Life Stories: In 1989

I went to high school. My hair was long and sort of blonde, but mostly brown. Once I was a blonde and it was hard to let this go. I mean, my hair was part of my identity and I had always been a long blonde haired girl. Ponytails. Pigtails. Braids. Buns for dance recitals.

In Junior High in the late 80s girls were doing stupid things to their hair. They were getting bad perms and curling their bangs and teasing them into strange shapes and holding it all into place with Aqua Net. My friends got perms and curled their bangs and they wore Coca-Cola shirts and acid washed jeans. I wanted to look like the models in the Esprit Catalog. I wanted to look cool and arty. I wanted to be a Benneton ad. I did not want to get a perm and tease my hair. It was a weird time being this person I was. This person who wore Converse high tops and owned a pair of fake John Lennon glasses. This person who wanted to hang with the skater boys and listen to the Violent Femmes and not a person who spent a lot of time in front of the mirror or wore a lot of make up or listened to Bon Jovi.

Which isn’t to say I was better. It’s just that I felt like I was in the wrong place.

At the end of Junior High I had a sort of boyfriend named Tom. I liked him because he was a skater boy. The skater boy I really, really liked had moved away after 7th grade. Off to San Diego. Tom was quiet and shy and mostly unknown to me. He liked the band Heart. I didn’t. We didn’t have a lot in common. He wanted to kiss me and I was too afraid. By the end of the summer I had a friend break it off for me because I was a coward and because I liked someone else and though that someone else just had to like me to. That didn’t happen. Instead I was just a never been kissed coward.

I went to high school and I liked boys but I was invisible to them. Maybe because I didn’t have perms and teased hair and lots of make up. Maybe because I wore vintage cardigans and chunky shoes. Maybe because I was afraid of them and they knew it.

I wasn’t unpopular. But I wasn’t popular. I didn’t play sports or cheer or go to parties. My jam was being in plays and seeing movies. Everyone would have told you that I was nice. Those who knew me well might have said I was funny. I thought I was pretty enough, but no one invited me to the Homecoming Dance and I didn’t have any make out sessions and I spent quite a large number of weekend nights by myself.

My friends couldn’t understand why I didn’t flirt or show an interest in boys with muscle cars or at least be less innocent and afraid and timid.

Timid is a good word for how I was.

I look back now and think of course it had to be the way it was. It always has to be the way it was so you can get to where you are. Which is wiser and smarter and a person with stories to tell and a person who understands loneliness and outsiderness and longing. But then, it was hard. It was lonely.

Freshman year. It felt like I never had enough clothes. Sometimes I wore my sister’s stuff. She was a Senior. Although she had a different sense of style than I did.

I played a mentally disabled woman in the school play. I had two lines. I joined the Student Council. Choir scared the crap out of me because although I loved singing I didn’t know how to read music and the choir director was terrifying and I was starting to suspect that I didn’t really know how to sing.

The boy I liked was a Junior. He was smart and he was funny and sort of preppy and definitely not at all interested in me.

I had braces and I didn’t know what to do with my long, straight not blonde enough hair.

My eyebrows were dark and thick.

Math was too hard and made me cry.

I watched a lot of Ken Russell movies because they were the only arty, foreign films our local video store had.

When I graduated from high school I was going to head off to New York or California and study filmmaking.

I never tried very hard at my homework, but I managed.

Lunch was a terrifying experience.

Does this sound like a sad tale? It wasn’t all bad. Fun times were had. My best friend at the time was an older girl named Christina. She loved poetry and difficult fiction. She was smarter and wiser. But she had low self esteem and let guys walk all over her. We laughed and she drove me around town sometimes on Friday nights. She worked at the local movie theater and after hours we would eat the candy and look for loose change on the theater floors. My first time getting drunk (or buzzed, I suppose) was on wine coolers at a party her brother had at her house. Being buzzed gave me permission to act crazy and tell everyone jokes and not be afraid. An older boy kept telling me how pretty I was but I blew him off. He didn’t seem straight, anyway. Though at the time I could have hardly verbalized that suspicion.

The school newspaper was my favorite thing. Since movies were everything to me, I asked to be the film critic. U2’s documentary, Rattle & Hum, earned rave reviews from me. U2 was my favorite. The Joshua Tree changed me. Bono was my god.

Winona Ryder came on the seen with adorable, short hair. I cut my hair, too.


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