When I entered Manhattan High School in 1998, I was a dork. A full blown, space camp-attending, buck-toothed, glasses-wearing, social pariah. I had spent the past 8 years at a private, Catholic school, with only about 15 to 20 people in my entire grade, as opposed to the 200 average at the local public schools. So I only knew 15 or 20 people out of about 400 that were in my freshman class at this new school, and most of them thought I was (as I’ve previously mentioned) a huge dork. I probably had about 3 friends to my name.
But this lack of friends actually turned out to be a big positive in my adolescent life. Because I didn’t have a lot of friends coming into high school, it was easier for me to make friends in all different cliques and groups. I was pretty good at sports, so I had my jock friends. I was nerdy, so I had some nerdy friends. I was into music and goofying off, so I had my hilarious, class-clown friends. And I was (secretly) into acting and the drama department, so I had my drama class friends.
My drama class was set straight out of a John Hughes movie. Very Breakfast Club. There was a nerd, a jock, a couple of goths, a debater, a hippie and a kid who just couldn’t stay out of trouble. And me.
Our teacher was this tree-hugging, happy, insane woman who just wanted us to loooooove the theatre. Many days I felt bad for her, since many of the people in this class just took it because they knew everyone got an A and it would be, basically, a free hour. But she always tried to get us involved, and gave us strange assignments that were supposed to make us less insecure, therefore, better actors.
One of these assignments was to lip sync to a song, any song, and do a complete performance as the singer you were impersonating. We were graded on this. And, to top it all off, we were going to have to perform it in front of the entire freshman class.
You could see how this would terrify someone who had 3 friends in the whole school and was hoping to make a few more, not lose the 3 and become a legend of embarrasment for the next four years.
There was a girl in my class named Rebecca. Rebecca (not Becky, never call her Becky!) had just moved to Kansas from New York and was much more educated in the ways of the world. She wanted to be a movie director and felt that Kansas was stifling her. We were put in a group together. Along with a red-headed class-clown, a gansta’ (yes, gansta’) girl and a hippie.
What group did we end up impersonating? What did we decide to perform in front of the whole school? The Beatles? The Jimi Hendrix Experience? Metallica?
Nope, the Spice Girls. I was Sporty Spice. I attempted to do a flip on stage. I fell on my ass. We got a standing ovation. And I made a couple hundred friends.
OK, maybe not a couple hundred, but at least people knew who I was now.
Rebecca and I continued to be quite the odd couple throughout high school. We were never “best” friends, but we always tried to take classes together. Sometimes we even sat together at lunch, horrifying our respective cliques. She was Hermia and I was Helena in our class production of a Midsummer Night’s Dream. We had to create a giant tree out of contruction paper for the set and I forgot my lines and instead shouted, “Lysander….go away!” during a very important scene. I also had to dress up as a cheerleader (our “creative” teacher decided it would be Midsummer Night’s Dream set in a high school) and Rebecca let me know when the audience could see up my dress. That’s what I call a good friend.
We tried to hang out throughout high school, but, of course, we grew apart. We took spanish together for a few years, to the shagrin of our teachers. We created a movie highlighting the Easter Rising for AP History where we videotaped a TV set playing a movie starring Liam Niesen. I was credited as playing the British army. We went to the state history fair and placed.
Then we went to college. She moved back to New York and I never really talked to her again. I emailed her on 9/11 to make sure she was OK. She told me about some of the horrible things she saw. Eventually she stopped using that email account and we lost touch.
But I thought of her today. When I read this. Maybe it’s time for a reunion of our own. I may not be able to do a back flip anymore, but really, I never really could anyway.