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Question of the Week: High School Secrets

By Posted on 39 1 m read 1.9K views

What were you like in high school? Fat? Skinny? Bold? Mousy? Popular? Unpopular and proud of it? Introduce me to the high school version of you.


Wednesday, Marcy Dermansky, who wrote the deliciously weird page-turner TWINS will be here. And we’re having a slumber party!

If you’ve never been to a girls’ slumber party before, here’s a hint: we talk about loneliness, cliques, weird eating, and the books that saved us. Oh, did I forget to mention …? You’re invited!


Tuesday at LitPark??? Yes! Tomorrow there will be something special for Halloween!

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  • Betsy
    October 30, 2006

    I was decidedly uncool from around fourth grade until senior year, but was known to many as “Nina’s friend.” Nina, my equally uncool compatriot from seventh grade to the present (! and also an author!) blossomed around ninth grade while I did not, and I would have gone entirely unnoticed I’m sure had it not been for her. That said, I went to a small private HS in NY, that was pretty arty, and I always had friends, if not the Studio 54 crowd (no seriously, that’s where the cool kids in my school hung), definitely helped foster my creativity and my interest in reading and writing and art. But I didn’t have a date until I was halfway through my senior year of high school.

  • Aimee
    October 30, 2006

    This is a question I don’t want to answer! I was a high school majorette in the marching band. All my friends were on homecoming court. I, however, never was. I was that girl who had pretty, popular friends but didn’t feel pretty or popular. One of my best friends had the nickname Barbie. Everyone called me Skipper. God I hated high school!

  • Robin Slick
    October 30, 2006

    I was ridiculously cool. So cool that I bought a button that said “I Hate People” and my mother slapped me when she saw it and tried to take it away from me. (She was cool, too…don’t get the idea she was abusive…she was like “How can someone into love and peace wear an I Hate People button? Err…maybe because most people I met weren’t into love and peace?) Even back then I dressed all in black and was a hard core hippie art major. My husband (har har – high school sweethearts…I know…try not to gag) and I would walk to school and people would call out “John! Yoko!” (back then I had purple dyed hair which I ironed straight and wore parted in the middle to my waist)and we passed the inevitable joint back and forth, walked into school stoned, met up at lunch and smoked another joint, walked home from school the same way (hey, pot was $35 an ounce back then)…and at night I would be groupie for his band, which always played an endless series of beef and beer nights or we’d go see live music.

    Sob…what has happened to me now? Last night I was asleep by 9:00 p.m. after inhaling a fruit tart from Whole Foods Market, which was the highlight of my day.

  • Kathy
    October 30, 2006

    I worked in the school library. Need I say more?

  • Aurelio
    October 30, 2006

    I worked the concession stands at all the football games because they let you eat as much as you wanted for free. I was one of those kids who could eat and eat and eat and stay stick-thin. “Hollow Leg Syndrome” I think it’s called. That’s why I know nothing about sports but lots about junk food.

    I did help the senior class before mine to sell the school as a senior prank (I designed and painted a big sign, “For Sale: Cheap” which we hung from the bell tower.) No one suspected me because I was a quiet and studious kid – seriously, I was! Susan, stop laughing…

  • amy
    October 30, 2006

    Hey, no other drama geeks in the house? I can’t be the only person who yearned for the spotlight, then as well as now… 😉

  • Lance Reynald
    October 30, 2006

    wow, what a question…you know full well that mine was a bit “different drummer”, where the hell do ya think that “novel” is coming from? (all f#*`ed up)

    I’d like to say that I was the loner, hopelessly and haplessly cool. and Misunderstood. They had no idea.

    I’d say that I skipped classes to chainsmoke under the bleachers, raid liquor cabinets, runaway from home, have torrid flings with grownups, ride the metro to sneak into the Dupont bars and get drunk on vodka specials whilst carousing with the degenerates of DC’s underbelly; thus being both the response and the cause of some disillusionment and dysfunction around the house.

    Oh wait, that was me.

    I think Robin and I would have gotten along famously, I could hold that hair of her’s back while she vomitted into trashbins.

    ain’t nostalgia grand??

