The year was 1977, and the Rod Stewart song, Tonight’s the Night topped the charts. I hadn’t yet had one of those ‘nights,’ although some pretty hot kisses and what my parents called ‘necking’ took place with my high school boyfriend. We teetered on the edge at times, but never quite toppled over. Fortunately, I didn’t feel the pressure to engage in anything more, perhaps because we were at different schools. He was a ‘nice Catholic boy,’ who attended a parochial program and I was a ‘nice Jewish girl,’ who went to public school. Our Junior year had us going to my prom and the musical theme was ‘Color My World,’ one of my favorite songs by the then wildly popular group Chicago with its repetitive piano cascade opening it. I wore a pale pink filmy gown and he arrived in a light blue tux with a pink cummerbund and bow tie. Our Senior year brought us to his prom. This time, he was white tux-elegant and I glowed in a white spaghetti strapped confection with a cascade of vividly colored flowers flowing down the front. We broke up after that and in retrospect, it was a blessing since I found out when we reconnected after grad school, that his political affiliations and world view were the polar opposite of my left of center, tree-hugging sensibilities.
My high school friends were from all across the spectrum: athletes and cheerleaders, student council leaders, musicians, chess club members, drama kings and queens (sometimes literally, sometimes figuratively, since high-intensity emotions were often swirling about them). This diversity didn’t align me with any particular ‘friend group’ as my teen clients refer to what we would call a ‘clique’. I was a quirky kid who had all kinds of out of the box thoughts about the world, the rainbow sheep of my family; a fringe bedecked, tie-dyed, Birkenstock and Earth Shoes wearing budding hippie sans the pot smoking that some of my peer group indulged in. I never felt pressure to join them in that activity, although in my senior year into college, as a lifeguard, I would go to bars with my co-workers. These days I am sober by choice and in retrospect, my youthful imbibing habits scare the crap out of me.
Back then, I never quite felt like I was one of the ‘cool kids,’ and wasn’t sure what it would take to enter into that hallowed club. Did I need to wear the right brand name clothes? Was it my hairstyle? Was I too much of a goody two shoes? Was I too nerdy since I valued intelligence and my conversations were celestial and cerebral?
As each milestone reunion rolled around, I deliberately chose not to attend since I didn’t feel an alignment with most of the people who I thought would be there. I confided in a dear friend who I remain in contact with to this day that the primary reason I would go would be to “see if the kids who thought they were such hot shit had turned out to be successful.” His sly response was that I was a troublemaker. As our 30th reunion rolled around, I decided to take the leap and register to attend. The organizers had created a Facebook group and we began to coordinate. I commented that I had felt insecure as a teen and didn’t feel like I belonged to that hallowed cool kids’ club. To my surprise, comments came in that some felt I was one of the cool kids and they wanted to be like me. One man even confessed that he had a crush on me back then. My incredulous response to them was, “Couldn’t you have told me that back then? I could have avoided a lot of adolescent angst.”
The day arrived for the reunion and I found myself immersed in hugs and laughter by people who had, for the most part, gracefully aged. The women looked more like their teen selves than the men. Good thing many of us had brought our yearbooks so we could recognize each other. We danced, sang, talked, ate and drank. We told ‘remember when?’ stories. By the end of the evening, I felt as if I had turned back the clock and had a chance to re-live what I wished I had felt back then, a sense of belonging without having to prove my worthiness or wear that proverbial wrist band that allowed me to go inside.
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