Cakes with roses remind me of high school. Sheet cakes with electric blue borders and custard filling, Safeway cakes with hastily piped roses, cheesy flowers like the carnations and baby’s breath I had delivered to the ex-boyfriend who crushed my heart after I heard he broke his leg during a football game.
Memory one: using my sister’s expired passport to get into Starship Nighclub on Kingsway in Vancouver. I wore sheer black Betsey Johnson pants with a large pink floral print, giant hoop earrings and a half top. We bought orange juice at Safeway for mix and chugged it in the car while my girlfriends smoked cigarettes. Why are teens in such a terrible urge to grow up? If I could tell my teenage self to cool it, I would’ve. It was always such a push and pull between childhood and adulthood for me.
Memory two: the taste of my after school snack. Every day we’d get off the bus and stop at 7-11 and I’d get a bag of salty Sun Chips, a pink lemonade (some weird Canadian brand) and either a sleeve of white powdered mini donuts or a package of Hostess cupcakes, the chocolate one with “creme” filling and the white swirl on top. My metabolism was on fire in those days.
Memory three: Being voraciously hungry/thirsty after basketball practice and coming home from school and pouring the largest glass of milk possible. Chugging it and ruining my appetite for my mom’s ground beef spaghetti and iceberg lettuce with watery-sweet Catalina dressing.
So yeah … I survived my 20 year high school reunion over the weekend. It was the most surreal experience. I was nervous going – clammy hands, even. Would the bitches still be bitches? Would my old crushes look like shit? Would people hate ME for some reason?? I was throttled with high school-y like thoughts and obsessions. I had skipped the 10 year reunion because at the time it hadn’t been long enough since high school ended. I was a “different person”, I’d discovered feminism and critical theory – basically I thought I had moved on and was too cool. But 20 years later, as I approach my 38th birthday, with a husband of 8 years and a 2 year old son and 20 years of life-living between me and high school, this time I was drawn to it and I wasn’t sure why.
It turned out to be soooo hilariously fun, deeply surreal, like stepping into a time warp. Seeing some of my old friends, it felt like yesterday. I sweated through my chambray shirt ripping it up HARD on the dancefloor to some brutal 90s tunes. I hugged and took pictures with everyone. I drove home happy and finished the banh mi that was waiting for me in the fridge. I was fraught with feelings afterward – like, why did that affect me so much? Why did seeing all my old boyfriends bring back giddy emotions, from disgust to giggly fondness?
For the days after the reunion my brain was fritzing with memory after memory, washing back up onto shore like long lost message bottles. So I processed the shit out of my feelings and came up with this: As a teen, you’re a disgusting cocktail of hormones, explosive emotions, anxiety and insecurity. Every feeling and emotion dug me out with a spoon so deeply, whether they were happy or sad -as a teenager (basically a child), you have no perspective. Everything is SO IMPORTANT. So my memories have scarred me. But now I can finally wear those scars happily and I can look back fondly. My high school experience is like a Safeway sheet cake – oily, sweet, with prettiness and surprises inside, bad for you, nostalgic and addictive. Pass me a plastic fork and I’ll dig right in.