Saturday, December 26, 2009

Mistaken identity

Christmas time is when we send and receive photo cards with our 'old' classmates. Since E and I grew up worlds apart, I am always asking him "was this your college roomate?" or "did you two go to high school together?". He asks the same of my friends' cards and photos. "Who is this? I can't keep them all straight!"

Almost all these friends with whom I still communicate are college chums. Only one is from high school days. She was my best friend in high school even though we were practically opposites. She was the oldest of a huge family, I was the younger of two children. She lived across from the high school and participated in everything; we lived on the outskirts of town and I rarely attended extracurricular activities. Her dad was very active in her church's Knights of Columbus.  My dad worked mostly out of town. Her dad was always heading up some fund raiser. My dad was only home a few months my senior year, and when he was home, he worked. She worked at the Ben Franklin store after school. I worked at the county library. She had a date in high school. I never did. She was very outgoing, I was very very shy. I thought we were a lot alike.

So when we got our Senior yearbooks and  passed them around for friends to sign, she was the only person to sign mine. I stood in line to sign hers.

I didn't mind that only ONE person signed my yearbook - it was photos that I liked. Besides, everyone always writes the little lies about how much they enjoyed you in their class, how they wish you luck, and how you should keep in touch forever.

She wrote a whole page in my yearbook. She wrote that I was an ice maiden and stuck up, the weirdest person in our class. She wrote that I didn't fit in at high school and that she wished me luck fitting in at college. She wrote that I was misfit and suggested I move back to California where I'd be accepted. She thought we were incredibly different.

I read this in awe. I put the yearbook away and didn't even look at the photos. But every once in awhile I'd pull it off the shelf and re-read her writing. Finally, one day, I tore that page out and threw it away. I had enough of it.

I wasn't any of the things she wrote. I was shy. I wasn't stuck up, I was scared to death. I wasn't weird, I just didn't know who to ask about fitting in. I wasn't the person she wrote about, I was an insecure child who built her world around making good grades and reading everything I could get my hands on. I wasn't staying away from activities - I lacked a way/ride to the events. I wasn't an ice maiden, I was a warm human being with volumes of diaries, with hopes and dreams. I was a teenager, trying.

I got over her rant in time. I never told anyone about it. When E asked me who the photo card was of a lady with three kids, I told him. "My best friend from high school."

I think it was just a case of mistaken identity. She didn't know me. And she still doesn't. But I get a delightful photo of her each year and a letter listing the achievements of her husband and her kids. I send her photos of our dogs. She probably mistakes one of them for me.

Mistaken identity continues throughout all our lives. People think we are who we aren't. Or don't give us credit for the person we are.

Seldom, very seldom, does complete truth belong to any human disclosure; seldom can it happen that something is not a little disguised, or a little mistaken. - Jane Austen


Christy Pinheiro, EA ABA said...

Why do you even still communicate with her?

I knew some people like that in high school, which I hated, by the way.

I did have fun in college, and yes, I finally felt like I fit in. I threw away my yearbooks my second semester at San Jose State. I never regretted it.

Christy Pinheiro, EA ABA said...

Oh, and one more thing-- I think that other people only survive to tear other people down. Those people are usually one step in the grave. Their lives are ordinary and boring.

I think you are terribly interesting and you have a big story to tell.

I'm glad you are telling it.

Tash said...

Hope you had a joyful Christmas.

That's a wonderful and sad story and you are absolutely right - we are just bits of ourselves to others; one thing about doing all that reading - girl, you can write!

Other thoughts that come to mind:

What movie is the line: "high school is not life" from?

Did you ever read (one of my faves) Massachusetts, California, Timbuktu?

My husband is very quiet and hates crowds & gatherings of acquaintances. He is mistakenly thought of as being arrogant.

In 8th grade, I took typing and sat next to the most popular girl in class - alphabetic seating - her Y next to my Z. We got to be great pals, we chatted, we exchanged secrets, I cheated for her - and wrote how much I liked her and enjoyed sitting with her...she wrote 'to a nice girl in typing, have a nice summer'. We went thru Jr. High & High School doing our own things. I saw her in college (she transfered her jr. year & lived in the same housing complex), she did remember me & seemed kind of lost. I felt bad for her but did NOT do the noble thing & befriended her. I finished, she did not.

Joanne Casey said...

I was shy at school too, not fitting in drove me to want to stand out from the rest of them. I had a couple of close friends who had a great sense of humour (they needed it being friends with me) I think I was the only punk in our school for two years before I left :-)

You should embrace your independance, I'm sure it made you a stronger person in the long run. You're not a sheep.

BANJO52 said...

I was going to say, "What a strong second paragraph." Then they all stayed strong. This might be your most powerful entry since I've been following, Brenda. What a good, though difficult, topic.

Life With Dogs said...

Great closing quote!

Happy holidays from Vermont. :)

FA said...

The person who wrote this post is strong and confident...quite different from the person you thought you were in high school. Looking back, high school was the worst of times...and the best of times. I just went to my 30th reunion and was amazed at how people had changed. There was one person who was conspicuosly missing at the reunion, though - we heard that he had committed suicide a few years after high school. He was not popular and the kids were actually pretty mean to him.

Thanks for a thoughtful and poignant post.

Merry Christmas

Lori Skoog said...

Brenda...yes, horses can roll on their backs like dogs. Some will roll half way and back and others will roll back and forth. If it is very cold, the horses hair gets thicker. Frequently, older horses will grow more hair.

This post says a lot about know who you are and she doesn't. She had to be an idiot to write that stuff in your yearbook and then sign it.

Brenda's Arizona said...

Wow, thank you each and everyone for your posts. I guess we were all teenagers at one time!

Tash, your husband sounds like me. Silence does not mean you are stuck up or judging. It might mean you are just to shy or quiet to speak. RIGHT ON!

Joanne - I bet you were a great punk in high school! I'd have liked ya!!

FA, we had a fellow student in High school like you described. Everyone was mean to him. The yearbook club even left his photo of our senior yearbook. I wish I had stuck up for him. Instead I cringed inside everytime someone picked on him. I cringed and turned away, frantic inside to help.

Thanks, Christy for posting back. I was hoping you would! Lori, thanks for the horse rolling info. Cracks me up to think of it! LWD -more photos, please!

And Banjo52 - I await your next poem/post!

altadenahiker said...

I remember high school as a time of incredible sophistication. We had things figured out.

In retrospect, of course, I see we were all just puppies, trying our teeth and claws and engaging in some play fights and rapprochements.

As if the outcome would have any bearing on the years that lay ahead. If we even thought of what lay ahead.

minnow said...

Happy to have found your blog! You are a lovely writer.

It's stunning to be so misperceived. I found out 10 years after high school that I had been seen as the most intimidating senior. I had felt worried and insecure. I had friends, was in the arty clubs, but intimidating??!! It made me sad to hear that. Now 30 years out of high school I'm more comfortable with the gap between our self-perception and how others see us. But it is so curious!

Ha, I like that she might think you are one of the dogs!

Mark Kreider said...

Wonderful heartfelt post, powerful stuff. The poor dear must have been feeling her inferiority already and chose to bully you with words, just as painful as other kinds of bullying, maybe more so. It seems that you made it through it all, to triumph and be yourself, not just for your self as you always had, but for anyone who crosses your path in life. I'd consider myself lucky to meet you.

I wish you and yours a Happy New Year and bid you peace.