Tuesday, September 29, 2009


I may have mentioned that I recently got a Facebook page. I have something like 20 "friends" now, about half who were friends or friends of friends from the old-timey music scene in NYC when I was a teen (with some number of ex-boyfriends and missed connections), and half people from my grade in school. I just say "school" because my school ran from first grade or pre-K, I forget, first was the lowest when I started there in second, all the way through the end of high school. Additionally, being a "creative" and "experimental" school, all of the grades had weird names that were really hard to convert to public school grades. Plus they'd change their numbering and lettering system every year or two (this was in the early days -- I was one of the original students, starting six weeks into their first year). So one year I'd be in Team IIA for "Core" (which meant homeroom, English and history), French 3, and math B, and the next year I'd be in Middle Sch0ol 3, French B-prime, and math South. I kid you not. Due to this extreme mess, which had mostly settled by my senior year, I never took geometry. I took number theory and I took logic and I took pre-calc, but never geometry. SAT scores: English 750, Math 550.

But I really wanted to talk about my social life there. I felt like a bad fit, as I did everywhere I went. As a bright child, my early social life was about showing off to adults, which didn't really translate well when I tried it with peers. Still, I think everything went OK in my first few years at school -- I had a terrific best friend who shared my love for The Monkees and a boy named David Zimmern, though she left for one of the experimental public schools in Brooklyn.

But I think everything got really screwed up when I was nine, when my parents split up. I didn't know another kid in school who had divorced parents; my folks were at the leading edge of the trend, around 1968 or 69. The thing that was so traumatic to me about the divorce is that they were always so careful not to fight or argue in front of "the children" that it was an incredible shock, because I thought they got along just fine. (Would it have been easier if preceded by months of screaming and crockery-throwing? Discuss.)

I just wasn't right after that and I was in therapy and I still wasn't right. Perhaps this is when my depression started to show itself. I would have a friendship with one girl at a time which would maybe last a couple of weeks or a month or two, and then just sort of trail off. I never had a group of friends and I was definitely not one of the "popular" kids (though I realize that they may not have seen themselves as "popular").

Well, I did have a little crowd for a while: two boys and a girl, of varying degrees of nerddom. The three of us hung around the high school office, powerfully transfixed (each for unspoken reasons of his or her own) by the head of the high school, who we will call Mr. B. Mr. B. stood out for a few reasons: he was one of the few teachers (including the headmaster) who did *not* say "Call me Charlie": he was always "Mister" B. The other truly great thing about him is that he was the only person in my life who seemed to care enough to discipline me in any way. My mother was dating; my dad lived elsewhere; the other teachers were too groovy or lax or elsewhere to make sure our assignments were in and good and that we showed up to the classes. (I once took a history course called "research seminar" whose only requirement was a research paper. I didn't write a paper but got credit for the course.)

This actually comes right back to the other group of friends on Facebook, because I got swept away by old-timey music as a young teen and started playing banjo and going to these weird hole-in-the-wall joints to listen to this weird old music. But for some reason, I had to push this interest in everyone's face, which I suppose made me wildly unpopular. I guess I was a little snobbish about what most of my peers seemed to be listening to, the Grateful Dead and the Allmans and the Doobies. (I've grown into a way more open listener, and in fact I write for a national blues publication. Please do not respond to this by telling me how much you like Eric Clapton. -- Gee, I guess I'm *still* a music snob.)

I think I also had a problem with my mother treating me more as a friend and confidente than as a daughter. So I tended to identify with her generation more than my own. I remember -- cringingly -- turning in a play for a playwriting course that concerned a boy bringing his "hippie" girlfriend, "Moonflower," home to meet his folks, and the hilarity that ensued, because -- she was such a hippie! My playwriting teacher, of course, wrote plays that were performed at LaMama, and ripped the thing to shreds. And why not? I had written a lame, conservative sitcom. And I even came from a funny, liberal family. My only excuse is that I guess I watched too much TV and my idea of entertainment was "Barney Miller." I dunno.

That's all for now but there's probably more to come.

No comments:

Post a Comment