  • Carolyn Burns Bass
    October 30, 2006

    I was the in between girl. I had friends in every clique, but wasn’t a part of any of them. I wasn’t cool enough to be in the cheerleader/football crowd, but was nominated for homecoming queen by the art club. Since I was the president of the art club, the nomination seemed so token, I turned it down. I was senior class president and spoke at graduation where I opened my speech with the first paragraph of Dicken’s Tale of Two Cities. I was editor of the yearbook in my senior year and wrote for the school newspaper where my swan song was a swarmy tribute to Van Gogh. My English teacher, the late Ted Mann, turned me on to Shakespeare with his enthusiasm and romanticism for the bard. Some of my favorite books of the era were Lust for Life (surprise?), The Agony and the Ecstacy, Stranger in a Strange Land, The Illustrated Man, Mary Queen of Scots, Rebecca. My grades were middling and I didn’t even take the SAT because I was headed to art school (so I thought) where you didn’t need that agony to get in.

    I said no to the sweetest guy for the prom in my junior year because he was a family friend and a geek, but for my senior prom I went with a fun guy who later was rumored to have come out of the closet. I was a SoCal surf-chick type, who wore very little make-up and was known as “the girl with the hair” for my dark, thick, wavy, waist length hair. I sewed all my own bathing suits, blouses, jackets, and “Dittos” style jeans, but wore Levi 501s nearly every day. I donned a dress every now and then to shock everyone. I was decidedly not athletic, but loved gymnastics and swimming. I was 5’0″ and thought I was fat weighing 110 lbs. I would so like to weigh 110 pounds again.

  • Gail Siegel
    October 30, 2006

    I hated high school. Drifted away from my cool friends from jr. high. Regularly cut class to hitchhike to the beach with my remaining close friend who was a skimpily-clad actress and model (who deflected attention from me). Felt like I had nothing in common with the other kids in the honors classes. Graduated early and went to Israel to explore and live on a kibbutz before returning stateside to teach riding for the summer. In fact, I was very naive, fearful, shy and failed to embrace life until college.

  • robert westfield
    October 30, 2006

    Oh, Amy, here’s another drama geek. I was one of those kids on a mission. My mantra: Get into dream school, get into dream school. My father, a navy man, told me he’d never pay a penny for college, so I’d have to get a full ride or go to an academy. So I went fiercely after those grades, battling my teachers for every + or -, joining club after club, and keeping good relations with as many people as I could, which meant that in my senior year, I was editor-in-chief of the newspaper (with an entire page I reserved for my own writing), Drama Club president (and the lead in every play), National Honor Society treasurer, Latin Club secretary, Student Representative to the Board of Education, and the guy who gave the morning announcements. But I didn’t go to either prom, rarely dated, felt extremely insecure about my looks (which of course is why I didn’t date…not because I was gay…no, I wasn’t gay, what a crazy idea…I loved girls, most of my friends were girls…), so even though my class of 400 went on to vote me “Friendliest” “Most Studious” “Most Talented” and “Most Likely to Succeed,” because I didn’t get “Best Eyes” “Best Legs” or “Best Looking,” I drove my car several times a month to a field behind an abandoned planetarium to lie in the grass and sob uncontrollably for an hour before picking myself up and returning to high school all smiles. Dear Jesus!!! How’s that for a drama geek??!!?!

  • Keith
    October 30, 2006

    I refused to read any of the books assigned in AP English, on the grounds that I resent being told what to read.

    It didn’t seem to make much difference to my grades.

  • Grant Bailie
    October 30, 2006

    I do not have especially fond memories of high school, but it wasn’t particularly traumatic either. I just went through it quietly, with just enough friends to keep me from being a potential serial killer. I never went to a dance or a game, but it never even occurred to me to try. I had some reputation as an artist I guess, and there were one or two popular kids who signed my year books saying something about my “dry wit”. But mostly what I remember about it is that my high school year book got my name wrong (Brant) so to further confuse the issue, whenever asked to sign a year book (seldom) I would sign a picture of a hockey player wearing a face mask. And I remember at graduation the guy in front of me in line turning around and saying: “Were you in our class?” And I said: “Yeah. I sat next to you in biology all year.” What a dick; I never liked that guy.

    I was the only person who didn’t throw his hat in the air at the close of the ceremony. I just got up and turned it in at the concession stand with my robe and drove home. To celebrate, my parents took me to Hardees. I probably ordered a cheeseburger.

