Saturday, November 25, 2006

not just bitches

1. a good long life

At this very moment, my real high school reunion is happening. Or I should say, my official high school reunion is happening, because the real thing, as far as I’m concerned, happened last night.

Instead of paying $55 per person, we had a potluck at
Bonnie’s apartment. I arrived second, apologizing for my burnt brownies as I walked through the door. Amy said, “Yeah, I was supposed to make a vegetable dish, but I ran out of time and just ended up buying something.” Then Jenessa called, saying she was running late and did we still really want her to bring a salad?

Our gathering reaffirmed what I observed at
last year’s mini-reunion—that we’re very much still our high school selves: over-achievers with slacker tendencies (or maybe vice versa), self-deprecating, sarcastic, creative.

And that we’re also not—the sarcasm that we honed making fun of people for ridiculous reasons (“Remember how we used to make fun of Shannon Christiansen?” Bonnie said. “Why?”
Angie asked. “She said her name weird,” said Bonnie. “Like Shunn-un”) has softened as we’ve grown more confident and discovered better uses of our time and talents. When I recounted how Monica offered me a scholarship to the official reunion, I could hear the gossipy edge creep into my voice—it’s like a drug, the cheap high of inviting others to bond with you over shared judgment.

“That sounds like Monica,” Angie laughed. “But she really is so nice. I heard she gave her dad a kidney.”

“I ran into Isaac the other day, and I was telling him about that, and he was like, ‘Yeah, I’d never do that for my dad,’” said Bonnie. “I thought he was joking. I kept saying, ‘Sure you would.’ But he was like, ‘No, man, he’s lived a good long life.’”

“Wow,” said Amy. “I’m estranged from my dad and I’d still give him a kidney.”

We agreed: kidneys for all our dads.

2. upon closer examination

Not too long ago, AK told me about an LA Times
article she read, about a club that Mira Costa students started to encourage friendships between developmentally disabled kids and mainstream students. “It was the most positive, heartwarming story you could possibly imagine,” she said. “And it was so funny, because the way you described your high school, I imagined it being nothing but bitches.”

We watched the video Bonnie made at the end of our senior year. The last time we’d watched it, it was our hamminess that stood out to me. We were constantly putting on a show. We never met a driveway that didn’t need to be turned into a stage.

But this time—maybe because I’ve been in a bit of a melancholy mood off and on this weekend—I noticed how we grew and grew apart between eighth grade and senior year. How Bonnie’s clothes started to skew hip-hop and Amy and Jenessa’s veered toward skater, and I went from anorexic to distinctly overweight.

We were never a completely cohesive group—we always used to joke, for example, that
Heather had a secret life, mainly because she had a couple of friends who went to Chadwick. But by the end of high school it was becoming clear that there were all sorts of different places—entirely different cultures—where we might land as adults. That we were hungry for it and terrified by it.

3. still different, less scared

After dinner, we decided to go out. It had to be somewhere close, because Bonnie’s mom was only going to baby-sit her son for another 45 minutes.

“I’m curious about South Bay dive bars,” I said. “All those places I’ve driven by my whole life but never gone in. Like the Dolphin, that gay bar on Artesia.”

Bonnie perked up. “Yeah, let’s go there. I love gay guys.”

Heather, who lives in West Hollywood now, said, “I don’t know…I think it might be kind of weird if five girls walked in all of a sudden.”

We settled on the Hangar, a vaguely airplane-themed bar on Aviation Boulevard. They only served beer, in giant goblets that made us giggle. Bonnie and Angie didn’t like beer, so they borrowed mine and Jenessa’s and Heather’s to take pictures with. I’d ordered a Hefeweizen and repeated what I’d recently heard on NPR, that it was a less bitter beer because it had a lot of malt and not very much hops. I felt half cool, half alcoholic.

Soon, Angie and Bonnie left, and Jenessa’s boyfriend Sam joined us and did a spot-on impression of Jenessa’s mom that sounded just like the impressions she’s been doing since she was eight.

