High School Reunions, Or The Time I Farted Publicly

15 Mar

My high school career started off, quite literally, with a bang.

A few weeks into ninth grade, I was lounging around in drama class, leaning nonchalantly on something or other, when (sorry, there’s no way to be delicate about this) I farted. Loudly.

To make matters even worse, I immediately sat up and said in the most prim-old-lady way possible,

“Oh my goodness, excuse me.”

To say that I was mortified would be like saying … actually, I don’t even know what it would be like saying. I can’t even think of anything clever enough to explain how I wanted to stab myself in the eyes every time I had to go to school.

Up until then, I suspect that I’d already been teetering on the edge of “uncool”, but that one little (actually not so little) fart sealed the deal. I was banished to High School Loser Hell forever. Although there had only been about fifteen people in the class, within a few hours the whole school seemed to know. For weeks afterwards, people would come up behind me in the hallway and make farting noises. My face turned a permanent shade of red.

Imagine being a fourteen year old girl and having to live your life as the girl who farted in class.

My dreams of ever being prom queen or joining student council or even of ever having a boyfriend were all dashed in that moment.

I mean, comedic hyperbole, etc., and I actually did have one or two high school boyfriends, but still. It felt like the end of the world.

I’ve written before about how high school wasn’t exactly great for me. Which, whatever, it’s over and I’m a grown up and I don’t care anymore because my life is awesome now. Right? I mean, right?

Except for how I apparently do care and ended up throwing a little tantrum on Facebook about how I don’t want to go to the upcoming 25th anniversary/reunion of the arts program that I was in.

(Incidentally, this is a really good example of why I shouldn’t be on Facebook, because I just use it to vomit my feelings all over the internet)

Look. It’s not like I didn’t have any friends in high school. It’s not like there were never any good times, ever. It’s just that a lot of factors combined to make me feel like an unlovable weirdo social pariah and I’ve spent the rest of my life trying to get over that.

It wasn’t just the farting (oh God, I cringe every time I type that word, STILL, EVEN NOW, 16 YEARS LATER). It was everything. It was the fact that I was already socially awkward to begin with, and I had no idea how to dress, use makeup or make myself attractive in any way shape or form. It was the fact that I was depressed, and none of the adults around me seemed to have any fucking clue how to handle that. It was the fact that we were poor and I couldn’t afford to do half the things my classmates could.

I wish I didn’t have to use the word poor, because that sounds so, I don’t know, dramatic or self-pitying or something. And the truth is that compared to a lot of people, I had it pretty easy. But it still sucked. Part of it was that I didn’t really have a lot of experience being poor; up until midway through grade eight, we’d lived in a nice area of town, I’d had decently nice clothes, and I’d never had to miss out on anything due to lack of funds.

Then, when I was thirteen, my dad suddenly left, and my mother, sisters and I moved into low-income housing where things were, well, interesting to say the least. Our next-door neighbours (who, by the way, had a ten year old son) spent Christmas day drinking God-knows-what and then taking turns going outside to vomit on their front lawn. We regularly heard gunshots going off in other parts of our complex. Once, when I was in grade thirteen, I saw a man naked and stoned out of his mind lying on the front doorstep of the townhouse across from ours. He was begging his brother to let him in. Instead, the brother called the police, who came and beat the naked man while he screamed, Oh God, please stop.

And honestly, I swear, I’m not telling any of this to you to make you feel sorry for me. It’s just that I felt like my friends, with their intact families living in their mid-century bungalows in their nice, tree-filled neighbourhoods, maybe didn’t really get where I was coming from. Or maybe they did. What the hell do I know?

Anyway, we didn’t have any money, which sucked for a variety of reasons. My clothes were ugly and didn’t fit properly. I couldn’t afford to go on a lot of the field trips my classmates did. I had to miss out on a bunch of stuff because I always had to babysit.

Oh, and I was awkward, which has nothing to do with money, but I just want to mention it again, in case you forgot. And ugly. I had acne like it was going out of style (hint: it was never in style).