    This question has plunged me into a deep depression that will last all of five minutes.

  • Susan Henderson
    October 30, 2006

    Your host, still hungover from Saturday’s costume party and hopelessly behind on everything, will check in properly this evening. I’m enjoying your stories! I would have wanted to have been friends with all of you.


  • Mary Akers
    October 30, 2006

    I was the do-everything, befriend-everyone girl. I didn’t fit into any one click, but had friends in all the clicks: jocks, nerds, geeks, stoners, rednecks, losers, preps–I loved ’em all. I had one boyfriend in 11th and 12th grade (who I still sometimes think about), I played sports, played flute, was in the rifle corps in the marching band, did debate, drama, was art club president, got the senior creative writing award for both poetry and prose (never thought I’d be a writer, though, I just “liked to write”). I thought I was cool, but in a very “detached cool” way. I wonder if I was. My daughters are both in high school now and they like to get out my old yearbooks and look me up…see who signed my yearbook, what I looked like, who I loved…they lie on the carpet and look up from the pages to eye me strangely. I think it’s the first time they’ve imagined me as a once living, breathing teenager.

  • Amy Kiger-Williams
    October 30, 2006

    I was the girl with angular hair who listened to the Smiths and wore all black.

  • Juliet
    October 30, 2006

    Twins was, and remains one of the top books on my list of what I’ll re-read as years go by. I think that Marcia is a brilliant wordsmith, and have told her so often.
    If you haven’t read her short stories, or, heaven forbid, Twins itself, you are missing much.

  • Sarah Roundell
    October 30, 2006

    I started out highschool with aspirations of being the preppy, popular cheerleader and quickly found I was not that girl. My best friend&I were the odd ones that wore weird clothes and Doc Martens which people laughed about and then came to school the next year copying our style from the year before. Always ahead of the times we never made it to the “cool” group, but instead were friends with the 3/4 of the school who were fighting to be up there too. I loved highschool and wish I’d applied myself more even though I always did well academically. I thought I was hideous&fat and that no one would ever love me(turns out they all thought I was gay). I listened to great tunes like Red Hot Chili Peppers, the Seattle bands, U2, The Cure, Morrissey and The Smiths (like Amy above). I fancied myself a tortured soul who constantly scribbled poetry in a spiral notebook and then there was the fixation with death and the desire to be a funeral director when I graduated. How did I end up this boring girl I am today?

  • Susan Henderson
    October 30, 2006

    Betsy – That’s an interesting perspective to bring – the uncool kid with cool friends.

    Aimee – Ha! Sorry for laughing but that makes for a great story!

    Robin – That’s the opening to one of your chapters.

    Kathy – The library was my favorite place to hang out, so I would have thought you were cool.

    Aurelio – I’m only laughing because you didn’t know I assumed you were a geek!

    Amy – I got myself into the spotlight by doing odd things the other girls weren’t doing – like throwing shot put.

    Lance – Yep. You need a whole book to cover your high school secrets.

    …I’ll be back later tonight to respond to the rest…

  • Aurelio
    October 31, 2006

    I guess I was a bit of a several-different-types-of-geek – a traveling geek of sorts: choir geek, theater geek, art geek, speech & debate geek, teacher’s assistant (read, “suck-up”.)

    I tried to grow long hair and it didn’t get long, it got big, like Bozo’s. I still convinced myself it looked cool.

    My High School years were not the best years of my life.

  • Terry
    October 31, 2006

    Three words: breakdancing white boy. This was my favorite song (and remains one I listen to with regularity): Roxanne Roxanne // UTFO // UTFO - Hits - Roxanne, Roxanne

  • Aurelio
    October 31, 2006

    An odd coincidence: I’m attending my 30th High School Reunion this coming Saturday. Should be freaky.

  • Carolyn Burns Bass
    October 31, 2006

    Ho, Aurelio. I attended mine two weeks ago. As we drove up to the valet a couple of old people were getting out of the car ahead of us. I thought, “they can’t be going to the reunion.” Guess what?

  • Susan Henderson
    October 31, 2006

    Carolyn – What a wonderful description of the high school you. I can absolutely “see” you!

    Gail – You’ve got at least one story to tell in there. Maybe two.

