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Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Second Tier Girl

By Clair Zarges of The Zees Go West

They used to tell me that high school was the best time of life and, even at that tender age, I thought incredulously that I hoped it wasn't so. We high school kids were so judgmental, and so critical of each other and of ourselves. So very unkind.

You'll think I'm mean and you'll be right, but I remember that awful feeling at a dance when I'd be looking hopelessly at the cute boys and wishing one of them would come my way and then, from somewhere way out of my field of vision, there would come one of those guys that I'd never noticed before except maybe in math class for being so smart. One of the pimply ones who didn't know how to saunter, didn't know where to put his arms when walking - in short, someone who was just as self-conscious as I was. Someone who was probably thinking, with his smart vocabulary, "That poor girl, I'd better rescue her while she still has a shred of self esteem left."

And there I'd be with another project on my hands. Someone I needed to be nice to, someone I couldn't let down, while all the time he probably considered that he was the one taking on the project. Neither of us would ever know the truth - there was precious little communication between genders in those early days.

It was the same when it came to clubs, the kind you had to be invited to join. There was the club for popular girls and there was the other one for all the rest of us. Definitely second tier. I grew to know my place, but that didn't make me any kinder.

All past meanness is eventually rewarded. That's how I ended up here in my accidental prairie home. Not the New Mexico of the little adobe houses and the soft sound of Spanish being spoken and the sight of sharp mountains against an early morning sky.

Nope, I got the New Mexico of the flat land, dairy flies and bad health care. Not the New Mexico of the Indian pueblos and the fragrant piñon fires and the hanging red chile ristras.

Nope, I got the New Mexico that smells of chemical fertilizer on good days, manure piles from the dairies on not-so-good days and abject fear from the stockyards on the worst days.

And not the New Mexico where people of all kinds are accepted, but the New Mexico where there are 17 kinds of Baptists angry with each other and with someone else, who are all convinced that people who are different (maybe gay, maybe Democrat) can be changed as long as they accept the Lord.

It's a good place for a second tier girl, remembering past unkindnesses.

[EDITORIAL NOTE: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. Instructions are here.]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 02:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post



Yes, you may have done stupid teenage unkindnesses in your high school days, but please forgive yourself now!

You cannot go through the rest of your life blaming your situation on the sort of "Kid stuff" we all did.

"All past meanness is eventually rewarded". NO! If that were true, Clair, we would all be in a place where we didn't want to be.

Most of us former teenagers (and that is ALL of us) have gone out of our way to be more kind to each other and more generous and more caring to make up for any unhappiness we may have caused another classmate or friend years ago.

In short, we forgive ourselves for being what we were. Typical teenagers. Be more kind to yourself.

My meanness as a child rises up on occasion to haunt me. Because my nature is to be straightforward, I sometimes say things that are hurtful. The difference is that my intent now is never to be hurtful. Remembering my many imperfections then and now makes it easier to forgive others who intentionally and unintentionally hurt me. None of us is perfect.

High school must be the same no matter where you live on the planet. I remember being nervous all the time, but now, when I go back to reunions - it is as if none of that happened - and we're all good friends.

Claire - I loved this! I'm sure I must have been the pimply, awkward, self-conscious dancer from math class!

This story made me start unblocking some of the childish, embarrassing, and horrifyingly stupid antics of my ill-spent youth. (I've already started writing!)

I felt a bit uneasy at the end of this. I recommend yoga three times a week, a brisk afternoon walk, and any other activity that brings on a 'first class' smile. President Obama will be great, but he can't do it all!

Please don't think that I am wading in despondence. Second Tier Girl was written on a bad day on the prairie. I'm really a cheery person; kind to myself and to others. But, oh, I shudder to remember those high school days when any of us, at any time, could find ourselves on the giving or receiving end of unkindness. We were just learning how to be social beings, after all.

P.S. from clairz: I married one of those guys from math class and he turned out to be one of the most interesting and brilliant people I've ever known.

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