and wonder, with the astonishingly jaded perspective of a young adult, How did I get so old?
I've learned to be careful about saying this aloud, as it seems that any grown woman will thoroughly scold me for considering myself "old" at 20, but still I can't help but think of the years that have passed and the factors that shaped me into the crude loudmouth that I am today. In all honesty, most of what made me who I am was probably overexposure to reality television and R-rated movies during those crucial, formative years. But I like to think that a good part of it was also the relationships I had with the people around me, mostly the girls who got me through those four years of consistent disappointment and fear of gang violence known as high school.
So, in an uncharacteristic bout of nostalgia, I've written the following to express my gratitude to the girls I got to know so well on the weekends and during those 45 minutes apportioned for the inappropriately named "lunch hour."
High school was all about the drama. And we both loved drama.
Drama club that is. A safe haven for girly-men and girls like you who couldn't abide the Abercrombie dress code or stuffy homogeneity of the preppy clique. In lieu of Adderall, we medicated our undiagnosed ADHD by practicing our British accents for the Starbucks baristas and belting Broadway tunes at innocent bystanders and their scandalized children. Every now and then we'd get a standing ovation from the homeless man on the corner.
We both knew that we were meant for bigger things. We dreamed about going off to New York, you to pursue acting, me to pursue the well-dressed studs of Manhattan and any job that would help me pay for a studio apartment. But unfortunately, dreams don't come true for everyone.
I like to think that—in a way—Pittsburgh is like New York. It's much in the same way that Taylor Swift is like a singer or Tom Cruise is like a sane person. You tell me that I should come visit you, and I promise one day I will. If only for a no-strings hookup with your classmate from acting workshop.
I found out ten years too late that you'd had a crush on me for the better part of first grade. It only seems fitting that I lost my virginity to my first boyfriend on your basement sofa.
For a while there, my dad thought you were my girlfriend, and I can't really blame him. All the signs were there — we went out to the movies every single weekend, you sat on my lap during lunch, I gave proper, Christian names to your ass and both breasts.
And in a way, our relationship was much like a lot of marriages. We ate meals together, told each other about our day, and never had sex. If you ask me, that's the kind of marriage that is built to last.
But eventually, you wandered like a wide-eyed school girl into the foreign world of straight men. Each new day was like an adventure, you reporting to me with your latest boy trouble and me responding with an eye-roll and obligatory penis-joke. I found it just as exciting as you did, but a small part of me was disappointed to cross off our marriage of convenience as a future possibility.
It's probably for the best. It wouldn't have worked out between us. Being a Jewish boy, I could never have ended up with a shiksa like you.
Shoulders to Cry On
I had a mild crisis when I passed by a bit of weave lying on the floor in the hallway, left over from an earlier catfight. It looked like a wounded animal, injured by some thoughtless motorist with a gas-guzzling SUV and an NRA bumper sticker. As I mourned the loss of an innocent hair accessory, you just put your arm around me and, with genuine compassion and assuredness, told me it was all going to be okay.
Yes, you were always there for me in times of need, when the challenges and pains of daily life proved too much for me to handle on my own. When I found myself stuck at school without a ride, you'd coerce your mom into driving the extra ten minutes to my house. And when I had to shake the principal's hand at awards ceremonies, you'd be there each time to help me scrub the powerful smell of patronization and misallocated funds off my fingers.
I'm sure I could have dealt with most of these situations without you, but I took comfort in the knowledge that you'd always be there. Just like my shadow. Or my online stalker, Joanna.
You and I had the same thought process for much of our high school career. With every test we took and homework assignment we turned in, the same sentence ran through our heads — "Four years of good grades and then I'm kissin' you bitches goodbye!"
At first we were driven by the possibility of a better life, of going to a school where the people around us didn't scoff at us for using a big word when we managed to work "trite" into a sentence —trite only has five letters, like idiot or irony— but eventually achievement became programmed into our brains.
We played the part of model students, school-spirited as they come. We took every extra-credit assignment, despite the fact that we already had A's in the class. We knew all of our teachers on a first name basis, along with their favorite kind of apple. At the end of the year, it seemed that every page of the yearbook had a picture of us in a different club or activity. I should know; I was on yearbook.
But our school spirit was about as authentic as Tyra Banks. Neither of us could wait to leave. We counted down to graduation like a slew of preteen girls waiting for the next Twilight sequel.
The day itself was just a formality. In our minds we were already gone. We barely paid attention until we knew our names were about to be called. And I know you, like me, couldn't contain your laughter when our student speaker spent the first paragraph of her speech comparing Graduation Day, rocks, and calculus.
Being at college now, we don't talk nearly as much as we used to. But I know we're still close. We made promises to be at each other's weddings, and I fully expect to be the flower girl when your big day comes.
But as each day passes without us talking, I can't help but think our graduation speaker was right. After all, what do rocks, calculus, and saying goodbye to all of your high school friends after graduation have in common?
"They're all very hard."