    Robert – What a description of going full-force! I was voted “Most Likely to Become a Female Wrestler” – woo hoo!

    Keith – Ha! I did the same in college. I protested the white male canon and made up obnoxious words to use in place of he and she. Later, I went back and read that white male canon and thought, wow, this is some good writing!

    Grant Bailie! – What a great thing to see you here! I’m sorry but the Brant story is very very funny, and if it helped to make you who you are today, it’s all worth it.

    Mary – What a great role you played. I think more of us would have liked high school if there were more Mary Akers in them.

    Amy – I loved all of those brave hairstyles. You should see Marcy on Wednesday. Don’t think we didn’t drag out some old photos!

    Juliet – Thanks for the plug!

    Sarah – The funeral directors in my neighborhood are all preppy and conservative. But the funeral makeup artists are always cool!

    Aurelio – Mr. H’s grows straight up, too, like Lyle Lovett. Have a great time at the reunion!

    Terry – I will pay you money to see a video of that.

  • mikel k poet
    October 31, 2006

    I’m worn out from our little pumpkin carving party that we had here at the abode, tonite, but I’m all over this query in the am. I know there are no witnesses on Lit Park who went to my high school and can contest my version of me back then…har har. Happy Halloween all. Have fun. Be safe.

  • Julie Ann Shapiro
    October 31, 2006

    In highschool sometimes I was cool, sometimes a trouble maker. I had friends all over the place, not quite in one cliche which got me in trouble with the others. My friends ran the gamut from the lawn people, punkers, to the drama and surfer crowd. One of my close friends thought she was Ann Bolyn in her past life and feared people touching her feet because she was convinced in yet another past life that they were eaten by sharks. We spent a lot of time imagining the past and present merging, not so different than I sometimes do now. Another close friend was a poet surfer. We used to write in the life guard stands together.

  • Lori Oliva
    October 31, 2006

    I was a cheerleader, member of the French club, on the yearbook staff, ran track, and was an all around popular gal…then I graduated and the depression set in. HA! Really, those things were true (except for the all around popular gal and the depression part…especially when I discovered college keg parties).

  • Tish Cohen
    October 31, 2006

    I was somewhat cool, but no one at my O.C. high school knew it. (Doh!) I wore little black wrestler boots so insane that Tina Turner stopped me on Melrose Avenue and said, “Nice boots, sweetie!” To Hollywood clubs, I wore silver lipstick, shredded tights and a cape from the set of Planet of the Apes. My first mixed drink was poured by Gene Kelly and every weekend mt friend and I partied with strangers on Errol Flynn’s burned-out estate near the Hollywood sign(surrounded by pedophiles and murderers, we later found out).

    But as far as the kids at school knew, I was just the skinny girl with the weird boots and the pirate pants who once drove her car through the school.

  • *Joe*
    October 31, 2006

    I’ll try not to make this into the Basketball Diaries II. I know this may be hard to believe but I was a comedian in high school. I was also a chameleon so I could fit myself into any group I wanted to but I was close to no one. Drugs, music, alcohol, underground clubs in NY – I skipped right over adolescence and all the normal developmental stages most people go through learning how to deal with the world without a crutch. It’s called growing up, I missed the boat on that. I gravitated towards all the misfit toys. I did astoundingly stupid things and managed to live despite my best efforts. I had a monsterously good time until one day I didn’t anymore.

    I had a hippie phase a punk phase and a junkie phase which left me… phased. I couldn’t repeat any of that crap if I tried. My high school yearbook has no picture of me because I was ‘whereabouts unknown’. No prom, no clubs (except for the school paper which I wrote one article for which got me suspended), I graduated by showing up on the last day and I got into college based solely on SAT scores.

    Years later, I ran into a woman who was a cheerleader at my school. She was a waitress at a diner I go to sometimes. She didn’t recognize me at first until I said, “Hello Jen.” She said, “I thought you died.”

    If I ever go to a reunion it will just be to scare the crap out of people.

  • Ellen Meister
    October 31, 2006

    I was a rebel without a cause. My tiny fringe group and I hated everything that had to do with our high school. We shunned the kids, the clubs, the teachers, the whole damn town. (What a great defense mechanism for kids who don’t fit in!) We decided we were artistes, and would to skip school to go into The City so we could visit art museums and see Woody Allen movies. We loved Monty Python and Charlie Chaplin and The Marx Brothers. We read about the Algonquin Round Table and thought we were just about as smart and witty as they were. Judging from what we wrote in each others’ yearbooks, we were not. But we got through it together.

