Everything to Say
When I arrived at Prospect High School three years ago I promised myself one thing: I would not become the stereotypical high school teen-drama queen. I didn’t want to intercept the mean girls, I didn’t want to find some dream guy, and I wanted to make sure, above all else, that my high school years would not become the best of my life.
Going unnoticed. That was my goal. When I first walked down the Prospect gym corridor on the eve of my freshman year a strange calm came over me. As my nervous classmates twiddled their thumbs and brushed the sweat away from their foreheads, I felt fine. While they feared first day seat assignments, I knew wherever I sat I would keep my mouth shut, do my work, and get out. While they worried about fitness testing and 12-minute runs, I knew I would neither excel nor fall flat. I would be average through, and through. I would not fall prey to any high school stereotypes. College would be my redeemer, and at the tender age of fourteen, I can’t believe my naivety at the time.
My first day of freshman year, I walked down that hallway to gym once more, and since then I seemed to have encountered every awful, redundant, unexceptional stereotype as every other American teenager in that one location. And here, I give to you, a few tales from my high school experience.
The High School Sweetheart: Honestly, to this day, this phrase makes me want to throw up in my mouth a little bit. I usually associate high school sweethearts with individuals who were either too unintelligent or too uninteresting to ever date someone else. Like most relationships before adulthood, high school relationships are meant to be frivolous. Relationships in high school are about coming of age, discovering your sexuality, and mostly they are just a practice round for the more important relationships to come in adulthood.
Freshman year I knew, like I so ignorantly “knew” many other things, that I would be the exception in that I had zero interest in a high school boyfriend. How funny it seems now, since I met Tim on my very first day, in my very first class, in my first year of high school.
My friends and I all met Tim before class in the hallway as everyone else waited anxiously to get inside and meet our gym teacher. My friends all giggled and blushed when Tim talked to them, and conversely, I rolled my eyes and crossed my arms.
For weeks I had to listen to these girls gush over Tim: “Look at how fast he runs,” and “I wonder if he would be willing to hang out with us.” I was unimpressed and annoyed by Tim’s presence, and by the constant chattering I had to hear in regards to his physical appearance.
I warned my friends: either talk to him or stop making up fantastical scenarios in which you would be together. They did nothing of course. So, in an effort to prove his true and irritating identity, I decided to talk to him. With an odd confidence I approached him before gym class, and before I even managed to get two sentences out he asked me on a date. I was sure Tim would be a jerk and this knowledge would surely cease the constant discussion of him. I was to attend this date and be the ender of dreams. I had never felt more powerful.
Much to my dismay, Tim was not a jerk. In fact, he was probably the nicest person I have ever met. When I came down the gym hallway after our first date, my friends expected me to complain, as was usually my practice, but I merely shrugged my shoulders and explained we had another date planned the following night (they were less than pleased with me to say the least).
Three years later and we are still together. I still walk with him down that hallway everyday to drop him off at his gym class. He is my best friend, and my most trusted ally, and I thank whatever spiritual deity that is watching over me for him every day.
The Mean Girls: Anyone who has attended middle school ever, knows that it is a mix of awkward fashion, bad haircuts, and probably the most deceitful and unkind creatures to ever walk the earth (too dramatic?). Middle school girls can be the worst: overconfident, immature, and somehow still between the ages of 11–14.
I vowed, promised, begged myself to never encounter mean girls again in high school. If that meant eating my lunch in the school bathroom, then that’s what I would do.
I actually went through my first two years of high school avoiding the mean girls, until, unfortunately, one of those mean girls turned out to be my closest of friends.
One day while walking to gym, I discovered my best friend outside the girl’s locker room gossiping about me with her boyfriend. Then, perhaps out of shame, or out of some newfound hatred of me, she asked me to find a new table for Prom (this being the one stereotypical high school event I promised myself the luxury of attending). I was shocked and hurt.
That hallway became the one place in school wherein I allowed myself not only to shed a tear, but to ugly cry in such a horrifying fashion that someone came up to me and asked if I was having an asthma attack (I do not have asthma…).
That entrance way was the first place where I saw my best friend and neither of us smiled at one another. It was the first place I felt true heartbreak. Friendship to me is a bond equally matched by the most glorious love stories of history. Our friendship had been one of unbelievable adventure, and, in some unassuming part of school, had also become one of utter despair.
The Dude-Bros: Last, but certainly not least, are the quintessential “dude-bros.” The comic relief to every coming of age story. While I was correct in assuming that movies over exaggerated the personality traits of these characters, I was wrong in believing that they never actually existed.
If you ever wish to see said “dude-bros,” the gym hallway is the perfect perching spot. Last year I was in advanced strength and conditioning. I know. What was I thinking? Not that being the only girl in a class of thirty boys isn’t fun and all, but the constant smell of body odor and grime left on my hands from the unwashed lifting machines at the end of the period were simply too much.
I had never been catcalled until I attended this gym class. I never been referred to as “honey,” or “sweetie” by a man (unless of course we are counting my senile great-grandfather). The hyper-masculinity of the class, for the first time, gave me a real appreciation for females passed who didn’t just have to deal with meatheads, but who actually fought for their rights to stand up to said meatheads on a governmental level.
Don’t get me wrong, not all athletes are “jocks,” and not every guy who likes lifting is some John Cena wannabe, but this particular class felt the right to mock and judge me because I had a V where there should have been a P.
Letting the words and tone of these boys not affect me left me feeling empowered. I would leave gym and walk down the hallway to my next class not caring if I was sweaty or red because I had the willpower not to punch a couple of them in face. I felt stronger because they tried to make me feel weak and in the end were not successful.
The truth is, high school can’t be avoided, and take this from someone who has tried their very best to do so. Everyone has terrible days, secret crushes, and failed tests. Everyone struggles, and breaks, and still manages to get back to school the following day. If I could encounter every element of myself in one part of the school, imagine the experiences you have had and emotions you have felt in any given spot on campus.
If I think about it, in this one tiny corner of the world, my gym class hallway, I have managed to be every single member of the Breakfast Club, I have been a freak and a geek, I have been a Wildcat, I have been a Pink Lady and a T-bird, and yet, I have been totally and uniquely myself the whole time. If that is not pretty damn spectacular, it’s hard to say what is.