I just got back from my high school reunion so I’m feeling rather reflective and introspective and a lot of other big words that end in “ive”.
Indulge-ive me, won’t you? Thanks.
My older sister graduated the year I entered high school. She was a quiet, obedient nerd who made straight A’s. She graduated with honors. “A peerless example of Saint Joseph’s Academy” they would say. So the nuns were a little dumbfounded when I came careening down the halls. The girls of the Academy were held to high expectations and I certainly was a disappointment. I was a solid C+ student except in math where I truly excelled at sucking. Still do.
Here’s the weird part I never saw coming: I hated school but I loved being at school. I loved the Academy. Being in that environment freed me from my preening self and the distraction of boys. Wondering what they thought of me, trying so hard to be liked, trying to be pretty and demure. Worrying about my hair, my makeup, my breath. Worrying about farting in gym class. Nobody cared. It was just us girls, and it was fantastic. Contrary to popular Catholic school-girl myth, there was no drama, no hair-pulling girl fights or catty cliques (that I was aware of). Maybe I was oblivious but I don’t recall any of that. Just girls becoming highly educated women. Me notwithstanding. Instead of being boy crazy I became girl crazy. And they were crazy for me. I was becoming more myself, my authentic self every day I was there. That might not have happened in the presence of boys, at least until I was much older. In fact I’m sure of it.
|They thought I was this girl|
|But I was really this girl|
I was in trouble a lot, but at a school like this it didn’t take much. I remember being told I had a little too much “joie de vivre.” Um, what? How can anyone have too much joie de vivre?? That’s like having too much… joy for life… or something. I dunno– I never took Spanish. I think this was right after I grabbed the tongs out of the lunchroom salad bar and, holding them like castanets, twirled around the lunch tables to delirious applause in what was from that day forward deemed “The Dance Of The Salad Tongs.” It was a crowd pleaser, if not a very creatively named dance.
Do you think I would have danced The Dance Of The Salad Tongs around boys? No way. I would just eat a salad in the cutest way possible. Because boys don’t like funny girls. Well, they might like them as friends, or maybe if they were gay, but everybody knows pretty girls don’t need to be funny. They just need to be pretty and shut up when the boy is talking. He can be funny. You can’t. You definitely can’t be funnier than him. Right?
Thank you, Madelyn Kahn. Thank you, Kristen Wiig. Thank you, Chelsea Handler.
I remember once writing a very descriptive three-page note in class, complete with illustrations detailing my date that weekend. Unfortunately it was intercepted by a teacher and I was sent to the disciplinarian’s office. She lectured me about how lucky I was to be at the school and I seemed to be wasting everyone’s time there. Then she said something surprising. She read the note and admitted other than the gross grammatical errors and occasional profanity, the story was funny. Very funny. She wondered if I had ever thought of becoming a writer. I argued I wasn’t sure how writing was going to fit in with my dream of becoming a back-up dancer in a Robert Palmer video.
She sent me back to class.
Besides, writers were usually men, or unattractive alcoholic broads named Fran with split ends who never married. Right? I wasn’t going to be a writer. I could never allow split ends. Right?
Thank you, Tina Fey. Thank you, Nora Ephron. Thank you, Ellen DeGeneres. Thank you, Mindy Kaling.
I never really believed that being attractive and being funny were mutually exclusive, but I knew a few boys that did. I say boys, not men. A real man would never be threatened by a woman one-upping him in the joke department (or any other department.) What I find funny, I think you will find funny. Why can’t I tell penis jokes too? I can– and probably deliver the line better than you. I don’t need you to like me or think I’m attractive first.
The Academy reunion was held in conjunction with the boy’s school (right down the street) graduating class of the same year. I knew some of the guys and have reconnected with a lot more on Facebook. One of the nicest things was hearing several times, “I never knew you were so funny” and “I love your blog”. That actually means more to me now than “You were/are so pretty”. Who’d a thunk that funny would trump pretty? But it does. Every time. These men get it– they are not threatened.
I’m so glad I went to my reunion and thanked all these great girls who became great women in my life– for their friendship, encouragement and helping me grow and do what I love to do– make people laugh.
And most of all I’d like to thank the Academy for helping me tell penis jokes. Probably not their intention, but there you have it.