Wednesday, November 18, 2009

High School Girlfriend

I am still proud to say that I had a high-school girlfriend.  That is, someone I cared about and who cared about me.

High school is such an awkward time.  I don’t have to tell you; we’ve all been through it in our own variations and iterations.  My high school was a large public school located in the San Fernando Valley between two much older high schools.  Mine was a school that had been built more recently to serve the overflow of students from the other two.  So it had some good features such as not as many burned out kids. 

Because of its location, it served an adjacent affluent community, which had a lot of children of entertainers.  Not as many as my private elementary school had mind you, but still we had a fair amount of them.  The result was that of the three high schools kind of lined on the same longitude, ours had the highest scores, the least amount of fighting and had a more relaxed environment than the other two.

Now I should tell you that after leaving my private elementary in 4th grade and entering the public school system, it took me a while to get used to the new environment that housed many more students than the private school system, and also didn’t coddle their students nearly as much.  I guess that’s part of what you pay for in a private school.

I actually hated my middle school. The teachers were bored and uninterested in teaching, and it’s that awkward time when everyone is going through puberty.  The one great memory I have of middle school is that I ran the mile in 5:23 and made it onto the “Miler Board” along with Chuck and Mitch Gaylord who both later went to the Olympics in gymnastics.  So I felt that I had made it into good company.

The other good thing about my middle school is that what was supposed to be my third (9th grade) year there was pushed into my high school.  For some reason, the school district decided to make the high school a four-year event, and that suited me just fine since I wanted out of my middle school as soon as possible.

One other point I will bring up about my middle school was that during assemblies, there would often be representatives of the school’s student government there.  And a few times, I remember thinking to myself, “Boy, that Trish is a cute girl.”  But that was that, and now we’ll fast forward a couple of years.

Now I am in 10th grade in high school, am a few months away from getting my driver’s license at the tender age of 16, and am in a much happier environment.  We would get a break after our 2nd period called, “Nutrition.”  It was about 20 minutes of recess in which most of the students would grab a snack and congregate in various places.  My area tended to be at the edge of where the “soches” (smart social students) hung out, and where the “stoner” people hung out.  I guess I was trying to maintain a foot in each worthy community.  The soches had popularity and good grades, and the stoners had great music and a more bohemian lifestyle.  And to the end of my school career, this is where I remained.

But back to this specific Nutrition recess I was talking about.  Someone, I think it was a girl with a great, great ass named Jerry, came up and told me that her good friend Trish really thought I was cute.  I was stunned.  She and I hadn’t talked at all in those two years that I could remember, but I guessed that this was just how it went. 

She was really sweet and we found we had a lot in common.  She was Jewish (see my blog, The Only Jewish Kid in the Valley), kind of reserved like I, studied hard (she was a bit more into the soche side that I), and to boot, she also had a really pretty best friend named Kim.  And, in addition to that, she was a cheerleader and a good friend with one of THE most popular girls in school. I talked to her over maybe three Nutritions and lunches, and then I asked her to “go” with me (go steady).  I remember asking her, “Will you go with me?”  I heard myself say it as if I was an observer; I must have been nervous.  She answered, “Nope,” and then started laughing and said yes, making me feel comfortable.

So right away, I had a really sweet, easy-going girlfriend who brought along this built in pretty girlie network.  I remember shortly after we got together and I didn’t have my license yet, she took me in her dad’s convertible back Trans-Am (a la Smokey and the Bandit) along with that really popular girl I spoke of named Hali.  Both of them were in the front seats while I was in the back being chauffeured home in this flawless muscle car with the wind in my hair.  I’ll never forget that day.

Her dad turned out to be one of my very favorite people on this planet.  An ex-Coast Guard person (he was too short to get into the Navy), he loved to tinker with his boat in the back yard, have parties, play pool, have people swim in his pool and just made me a member of their family.  Trish had one brother and one sister.  She had lost her older brother to a motorcycle accident a few years earlier, and I think this pain remained under the surface in the family for all the time that I knew them.  But they were a much more easy-going and functioning family than mine was, so I was there all the time.

Their family invited me on their annual water-skiing trips to Bass Lake.  These were heavenly vacations in the summertime with us swinging on ropes from trees and jumping into the lake, and playing games in the cabin at night.  Kim was always there as well.  We had so much fun.  Kim’s family also included me on trips down to San Clemente.  Everyone was so generous.

I worked as a busboy at Swensen’s ice cream where I devoured all of the servers’ mistakes into my unyielding 14 year-old body with no weight-gaining consequences.  Later, I was a box boy at Hughes Market.  After my night shifts I would sometimes sneak over to Trish’s window, knock on it, and we’d talk on each side of the window for an hour while my balls were freezing in the wintertime.

Trish and I went out for just short of two years, which in high school terms, is a long time.  I think her parents were getting a little nervous that she hadn’t really dated anyone else, and her parents were actually high-school sweethearts.  So to Trish's mom, it was a bit more serious.  Her mom had called my mother and discussed the subject on the phone; how she wanted Trish to be able to date more than only one person in high school.  My mother only told me of this conversation after Trish and I were no longer together.  Trish ended up breaking up with me, and she dated a beefy guy from drama club, which killed me.  The worst moment for me in all of this was one time when I drove by her house after we had broken up, and she was kissing this guy goodnight.  I wondered if I had really needed to do that to myself and wished I had not happened on the scene just then.

But the thing that remains with me is how important the relationship was for me.  My time with her built up on confidence greatly.  Being in high-school presents one with a lot of social challenges and pressures, and having someone who cared for me and being able to have a significant relationship at that age was important and life changing for my self-esteem, for my social networking and status, and created all of the incredible memories I got from being with her and her family.  To this day, I am still thankful that I had a high-school girlfriend.

Just as a footnote, Trish and I still keep in contact.  She’s always been interested in caring for animals on reserves and in zoos.  She now trains dogs of all sorts.