  • Juliet
    October 31, 2006

    Back to respond to this (didn’t have space yesterday).
    Highschool for me was a mixed bag. One part rebellion (the Chelsea girl, the tart, the gum snapping red-lipped, heavy lashed self) and then the desperate attempt at preppiness (oh, for the love of a boy) followed quickly by the Dramarama look, and lastly, ended with a Beatnik senior year.

    Is there any more cruel punishment for children who are at a stage of life where they want desperately to fit in and to find that they are “normal” than to stick us all into a meat market where the only way to win is to become either a) normal to the point of being the All-American dream, or b) so abnormal as to be an icon.

  • Susan Henderson
    November 1, 2006

    Wow, I’m fascinated by every one of these stories. I’ll respond individually on Friday’s Weekly Wrap.

  • LaurenBaratz-Logsted
    November 1, 2006

    Late to the party, so late.

    I rode the Wheel of Fortune so many times, I feel like I know all the highs and lows of popularity. In freshman year, which was also the last in my small private school, I was top of the food chain. A year later, in a much larger public school, I was…who knows where I was? I was so out of it with the insane social structure of everything that when a cute guy who I enjoyed talking to asked me out someone else had to tell me he played on the football team. I just thought he liked wearing jerseys! So there I was, first date, looking for something to say. Me (in acerbic mode): “I hear you play football. What do you do, warm the bench?” Him: “I’m the quarterback.” That’s me in a nutshell: Don’t know who I’m with, status-wise, and don’t much care. Or you could just say I’m clueless.

    I was also, am still, friendly to everyone until given a reason to behave otherwise. This enables me to feel good about myself and also means that when people start shooting, there’s a chance I’ll still be standing.

  • Teresa of CityLights
    November 1, 2006

    I was a Floater and could move from the popular kids, to the geeks, to the total outcasts and back with no repercussions. I went to a Catholic Girl’s School and was routinely given detention for disrupting my English class (Sorry Sister Vincentine). I freed the lab animals before Biology class (Sorry Sister Augustine) and accidentally set my Physics experiment board on fire. (Sorry Sister Coniscious)I was too cool to go to my Senior Prom and spent the evening smoking on a street corner with members of The Spanish Cobras streetgang. (Sorry mom)(and sorry Gilberto for not going all the way)

  • mikel k poet
    November 2, 2006

    I was so skinny that I could put my fingers around my thighs.

  • Kasper
    November 2, 2006

    Dear Susan:

    I worked on the school newspaper and organized secret cabals. I was in love with songleaders like all the other guys. I suffered near- terminal acne ( fortunately I survived) and was so tall and thin that the school nurse wanted to put me on a milk diet.

    I fiendishly won awards for art, creating some lifelong enemies I didn’t even know about until my 20th high school reunion when a woman
    ( actually an old secret love of mine) walked up with a martini in her hand and said:

    “It’s great to see you again. You were the person I hated most in school.” ( she had been an art “rival.”

    To gauge my effect ( and lack of same) on women, I must tell a secret, one my wife makes me tell today at parties.

    My date for the senior prom ( in 1963) was J.S.– a very nice, very tall ( about 6 feet– enormous for 1963) young lady who was very shy and wore “Batgirl” black plastic glasses.

    At the 20th high school reunion, I re-met “J” and all the group of us with our drinks fell to talking of the senior prom.

    In the midst of the discussion, “J” turned to me, took a sip of her drink and asked, “Well, who did YOU take, anyway?”


  • J Erwine
    November 2, 2006

    I was very much like I am today…tall, skinny, kind of geekish. I wasn’t necessarily one of the popular kids, but I wasn’t unpopular either. I was the one everyone wanted to know because they always hoped that I could help them with their homework.

  • n.l. belardes
    November 2, 2006

    High School. Burp. I enjoyed reading other folks stories…

  • Shelley Marlow
    November 3, 2006

    In honor of mercury retrograde, I posted my answer in the weekly wrap. Cool to read about your teen selves here!

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Susan Henderson