Thursday, August 28, 2014

COLUMN: High School Shane

It must be REALLY weird to be a teenager these days.

No other time in life is quite so spectacularly magically awkward. You want to be treated as an adult but you've got the decision-making skills of a lunatic. Your hormones are raging but you're not quite sure what to do with them. You start to (GIRLS!) think about (GIRLS!) what the future (GIRLS!) may hold (GIRLS!) Your life fills with worry -- specifically, the worry of acting lame in front of your friends and peers.

But just as those teenage hormones and emotions reach an unprecedented level, so too does the potential to embarass yourself in any number of ridiculous ways. Simple decisions like picking out what clothes to wear become crucial, high-stakes, potentially life-changing moves on the chess board of high school. And the Fresh Prince was right -- there's no need to argue, parents just don't understand.

That was the 1980's -- imagine what today's kids must feel like in a world where they showcase their lives from dawn til dusk. They can't even hang out without recapping it on Facebook, showing it off on Instagram, tweeting it to the masses, blogging about it on Tumblr, and sending racy pictures of it on Snapchat. The potential for documented drama is at an all-time high.

But when I was a kid, the highs and lows of high school were only ever really posted in one place -- and I just found mine.

When I went off to college, I left every closet, drawer, shelf, nook and cranny of my old room full of stuff -- and apparantly my long-standing gentleman's agreement for rent-free storage just ended. As I write this, my parents just pulled away from my house pulling an empty U-Haul. In my garage now sits the remnants of my entire adolescence in a dozen or so storage tubs. And what do I find in the very first one I open but my senior year memory book.

I've now spent the entire evening re-acquainting myself with High School Shane... and he was one odd fellow.

For one, I cannot believe how earnestly I completed this memory book. It's a fill-in-the-blank affair that asks things like, "My student council president was _________." "My homecoming queen was ________." "Our football team's record was ________."

I didn't care about ANY of that stuff in high school, I swear to you. I was a drama club geek who hung out with misfits and weirdos and punks and goths and we ALL rested in the knowledge that we were smarter and funnier than everyone else. Yet I filled out every one of these blanks with gusto and enthusiasm. And if I was funny in high school, you sure wouldn't know it by this thing.

Okay, talk to me, High School Shane. "My funniest moment was: Doing anything with Mark, Brian, and the gang. We usually ended up doing something insanely stupid yet hilariously funny at the same time." Err... I had a 'gang'? What were we, the Really Lame People Who Write Super Generic Answers In Our Memory Books Gang? And for what it's worth, my insanely stupid yet hilariously funny close friend and fellow gang member Mark signed the autograph section. It reads: "Shane, Leave Me Alone. -Mark."

What's my "Most Embarassing Moment," High School Shane? "Singing a bunch of old songs with the gang [Who ARE these people?!] in the auditorium during play rehearsal when the entire cast suddenly yelled 'SHUT UP SHANE!'" Okay, that sounds more like me.

"My Best Friend Is: Bruce" [TRUE. We've drifted apart but stay in touch and I'll always love him like a brother.] "What Makes Us Friends Is: Our mutual love for Cyndi Lauper's undergarments." [Fair enough.] "Things We Do Together: Make mixtapes." [Yep.] "For Fun We Usually: Make mixtapes." [Yep.] "What I Like Best About My Friend Is: He listens to cool music except for some stuff like Kiss and Lita Ford." [All true. And Bruce adds: "And I still like Lita Ford, so suck it."]

Back then, Bruce signed my memory book as follows: "Shane, We've gotten to be good friends this year which is really weird since we hated each other when we met. I've got one thing to say to you and only one thing: There is only one Debbie and that's Debbie Harry." I had almost forgotten our never-ending war of words as to the superior Debbie, Harry vs. Gibson. I remain defiantly Team Gibson.

Half these "memories" I don't remember at all. Apparantly for what I hope and pray was a very short while, my nickname was "Banger Stanger." As God is my witness, I have no clue what it means or being called that ever, yet I'm addressed as such throughout the book. There's a page devoted to my high school girlfriend: "Our First Date Was: A double with Brian and Jean and then Aaron crashed it, folded his napkin into a paper airplane, and sailed it into some guy's Afro at the salad bar." HOW CAN I NOT REMEMBER COMEDY GOLD LIKE THAT? Score one for Aaron.

Incidentally, that ex-girlfriend writes, and I quote, "I want to thank you for making my year so memberable. Have fun at college. Don't get any girls into trouble you stud. Love ya." Clearly post break-up, as noted by the ever-crucial changing of "love you" to "love ya."

Most every autograph references Rhetoric class, a particular hell of senior year and the only class I ever truly enjoyed working my tail off for. Mr. Diemer was a brutal taskmaster, but funny as all get out and the kind of teacher who replaced the desks in his classroom with sofas and recliners. He was a tough guy to impress, but you sure as heck tried your hardest to do it.

HIS autograph in my book? "Shawn, thanks for the work. Diemer." Sigh.

Visiting High School Shane gives me a lot of respect for the Shane I've become. I used to think that High School Shane was just a tinier version of my current self, but it's clear I've done a lot of growing up since those amazingly awkward 80s. Still, I wouldn't trade those memories (the ones I CAN remember) for the world. And just when I thought High School Shane was an entirely uninspired and uninteresting chap, I turned to the back page and there in the corner, written in teeny tiny print, a long time ago, a Shane far far away once wrote: "Is it just me or is the lamest book ever? People suck." Ahh, memories.

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