All of this was somehow manageable, though, until grade eleven, when I was hit, hard, with my first major depressive episode. I cried all the time. I started cutting (which is another fact that makes me wince with embarrassment, but I figure that since I’ve already told you about the farting I may as well go whole-hog with the unflinching honesty). My grades plummeted. I tried antidepressant after antidepressant, but none of them really worked. I couldn’t sleep at night, so I started napping during class. I lost the ability to concentrate.

And you know what? Almost none* of my teachers seemed to give a shit, or even seemed to have any kind of clue what to do with me. None of them offered me any kind of help or sympathy. One of them, in fact, tried to have me kicked out of the arts package because I wasn’t putting enough effort into school and extracurricular activities. She even scheduled a big meeting with the administration and made my mother attend, which was pretty much the opposite of what I needed right then.

And like, I get it, you know? These teachers were all tired and overworked, and here I was, yet another teenager who wouldn’t do her homework and just wanted to mope around all the time. And they were so used to seeing their students fucked up on pot or acid or heroin (NO BUT FOR REALS, I AM NOT KIDDING, THERE WERE KIDS AT MY SCHOOL WHO DID HEROIN), that maybe seeing me strung out on Paxil and Prozac didn’t seem that different. I wasn’t especially close to most of my teachers, and probably I didn’t really make it worth their time to care.

But weren’t they supposed to care? I mean, wasn’t that their job?

Or maybe they did. Maybe I misread everything and misunderstood their advances and offers of help because I was just too wrapped up in my own misery. Maybe they wanted to be kind to me but eventually got tired of me pushing everyone away.

I was a fucking treat to be around in those days, let me tell you.

The real kicker came in grade thirteen, when I couldn’t even afford the twenty bucks for a student card. The thing was, without a student card you couldn’t collect participation points. And you needed those points to win a White E, which was the participation award that my school gave out every year. You had to do a ton of extracurricular stuff to get a White E, and I’d been only one of, like, three to win one in grade nine. I’d received one every year since, and I knew that if I got one in grade thirteen I would receive a Silver E which was, like, a Big Deal at my school.

But because the school wouldn’t let me collect those points, I had no hope of winning one. And while in retrospect this seems like an especially stupid thing for me to care about, at the same time it also seems incredibly petty of my school to not be willing to just waive the fee for me or whatever.

So anyway, then high school ended, and if I’d had any bridges to burn I would’ve burned them, but I didn’t, so I couldn’t. I just hightailed it the hell out of Ontario and decided to start a new life in Halifax as an Especially Cool Person Who Does Not Pass Gas In Public. And by and large, I succeeded.

Then I moved back to Ontario and joined Facebook and had to face all of my demons former classmates and mostly it was fine. I mean, actually it was all fine, and everyone is super nice and lovely now and no one has made fart noises within my hearing or anything like that. And some of the people I knew in high school are now my closest friends, and I don’t know what I would do without them. And I no longer dread visiting Kitchener because I’m afraid that I’ll run into someone I used to know only to have them point at me and say, “That was the girl we all laughed at in high school!”

But that still doesn’t mean that I’m able to look back fondly on my high school days, you know? And I definitely have a hard time celebrating the administration of a program that didn’t really want to lift a finger to help me when I was at my nadir. I get that lots of people found the program inspiring and life-changing and blah blah blah, but mostly it just made me feel like I was a talentless hack who was going nowhere in the arts world.

Mostly I’m just super jealous of everyone that had a good time in high school. Mostly I don’t want to go to this reunion because I don’t want to hear everyone else’s largely positive interpretations of events that were miserable and embarrassing for me. Mostly I’m just incredibly embarrassed that I’m fucking thirty and I’m still so insecure.

Fuck, you guys, I don’t know. High school fucking sucked, and the shitty part is that it sucked to a greater or lesser degree for everyone, so it’s not even like I get to be alone and special in my pain. I just happen to be the loudest about it, apparently.

Maybe we can just use this as an opportunity to wallow in our collective former misery together?

Maybe that’s the point of high school reunions, after all.

