Tuesday, 3 December 2013

I Must Confess ... some high school truths

Last week, all over Western Australia, Year 12 students across the state finished their final high school exams and embarked on that week of partying that they had been anticipating for several years and their parents had been dreading for several more. In WA we call it "Leavers Week", although it's known as "Schoolies Week" elsewhere in Australia. Living so close to the most frequented Leavers' hotspot in WA meant that we witnessed the annual dreaded descent on Dunsborough of literally thousands of school leavers again this year. My nephew was among them. I picked him up from the bus stop and drove him to a caravan park; the exact same one where I had stayed as a school leaver 13 years ago. As I got out of the car to help him get his stuff out of the boot, I realised that I was clothed in about 15 times as much material as all the other young females standing around the car park. That made me feel old. In a good way. It also made me think about how "old" I used to think the age I am now was back when I was their age and as I was driving back home, I must confess I did feel a little bit like this ...
Funny Friendship Ecard: I miss being the age where I thought I would have my shit together by the time I was the age I am now.
                                   image source

So in the spirit of "that age", I am joining the I Must Confess party a bit late over at My Home Truths and also doing a bit of blogging on Tuesdays over at Essentially Jess to reveal a few high school confessions ...

I must confess ... I wasn't exactly popular with the boys in high school. Well, I went to an all girls' school so that does make it rather difficult, but on those rare occasions when our school did meet up with the boys' school down the road for a biannual social event, I was not one of the young ladies they were all falling over themselves to talk to. No indeed. With my hair cut short and unfashionably and my chest as flat as a pancake, the fourteen-year-old version of my muddle-headed self did not set many teenage hearts fluttering. My boy-like appearance even earnt me the nickname Lizbian for a while (a very inspired combination of 'Liz' and 'lesbian'). Yes, I know, some of my peers were very gifted with words and hilariously funny. Ha!

On one memorable occasion, I went to a fancy dress social dressed as a Fremantle Dockers footballer, therefore looking even more boy-like than usual. I got a friend of mine to ask a particular boy if he wanted to dance with me. I hadn't picked one of the 'popular' boys - just someone who looked like a nice, down-to-earth kind of guy. He came over to where I was waiting, looked me up and down, shook his head and walked away. I suppose with the perspective of hindsight, that's not really a big deal. But inside my insecure little fourteen-year-old body, it was a major deal. I remember making a vow to myself that I was never going to put myself on the line like that never, ever, ever for as long as I lived. The rejection hurt enormously and shattered my already fragile confidence with the opposite sex. Among my female friends I was gregarious, a natural leader, the life of the party. But in front of the boys, from that moment on and long, long into the future, I felt enormously self-conscious.


(With my friend, Eilish. Dressed up as a Dockers player, looking like a boy ... with a ghastly make-up job 
to boot).

Here's us at the school social the year before. Looking a lot less masculine, but still far from popular with the boys.


I must confess ... I was the queen of fashion and beauty faux pas in high school. As if the boy haircut and flat-chested look wasn't enough, I had to go and pluck the living daylights out of my eyebrows on one tragically memorable occasion. All the other girls at school were shaping their eyebrows so one night, I just picked up a pair of tweezers and started plucking. The problem was, I didn't know when to stop. I remember my mum walked into my bedroom just when I had decided that they were plucked to perfection and shrieked"WHAT HAVE YOU DONE??" Not exactly the reaction I'd been anticipating. For the whole of the next month, I kept my head down and hardly looked anyone in the eye. Ah yes, the delicate art of eyebrow taming; just one of the many things in life I was destined to learn the hard way.

I must confess ... I did fail some of my classes. At the time I didn't really care that my report card had Fs on it for several subjects; namely cooking and sewing. I never thought these were subjects that you were actually supposed to take seriously. I tell you what though, I've changed my tune. I can now say with absolutely certainty that if I'd actually shut up and paid as much attention in Home Economics as I was paying in History and Geography (which still wasn't much mind you), that the years of my life post high school graduation would have been infinitely easier (something else I was destined to learn the hard way). I guess it hadn't really occurred to me that cooking might be something that would be necessary for my survival on a daily basis.

I must confess ... I did skip quite a few classes at school. When it was time for religion lessons, my friend Marina and I often used to disappear into one of the piano rooms and play the piano together until it was time for the next lesson. Nobody walking past would have thought anything of it; they would just have heard what sounded like someone having a piano lesson. About a decade after leaving school, I discovered that my sister Rosie, who was seven years ahead of me in school, used to use exactly the same method with one of her friends to avoid religion lessons.

Then when I was 15, my friends and I went wandering one lunchtime and found a field not far from our school where there was a creek and a wonderful tree where someone had built a tree house. We fell in love with this place and it became out secret hangout. To get there, we had to pass by a house where the school gardeners ate their lunch each day and they would see us passing by to go there almost every day when the weather was fine, but they never told on us. One of the gardeners was a young guy called Joel. In an all-girls' school, the fact that he was young and male gave this gardener almost celebrity-type status. In his honour, we named our secret field "Joel Brooke". Although this photo doesn't quite capture the entire magic and the beauty of that place, it's the only surviving photo of it that we have. Our trips to Joel Brooke are one of my favourite high school memories.


I  must confess ... I was ridiculously immature as a teenager. Okay, not much has improved now that I've officially grown up, but my immaturity back then knew no bounds. My friends and I used to partake in all manner of juvenile behaviours that our more sophisticated classmates turned their noses up at. These included, but were definitely not limited to: climbing trees and doing cartwheels in the school grounds (in a school uniform by no means designed for either of these activities), hiding each other's school bags, throwing each other's pencil cases out of the window when we had classes on the second floor, trying to push each other into the fish pond on the school grounds (and succeeding spectacularly on one occasion), playing jokes on relief teachers and racking up hours and hours of prank-call experience during out of school hours - bless the days before mobile phones and caller ID.

I must confess ... that since I left school, I have never looked back on the photographs I took during that time. The photos I used for this post were emailed to me by Eilish earlier this year. My own are in a box somewhere in the deepest, darkest depths of my wardrobe in my childhood bedroom at my parents house. I haven't ever sought them out to reminisce because I prefer to rely on my memory of those times and looking at photos of myself back then brings back memories of bad skin and of my teenage self - a person who I did not love very much. When I do think back, I remember loving sport and having boundless energy and hope for the future. I remember loving my radio like a best friend and loving a boy, at 17, who took me years to get over. I remember laughing at anything and everything when I was with my friends and crying silent tears under the shower when I was alone. I remember dreaming that ten years after I'd left school that I would be famous, because then maybe the people who had teased me would love me. Because then maybe I could love myself.

And finally, I must confess ... that although I couldn't wait for the very second that school would be over for the rest of my life so I could go out and discover the big, wide, wonderful world and everything it had to offer, that I know now that, despite everything, those years were actually the most magical and carefree years of my life. I don't wish to go back to that time, but every now and then I wish I could just meet my fourteen-year-old self so I could teach her to love herself a little bit more.

So how about you? Do you ever look at your photos from high school? Did you ever skip school or have an eyebrow plucking catastrophe? And if you had the chance, what would you teach your fourteen-year-old self?

My Home Truths