The fictional American version of high school inhabited by Molly Ringwald and Andrew McCarthy and John Cusack simply does not exist. I know this is hard for you to hear. But you will never wake up and just be Samantha Mathis in Pump Up The Volume.
One day, the people in the John Hughes-era movies will look strange to you. Too old for high school, yes. And too stylized. But sharp, odd, different from today’s too-polished Greek gods of the campus. Samantha Mathis was once a romantic lead. Now, Emma Watson is supposed to pass for a nerd, for an entire generation. And wait until you meet Tim Riggins…
Accept this now: No one will ever hold his boombox up outside your window, playing Peter Gabriel. I am reading about development and brain chemistry, and I have to tell you… These scenes, these movies, they are shaping your very synaptic pathways.
The A.S. Byatt binges, those are better. But you should really get some sun. You have the rest of your life to watch these movies, because in a way, you will always love the movies that ruined you best of all. It’s true that there is something adolescent about our state of mind as a nation. Fictional American High School is just our metaphor for Life When Everything Feels Extremely Important. But these movies makes you feel like life is being lived without you, somewhere else. I wish I could make you see, no one gets to live in Shermer, Illinois.
In other news:
- Acne is not magically lifted away with the issue of a valid ID at age 21.
- Get ready for the Internet! There will be personals on it, and you’ll meet your husband there. Trust me. It’s both much more and much less revolutionary than it seems at first.
- Here is a secret about your hair: Just leave it alone. It is still damaged from that terrible cut-rate perm. (I blame Top Gun for that one.)
- Somewhere in your closet is a dress from junior high. A kind of long, tailored, mock-turtle-neck sweatshirt. Neon — but neon — yellow. A triangular patch of black leopard print cuts down over one shoulder. Don’t throw it away!
- About that Internet, and “options.” Read my lips: Diversify. The. Stock.
That Bryan Adams song that you like, Summer of ’69. “Those were the best days of my life.” A friend of yours said — offhandedly on the phone, sometime early senior year — that Bryan Adams was right. “These are the best days of our life, you know?” he said. And you burst into tears.
I still like that song. And we do look back through a golden haze. It’s in our brain chemistry: Sometime around age thirty we go over something called the “reminiscence bump” and start down a long hill where recent memories fade faster and adolescent memories burn brighter and brighter. High school is a defining metaphor for our lives in the sense that we are always still becoming adults, right up until the end, and things often feel important, and there is never any justice in love and war and in-crowds.
But I promise you, Bryan Adams was wrong.
They have these other videos now. About bullying and being gay. I think we all like them because we all wish we could reach back and tell our younger selves, it gets better…
P.S. There will be boys who like The Indigo Girls! Or at least, there will be boys who will like you enough to play Closer To Fine on their guitars for you. Just hold on!