Sunday, August 15, 2010

The "Is" Girl

Is there a statute of limitations on secrets? And is there some sort of automatic half-life on this statute if the person who told the secret wasn't supposed to tell me in the first place? Irrelevant. Mum’s sooo not the word today…

I'm telling on you, blabbermouth high school teacher!

It was nearing the end of senior year, and a friend reported that a teacher—we’ll call her Mrs. Blah Blah—was talking trash to her about our fellow classmates. The teacher described one girl as a “poor dumb thing.” Another, and I’m proud to say one of my best friends, was labeled “smart, but a bitch.” (Were you high, Mrs. Blah Blah?! Heck, she’s definitely smart, but way too empathetic and trusting in the world to be bitchy. This is a girl who, late for work one summer morning, randomly threw on one of her boyfriend’s T-shirts, and noticed that people were especially friendly all day. She realized why when her boyfriend asked her to look at what was printed on the shirt: “No Muff Too Tough/We Dive at Five.” A bitch wouldn’t laugh at herself so heartily and easily, which is what my friend did.)

I’m almost insulted Mrs. Blah Blah didn’t call me a bitch, too, but I guess that’s because I was predominantly…


Yup, that’s right. Affected. I remember that I had to read the dictionary definition a couple of times, but she meant someone with affectations, someone who puts on airs and pretends to be something they’re not. Oh, most understanding Mrs. Blah Blah, let me apologize for DARING to be anything other than what I was. I’m sorry I didn’t want to accept my place at the bottom of that typical high-school heap, topped by that tool you so fondly described as “adorable.” I’m sorry the rest of my face hadn’t yet caught up with my nose, and I’m sorry I wanted to get the hell out of that town because gee, I don’t know, Mrs. Blah Blah, I had a very sick family member who thought he was Jesus and ran around town making citizens’ arrests …so sorry, Mrs. Blah Blah, that I was trying NOT to be that girl....

But yeah, you did totally call me on my survival tactics—and if wearing thrift-store clothes, finally finding a voice and giving yourself a new name defines someone as “affected,” then sign me up. And what 17-year-old knows who they are, anyway? If they do, what are they supposed to spend the rest of their lives learning and doing? That’s a diploma with a death sentence to me, Mrs. Blah Blah. Isn’t being all about becoming, anyway?

I think that’s why it bugs me so much when people don’t capitalize “Is” in headlines. (You capitalize verbs in headlines, you know. Did you teach me that?) And “Is” may be two lil’ letters, but to me it’s the most important verb of all. Life is “Is.”

What irks me most? I like you, Mrs. Blah Blah! And I learned a lot from you! It may not have been the greatest high school, but you cared enough to introduce us to stuff that might actually expand our brains. We read Plato, and I remember thinking, “What IS this?!” It was wild and exciting to me in the way that I guess kissing boys would have been if I weren’t a) socially inept and b) c’mon, do i have to bring up the nose thing again?

Anyway, it’s water under the bridge now, Mrs. Blah Blah. I went on to major in philosophy at college, so I really do have you to thank for that. And I’m happy to be thought of as someone who works hard to be who they’re not entirely, but just might become.


  1. Affected?! I'm with you, Pune: it's not a bad thing at 17. Also, it's about as common among teenagers as clothing that annoys one's mother.

    You are one of the most genuine people I know. I'll bet being an affected teen had something to do with that.

  2. Some of my favorite people still have faces that haven't caught up to their noses.

  3. This reminds me of a line from "Breakfast at Tiffany's" when two characters are discussing Holly Golightly, the ultimate poseur.

    One of her partygoers says to the other, "Yeah, she's a phony. But she's a REAL phony."

    He says it with affection, admiration, and awe.

    Here's to all the people who have had to lie a little to find their truths!

  4. This is my favorite post yet.

    And hey, I bet you rocked those Hamptons thrift shop clothes...they've gotta be pretty nice, no? We just got Melody the best dresses from a Mystic thrift shop.

  5. How wise and unaffected and poignant and true. But please out Ms. Blah Blah to ME. I think I may know. Should I say it here? or 1 on 1?

  6. Ha! Kate, you totally know who Mrs. BB is! Let's toast her in person : ) Elyse, yeah, they were still pretty good back then. My best score--red, gold and blue paisley pants that must have belonged to a short man. I'm pretending Prince, tho' that's highly unlikely. Stephanie, Brenna and Kathy...I wish you guys were in my class with Mrs. BB!