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*There were a few that cared. My grade ninth and tenth grade English teachers come to mind. In particular, my grade thirteen English teacher, gets my undying thanks for the kindness he showed me then and still shows me today. Apparently I did well, at least, with English teachers, hah.

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28 Responses to “High School Reunions, Or The Time I Farted Publicly”

  1. lovejoymica March 15, 2013 at 12:44 am #

    I love this post. High school is such a unique time for everyone. We all can look back at different specific moments the defined us and the way we are now. Your writing is great 🙂

    • bellejarblog March 17, 2013 at 2:01 am #

      Thank you! And yeah, high school is definitely different for everyone. There were some good times, but I’m glad that it’s over 😀

  2. Joy March 15, 2013 at 12:49 am #

    Yea. I get it. I mean, my elementary school had a 10-year reunion and I went out of interest and loyalty and it was horrible. So I said fuck to loyalty and actively told people I wasn’t interested in the 10-year reunion. And it felt really, really good.

    • Joy March 15, 2013 at 12:51 am #

      Oops, that second one was the 20-year reunion.

    • bellejarblog March 17, 2013 at 2:04 am #

      That’s amazing! I’m glad my elementary school has never had a reunion, because maaaaaan that would probably suck.

  3. Shawn Bailey March 15, 2013 at 1:01 am #

    It’s nice to know there are others. I see someone in there thirties proudly wearing their class ring, a sure symbol of that ‘positive interpretation’ of High School Life, and I want to snip their finger off at the joint. Is that bad? Keep bleeding on the pages. Raw is good.

    • bellejarblog March 17, 2013 at 2:05 am #

      Thanks. I’m glad you think raw is good because, man, that’s about the only thing I do around here.

      I also feel weird about how positive others feel about their high school experiences! But maybe I’m just a bitter old lady, who knows?

  4. a. turner March 15, 2013 at 1:14 am #

    Get it, so much. Imagine everything you just said but at a different school- every year. It was absolutely abhorrent. It also didn’t help that I moved from a place where being “different” was “edgy and cool” to living in the Bible Belt in a God fearing and loving school. Fuck, I hated high school. Nice to know I’m still not the only one who cringes at the thought of it.

    • bellejarblog March 17, 2013 at 2:07 am #

      Oh God, that sounds awful. We were in a sort-of Bible Belt (in a super laid-back Canadian way), and a lot of my classmates were very Christian. I felt weird.

  5. annesquared March 15, 2013 at 1:55 am #

    High school was neither “here” nor “there”. It shouldn’t be the time of our life that defines us – a few years in our time of development. I pity the people that look back at high school as “the greatest years” of their life. How sad to have done nothing more worthwhile in the decades that follow.

    • bellejarblog March 17, 2013 at 2:08 am #

      It feels like such a big deal at the time, but you’re right, in the grand scheme of things it’s only a blip on the radar. I guess it just feels like such IMPORTANT things are happening there. I don’t know why I’m still so weird over it but man, I definitely am.

  6. Miriam March 15, 2013 at 2:01 am #

    High school sucks. I’m sorry that it still makes you feel bad. I hated school so much, and I was a “good student” and reasonably popular. I just always knew inside how wrong it all was. And yes, a lot of the teachers are part of the dysfunction. Not all, but there is definitely favoritism and a hierarchy of who is blessed and who isn’t. I don’t think it’s intentional, I just think people are so entrenched in the system they don’t see it clearly.
    The nice thing is that we have options now, kids don’t have to go to school. Lots of people live their lives without it:)

    • bellejarblog March 17, 2013 at 2:11 am #

      Yeah, I’m still struggling with how we’ll handle my son’s education. I want him to get a primary school education in French, like I did, but I also want him to be safe and happy. My husband was bullied quite a lot in school, so this is something that he worries about as well.

      And yeah, you’re totally spot on with this:

      “And yes, a lot of the teachers are part of the dysfunction. Not all, but there is definitely favoritism and a hierarchy of who is blessed and who isn’t.”

