As the years have progressed, some changes have been made to the lineup, but the basics remain the same: streamers and paper decorations in the same cafeteria where leftovers were served a few hours before; awkward and worldly 8th graders alike dressed in their finery; teachers who would rather be having a glass of wine or two (or three) on a Friday night chaperoning the dance; and monumental, life-changing social interactions.
As I flipped through a photo album in search of Flashback material, I came across this:
Can you guess which one is me? It shouldn't be hard. You know what? I remember buying my dress, and how excited I was about it, even taking pictures on the front porch before we left for the dance. But other than the faux memory I've created from looking at this picture, I don't remember a single thing that happened that night, or even whether or not I enjoyed it. Even though it appears as though I'm enjoying myself in the picture, that doesn't mean anything, because all through my teens, I did a darn good job of appearing to be happy when I wasn't.
The girls in the picture with me were my best friends. Insert us into any coming-of-age novel about a group of girlfriends in the 80s, and the descriptions would probably match. As girls will do in any decade, we tended to spend more time with a specific person sometimes, and we'd get into arguments or stupid girl drama quite frequently. Two of these girls didn't really even like each other much; the only thing they had in common was me. Some sort of double Venn diagram would be the best representation of the friendship, I suppose. Anyway, the point being that I relied on these friends quite a bit. If I were to be honest with myself, I'd admit that without them, I would have had no social life whatsoever. I like to be in denial, though, so let's just assume that I was as important in their lives as they were in mine at the time.
Jump forward exactly 24 years, and I only still talk to one of these girls, whom I've been best friends with since the first day of kindergarten. (Unless, of course, you call having someone on your "friends" list on Facebook staying in contact--I don't.) I'm not saying this to hurt anyone's feelings, knowing they could be reading this now because the link to this blog is on my Facebook profile--also objectively knowing (and okay with the fact) that they don't care enough about me at this point to click the link and find out what I'm up to or who I am now. We have our 20th high school reunion coming up this year, and I know that my best friend and I will go, but the others won't. There won't be any touching denouement or revelation to bring us back together, because nothing really split us apart but time.
Going back to the inspiration for this post--I wish there were some way to tell this group of 8th graders that the "stuff" they will go through won't matter in the long run--most of it, anyway. Most of it they will forget and only see faded glimmers of when they dust off their yearbooks every so often. I would tell them not to take things so seriously, including themselves, and not to waste energy on worrying about the small stuff. I would tell them to make choices carefully--both in their friendships and their actions, so that they don't have regrets over things they did and things they didn't do. Most importantly, I would tell them to enjoy the ride--it goes quickly, and before they know it, they will be middle-aged with a mortgage and debt, and looking forward to a few spare minutes after the kids are in bed to indulge themselves. I hope they had fun tonight, and I hope they remember it twenty years from now.
PS--Whooopeee!! 11 "Followers"! Welcome to Sara, the poetgirl!