16 June, 2009

My First Day of High School

It was my first day of high school. Everyone was in the hot lunch line, steak tenders, chicken tenders, or hot dog, not really that tender, actually. The vegetarian option was not an option, unless the “salad” line, with iceberg lettuce and sunflower seeds- my cafeteria's attempt at culture- could count. Only the dieting or anorexic girls ate there, and I was not ready to take that social plunge. So there I was in the hot lunch line, contemplating the body odor of the boys in front, freshly out of gym class, as well as the poor handwriting of the daily specials on the board high above where I stood. And then, suddenly, while waiting in line, my friend told the people around her she was pregnant.

“I’m going to have twins! I haven’t told Mike yet, but he’s going to be so excited. We’ve always wanted to have twins. Twins!” Tanya exclaimed happily as we stood in line.

"Friend" here is a pretty generous term. We had been going to school together since middle school, and had taken more than a few classes together. But when you're years away from either a driver's license or a car, your social life is pretty much limited to what you do at school, anyway. So, we were friendly. Friends.

This conversation was unusual for a myriad of other reasons. The first that came to mind was that I thought it a pretty weird place to tell someone such news. Is there no sense of decorum anymore? There were at least thirty people in line, not including the eavesdropping lunch ladies eager for gossip or the teachers filing in and out attempting to keep the peace in our cafe-torium (our combined cafeteria and auditorium. It was a public school, funds were limited. Sometimes it was a cafe-class-itorium, a combined cafeteria, classroom, and auditorium, but that was only in the bad years.)

Secondly, she didn’t just tell one person. In effect, she told the whole world, or at least our whole world according to our school. Only the cool kids got hot lunch (...) and there were only two real lunchtime periods. So, by the entire school knew by the end of that first day, if not before the end of that lunch period, it was well-established news.

Thirdly, her comment wasn’t said in shame or fear, as one might expect based on Lifetime movie depictions of such events. Tanya stated it matter-of-factly, with audible pride and awe. Wouldn’t Mike be surprised? Of course he would.

After I thought about her words for a little while, I had one next thought. “Dear God.” I knew nothing about sex. Nothing at all. All I knew was gleaned from television and the movies. My mental picture went something like this: the scene would be set with intriguing music and perhaps an alluring one-liner from one of the sex partners. I loved the one liners. "But I love you!" or "What did you say?" or my favorite, ""I'll give you ten seconds to kiss me." Then there was kissing and maybe even lunging, depending on the passion of the situation. The two people would fall into bed and the camera would start to pan away, coming back when the sun rose the next morning. Intuitively I knew that something had happened between the lover's fall and the morning sunlight, but just what exactly was still fuzzy in my mind.

Not that I was completely illiterate about sex. I had watched all the videos in health class (they made me.) The videos were presented by an excitable and ambitiously overweight middle school gym teacher, and as health was always fourth period, I always had to watch them right before lunchtime. Sexually transmitted disease talks, self-breast examinations, pregnancy videos, eat up, kids! We were across the hall from the cafeteritorium, and sometimes the smell of tenders would be distracting.

The self-breast examination video that was pret-ty popular among the boys. There was a video about abstinence. (The videos message in sum: Don't have sex! But if you do, here's how awkward it will be when you tell your parents about that STD you got from Krista in the locker room between sixth and seventh period. Abstinence abstinence abstinence. And this before the Bush era. (Must've been the Reagan influence.) There video about STD's showed how one son had to confront his dad about having one, but they never really got to the sex part so much, which really might have saved the film. I remember the son's girlfriend was named Kelly, because I always envisioned her as being Kelly Kapowski, from Saved by the Bell. She had always looked a bit too easy to me. There was a video about alcoholism that was deeply tied to the recurring theme of spray-painting graffiti on a wall and double-dutch jump-roping. It went over my head. And then, of course, we would watch the "Miracle of Life" videos, also known as the scariest and most effective birth control video to show a middle-schooler in the whole wide universe. Scary scary. But little was talked about actual "sex," part, which would have been immensely helpful. What, did they just want us to figure these things out for ourselves?

On that memorable first day, I started to get the inkling that my high school experience might not be the most conventional. At the very least, the story makes for a great ice-breaker. Because what doesn't really tell you everything you wanted to know about a person and spark a new friendship than a story revolving around one's first day of high school, bad cafeteria food, and teenage pregnancy? (...) I don't remember what happened to Tanya and her baby, but I'd like to believe that she was right in her assertion that Mike really would be proud. At least I know that he had seen the Miracle of Life.