  7. Peaches March 15, 2013 at 4:13 am #

    High School is like some sort of social darwinist experiment (not that I adhere to social darwinism in any other context outside of pubescent co-ed humanoids forced to spend years together) where nobody lets you know you are about to enter the arena or what the rules are. If you go in assuming people want to be nice and friendly, you’ll die. If you go in acting suspicious, you’ll die.

    It sucks.

    • bellejarblog March 17, 2013 at 2:12 am #

      OH MY GOD YES. YES TO EVERYTHING YOU SAID.

  8. Froward Words March 15, 2013 at 12:17 pm #

    The bit abut your student card really upset me. First of all, paying for the card sounds like a stupid, elitist thing to do, and secondly, I’m saddened that you didn’t have a teacher who offered to buy it for you.

    • bellejarblog March 17, 2013 at 2:13 am #

      Yeah, I can’t believe they were such sticklers that they couldn’t waive the stupid fee. I don’t think I ever told any teachers about it, though, because by that time I was just so fucking over it, you know?

  9. Sara March 15, 2013 at 2:29 pm #

    There are so many things in this post that I completely identify with. I couldn’t afford a student card either. Or student photos. I didn’t even know about the points thing (then again, I was only at ECI for grades 9 and part of 10). I started cutting in the 10th grade. I had no idea you did as well. I think I have to write my own post now.

    • bellejarblog March 17, 2013 at 2:14 am #

      I can’t believe they made us pay for student cards. That was such bullshit. I’m sorry you had such an awful time, too. *hugs*

  10. Quinn March 17, 2013 at 4:21 am #

    It’s funny I’m reading this right now. Tonight i was supposed to drive to my mum’s and pick up dining room chairs and instead I drank wine with my bestie and watched Romy And Michelle’s High School Reunion.

    I was a Romy and Michelle. No, fuck that, I wasn’t that cool. I was Cynthia from Malcolm in the Middle. Anyone who has seen that character in action is now aware of what an oblivious little prattler i once was (and probably still am but at least people have the good grace not to give me a hard time about it anymore). My reasons for being socially unhygenic differ from yours in some ways.. though I can say, with a wince, that the awkward thing lands me a bit of a bullseye. Oddly enough though, and perhaps somewhat out of character for the picture I’ve just built, I did a lot of drugs.

    Oh sure.. i could say “I was just trying to, like, escape, you know?” but unfortunately it was far less stellar than that. I had two reasons for doing drugs. The reason I’m proud of? I played piano. No.. that’s not accurate. It played me. And there is nothing like getting baked out of your mind and sitting down and stroking ivory. You black out. You forget you exist. There is this universe with this Truth called Music and that thing tears your soul out of your body and replaces that soul with itself and you become nothing more than a channel for the greatest divinity that ever was. Doing that stoned is just like that, only at the same time you’re making out with Beethovan.

    No. I’m not stoned right now. (because i know at this point you’re asking yourself..) I’m just Remembering.

    The other reason? You know.. that reason i’m NOT proud of? I wanted to be cool. I wanted to be accepted by normal people but.. they were so alien to everything i said and did and was.. i had no common connection with which to make bridges. So i set those bridges on fire and thought “well at least i can be friends with the wasters.” and it _sort of_ worked.. I got invited to decent parties on a number of occasions so in my limited scope, i had arrived. Whatever..

    Anyway, that’s just an aside. While i was watching that stupid romy and michelle movie, i realized something quite profound.. That really changed the whole “You have to be yourself” thing. There is a reason that weirdos never mix with normals. Because they’re NOT normal. They CAN’T be. Something is either broken or evolved in their brains (i haven’t decided which yet) and trying to be normal usually just causes a weirdo to become boring and stuffy and neurotic. Mostly because Rule #1 of being a weirdo in normal clothing is that YOU NEVER OPEN YOUR FUCKING MOUTH. EVER. You never speak in a sentence that contains more than one or two words.

    You will NEVER fit in to the wrong box. It’s not that you SHOULDN’T or you’ll be happier if you DON’T but you CAN’T. It is impossible. For better or worse, you are what you are. Or, in other words Luke, it is your destiny.

