Feb 7, 2010
Towards the Memory of a Better Prom
I did not have one of those longstanding boyfriend-girlfriend things in high school. A lot of people I knew did. And at the time, I probably envied them. But through the filter of my more experienced recollection, I look back on those scenes and assume that I wasn't feeling especially left out. Even though they were 15 maybe 16 years-old, my classmates in relationships became like old married couples. The girls became practical, dour. And they expected things. The boys had to think ahead to bring a second jacket, in case girlfriend required first jacket over the shoulders of her cheer sweater. The boys had to be careful not to talk to other girls. Not to look at other girls. The girls had to be careful not to tell their blabber-prone friend the details of their various dissatisfactions. I remember seeing them talking to each other at their lockers, these coupled up ones. It never looked fun. It often looked angst-ridden. And at the time -- as I was listening to The Smiths and The Cure and David Sylvian -- maybe it was the angst I envied. But I think about it now, and I have to wrinkle my nose. I had my crushes to depress over. But I didn't have this boyfriend-girlfriend thing. This "let's hold hands even though neither of us seems to like doing that" thing. This "I'll just wait in your car while you're at football practice" thing. At the time, having someone expect you to be waiting outside for them at the end of the day seemed like something I would have wanted. Looking back, though, I'm relieved I never narrowed the field in that way. (At least not until the absolutely very end of my senior year. And at that point, half the time we weren't in school anyway.) I compare it in my brain to going exploring and stopping at the first place you see that seems different and just staying there. You don't know you're just steps away from the unattended entrance of the world's coolest abandoned amusement park. You don't know that you could walk five minutes and see an original Van Gogh. You don't know there are restaurants that don't have microwaves in them. How could you know? You've settled in right here. In this little alcove that inadvertently provides shelter in the event of rain but doesn't appear to have been designed for that purpose.
In some ways, I think growing up is just the act of revising your wants. All those things you thought you needed. All those things you knew you had to have. Looking back at them from years away almost demands the making of excuses. I don't know that many people who can talk about those tender, temerity-filled teenage years and say, "This is who/what I loved," without having to immediately offer, "Let me explain..." Life mostly ends up being the many ways you push yourself towards the things you convince yourself must happen. You rewrite the musts over and over. But the pushing itself is written in indelible ink.
posted by Mary Forrest at 1:38 AM | Back to Monoblog