Do people really change? When I look at all of us, it seems entirely believable that we are who we turned out to be. Jenessa once marched into the school library and demanded to see all the scary books (which her mom had warned her not to read). Now she’s looking for a job working with gang members and won’t hesitate to tell you about the time she got arrested. Bonnie was always bossy and goofy around her friends and painfully shy around adults. Now she teaches third grade.

But we’ve all muddled through a lot to become the
selves that seem so obvious. Breakups, babies, rehab, half-finished grad programs, a few thousand dollars worth of therapy. More than anything, I think we all had to shed a lot of insecurity to become the nice (yet gently sarcastic, partially tattooed and occasionally bitchy) young ladies we are today.

I guess what I’m trying to say is, beer at the Hangar: $4.50 plus tip. Eleven-year reunion with people I’d still do a kick line with: priceless.

11 comments:

Claire said...

Sounds like a good crew.

What is it with beer in goblets? I saw it for the first time last year at a bar/hot dog joint. They were still serving their soda in chilled beer mugs though.

Bonnie said...

Great blog! And I'm not just saying that cuz I was in it. I had many of the same thoughts actually this morning. I remember one of my brother's friends pissed me off one time while I was still in high school because he told me that I wouldn't stay friends with the people I was friends with then. In some ways he was right because we did grow apart (some more than others), but I also feel like we make an effort to keep in touch. Even though we have changed a lot, I still totally see the same people deep inside. I'd like to think we changed for the better, mostly. Anyway, I really want to keep up the tradition.

Cheryl said...

C: Dives are the best, but most of them need to be livened up by Hawaiian shirts. Keep up the good work.

B: I'm glad we've kept in touch too. It keeps life interesting. Let's try to get together near Christmas!

Claire said...

I'll do my best! ;)

amyrottencore said...

I admit, I haven't read b&b for awhile, but I'm reading it now and I just realized that an hour has gone by. I love how you say what we all think but don't realize that we're thinking that. Perhaps this is the "self-deprecating" me, but I did feel like I was still way more immature than everyone else, but hey, the "confident" me says that that's ok and I know you guys still like me. I had such a great time that night.

amyrottencore said...

my goodness! blogger runs a tight ship. I had to enter that word verification four times for my previous post to show up.

Even though I was too old and tired to go for drinks after our reunion the other week, I didn't know that you guys went to the "Hangar" until I read this post right now. I want to share that Caneel and I reunited a couple years ago around Christmas at good ol' "Hangar" as well. We were also different in some ways but SO VERY MUCH the same way we were in high school. As cliche as it sounds, good minds think alike.

Cheryl said...

Thanks, Amy. Let's all get together at the Hangar soon. :-)

Jeff K. said...

I hope you don't feel like your past is suddenly stalking you, but after Matt was mentioned I started randomly reading your blog. It is Jeff (the closeted gay guy from MCHS '95) and I just wanted to let you know that The Dolphin is scary. I've stepped foot in the place only two times, but there are no fun gays there, only creepy older guys. And they lack what is truely a must for any bar, gay or otherwise -- a full licquor license. As for the other dive bars in the south bay I think they are awesome.

Cheryl said...

Hey, Jeff! Thanks for commenting. I totally remember you from AP history (you probably remember Amy and I as the giggling bitches who sat behind you).

What kind of bar doesn't have a full liquor license? For some reason it makes me happy that the Dolphin has managed to stay in business for 20-something years--but if it's made it this long without my patronage, maybe it can wait a little longer.

amyrottencore said...

I'm resurrecting this entry and its comments. First, wow, Cheryl, you're amazing. Second, hi Jeff! I don't know if he's following the comments but in case he is, this is my friendly hello.

Mostly, I'm tickled about you guys' comments about "The Dolphin." Growing up in sheltered MB, I didn't know ANYTHING about gay bars, but all my childhood life, I felt that "the Dolphin" was an unsavory gay spot. So it's fun for me to revisit this post, and see the discussion, and then to find my weird childhood feelings weren't totally crazy.


again, Cheryl, you're awesome.

Cheryl said...

Thanks, Amy! Meanwhile, I'm reliving my 2006 haircut. I'm not loving what I see, but my current hair is kind of out of control. It might be time for a 2006-esque update.