    But the good thing about being yourself is that once you decide “fuck this. I want to be who i am without any apology” it’s…. it’s a lot like that feeling I got when i played the piano. Suddenly, all that ego stuff sort of takes a back seat to just enjoying life on YOUR terms. Who is anyone else to tell you how you’re supposed to see the world anyway? This is a major cause of depression and this depression is a major cause of never feeling brave enough to actualize your potential. Wanting to be something you’re not means you spend your life trying to be good at things you’re NOT good at. Which makes you, at best, a mediocre person. When if you just knew how great you were, you could focus on excelling at being an amazing person.

    Which I think you’re doing better than you realize.

    Of course, nah. You never feel comfortable being on the outside. It doesn’t Get Better. It just gets less mean-spirited. Adults are less likely to openly bully than kids are. Adults are more insidious. You aren’t asked to lunch with everyone else. You are passed over for promotions. You are overlooked and avoided. People are nice enough. The iron cage wrapped around you in high school becomes, as you age, a cage of glass.

    The trick is to find those people that, by being around them, allow you to step outside the glass cage. There aren’t as many of them, no. But they are quality people who are just as weird as you are, except that, fuck me, when you talk to them you realize how COOL they are too. And then you start thinking “Well.. i must be cool too…”

    or something. Anyway.. it’s late and that’s my sad story which i could have summed up in three words. You’re not alone.

  11. wisewebwoman March 19, 2013 at 9:22 pm #

    I’m old enough to be almost your grandmother and I’m so loving your blog. Thank you!

  12. wisewebwoman March 19, 2013 at 9:24 pm #

    Oh and forgot. I went to my 50th (yeah, you read that right) year high school reunion in 2011. 1/3 of us were dead (the great leveller) and even the shool bully had mellowed somewhat. We still avoided her.
    😀
    XO
    WWW

  13. Mr Lady (@mrlady) April 3, 2013 at 2:47 pm #

    My comment is all about my, sufficed to say I get it. Mine was a sneeze, during allergy season, while trying and failing to chat up the very popular girl seated behind me. We both know how that ended.

    • bellejarblog April 3, 2013 at 3:17 pm #

      Haaah awww. Post-embarrassment e-hugs for you. The high school years were the worst!

  14. tracey28 April 18, 2013 at 9:20 am #

    Loved your post. I hated school because I was bullied. The kids always picked up something they didn’t like, the shoes I wore, or the fact I had really bad acne, or that I was plump, or that I was useless at sport so no one wanted me in their team!!!! Then a couple of years ago I got word through Facebook that there was a school reunion and would I go. My family were divided, as some couldn’t understand why I would want to go, but my mum knew why I had to go. Sometimes you have to face your past and cut ties, to live in the now and for the future. So I went. It was like walking into the lions den but I went on my own and I was so pleased I did. I wasn’t drinking as was driving, but it looked like a lot of people had made an early start!! The funny thing was that those who were the main bullies at school were the drunkest, and they came up to me and apologised for being so horrible to me. It was a shame they had to get drunk to say it, but I feel I had done something with my life and got on with it. So yes, it was a good way to cut those ties!!!

  15. Christine Watson April 24, 2013 at 5:43 am #

    Dude, I never heard about the farting incident, if that makes you feel any better. And also you were one of my favourite people in highschool, so there’s that! If i had known about the farting incident, i think i would have found that endearing!

    Want to hear a story? The first time i farted in front of the bf, it was by accident and i had been trying desperatley to keep my rancid roses to myself. I laughed or something, which broke my stank barrier, and i let go a voluminous series of sticato farts timed with my laughter, starting with tenor tones and ending with heavy base notes. I was embarassed, but if you’re gonna be loud, you gotta be proud! My bf still likes to call me “ol’ Gassy Christine”.

    • bellejarblog April 24, 2013 at 2:07 pm #

      Hahahaha rancid roses. Man I miss you. Dink beast, etc.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. High School Redux | The Belle Jar - April 29, 2013

    […] So a little while ago I blogged about how I absolutely, no-way, seriously was not going to my high school reunion. […]

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