Middle School: Maybe It Wasn't As Bad As We All Remember

Full disclosure: I’m a little drunk, a little pissed off, pretty sad, and avoiding writing a paper about Roman sexuality. Skipping the “drunk” and “pissed off” as my natural state, I’m still sad because Rue McClanahan died. I feel like each Golden Girl death hits me harder. Estelle Getty was suffering and I could be glad she was at peace. Bea Arthur was so sudden it was more shock than grief, and I had friends around me to comfort me. Now Rue McClanahan is gone, so soon on the heels of Dixie Carter, and I am alone and drunk in my crappy Philadelphia apartment. I may not survive Betty White’s passing, and I’m gonna level with you: I don’t really want to.

I literally could not finish Meg’s middle school playlist. I was awash in feelings by about the fifth song, although “Your Woman” is a college memories song for me so that kind of tipped the scales. Some day when I’m reeeaaaal drunk and think I can slip it by Meg, I’ll put together a “Tulane Chris Feelings Playlist.” (Mostly Nick Cave and Leonard Cohen, except every third song is “Walkin’ On Sunshine.”)

I hate to admit defeat. I once turned in an entire semester of classwork in four days after the semester ended. (Result: B-minus and a bachelor’s.) When someone broke up with me via text message, I referred to it as a “setback.” (Result: he tearfully asked me back.) I drove my next-to-last car until it stopped on the highway. (Result: I lost my job because I couldn’t get to work without the car and wound up washing dishes in an Arab café until I couldn’t stand it any more and faked a back injury so I could quit without having to confront anyone.) Refusing to admit defeat doesn’t always work, but at least your tombstone will read “he tried.” When King Milan of Serbia was assassinated, he survived being shot and stabbed, so they tried to throw him off the balcony. He grabbed the rail and only let go when they cut off his fingers. That’s what I call hanging in there. (Get it? He was hanging there!)

So was middle school that bad? Well, yes, obviously. I was oily and smelled weird. I could still have blended in with my peers if I’d tried, but I had a “colorful” (read: weird) personality and did things like faked a British accent for a semester. I wasn’t new, so it wasn’t like I had a prayer of successfully pretending to be the Duke of Pigshit-on-Thames, I was just weird. I was in the school orchestra (upright bass, of all things) and wore Jncos. On purpose. (I would kill to be able to go back in time and not give those to Goodwill.) I also had a “medical issue” during seventh grade so I just kind of… wasn’t there for most of it.

But, see, I hate to admit defeat. Were those three years of my life really as humiliating and pointless as they seemed? Surely not. Surely I learned something. I just sat here for three minutes trying to think of things I learned in middle school and literally I think I only learned a few words of Spanish, how to read bass clef, and that I didn’t like girls the way everyone else seemed to. I was in an “experimental” math program where we “taught each other,” which means that me and the other “smart kids” who went to that school all think x – sin(x) = DICKS LOL.

So what did I get? What was the silver lining? Here’s what I’ve come up with:

MTV played music videos back then: I am an incredibly nervous person, which isn’t surprising considering my genetics and upbringing. Some Scots all married each other, then the English chased them away. They went to the South and all married each other until the Yankees drove them away. They went to West Texas and married each other until the highways were built and my mother could move away. (My dad is the same story but Irish.) I have the same overbred qualities as a prize-winning whippet: same even, pointy face; same bony front legs and strong back legs; same bursts of energy between frequent naps; same constant nervousness. Because of this nervousness, I have to have ambient noise on all the time. The TV or the radio or the fan or an air-raid siren or something has to be on, because if it’s too quiet it makes me more nervous. MTV used to be perfect for this. Music videos would play and you could kind of look at them without having to watch them, but there was always sound. Then a VJ would cut in and say something boring in a pleasant TV voice, then more music. It was balm.

You Were Still Kind of Blind to Your Parents’ Failings: On some level I understood that my home life was unhealthy, but as long as one of my parents bought me and my friends pizza and would let us rent R-rated movies, I did NOT care.

Porn Was A Lot More Low-Tech and Thus You Were More Grateful: Everyone born between 1982 and 1987 remembers clicking on the thumbnail and waaaaaaiiiiiiting…. And here a stripe, there a stripe, and graaaaaadually…. I appreciated that one image more when it arrived than the THOUSANDS of HOURS of pornography I could theoretically download in the next twenty minutes. The other kind of porn our generation had was pausing an R-rated movie just right. You remember. “Okay…. Now!M” Damn. Rewind it like 5 seconds. Okayyyyyy….. Now! Damn.”

It’s Not Like You Had to Pay the Gas Bill: Admit. You didn’t generally have to give a fuck about bills.

Puberty Metabolism: Every single day in middle school, I had either: a chicken burger, fries, and Hawaiian Punch, or a bag of Andy Capp Cheez Fries, Reese’s Cups, and Hawaiian Punch and yet I was thin until I moved to New Zealand in my twenties and spent most of a year eating only curry and beer.

It’s Not Like It Counts: If something sucked in middle school you could just say, “Well, this isn’t real life. I’m not a grown-up yet. It’s okay. I’ll still grow up and do great things.” I am 25 years old. I have a credit score. Things I do count.

I look back on the advantages of middle school I’ve tried to accumulate and I see that it’s mainly inbreeding, immaturity, and masturbation. Well, whatever. Having someone else pay the bills while you jack off sounds like a damn fine deal to me.


Anonymous said...

ooooh the middle school porn memories... excellent foundation for the beginning of this monday morning. thanks, chris!

That Kind Of Girl said...

Love this post. Just every little thing about it. Although the one drawback of slow-loading dial-up porn: I used to hide out in the computer room above my parents' bedroom and poke around the dark corners of the internet (slash lurk on all the cybersexers in AOL Teen Pool Party Chat 2), and often after I'd waited twenty minutes for a damn image to load, my parents would knock on the door and come in right then, so I'd have to close out of the screen and lose all that damn wait time for nothing!

Ah memories. Welp. Now I'm going to spend my morning reading retro early-AOL websites like Hecklers Online. Awesome.

Anonymous said...

Did anybody else watch porn on the fuzzed-out channel where you could just make out a little bit of, um...motion?...happening?


Excellent post Chris. Cheerio!

kerry a. said...

you are not alone. i am sitting in my crappy philadelphia apartment feelin' sad about rue, too. singing the rue blues, if you will.

Anonymous said...

Bassists are the best, Chris, and you know it. We keep the beat. Or kept the beat, though it took me until senior year of high school to bow out of that particularly uncool portion of my life.

Mademoiselle Hautemess said...

A) You almost forgot all those awesome AOL Free Trial CDs they would send so you could pretend to be 17 years old and hot + single to meet other teens(a.k.a. kids lying about their age) on the internet...before molesters started attacking and Chris Hansen had to step in and regulate.

B) Middle School metabolism makes me so sad...so so very sad. I ate fast food like 5 times a week and was supermodel thin...oh KFC chicken tender meal with biscuits, fries, and likely some other form of carb that I burned off while standing up to throw the containers away.

C) As good as all that sounds...I will NOT let myself forget the acne, the BO, the overactive oil glands on head and face, the jacked up teeth covered braces, the frizzy hair and the exceptionally dark leg hair that I sported....

Middle School: 0 Adult Life: 100

Anonymous said...

You are point on about West texas. They are all inbred dumbasses! Don't drink the water!!!

Ali said...

Oh man, all these posts and comments about middle school memories give me a borderline panic attack. PTSD, anyone?

But Chris, you make an excellent point when you say that the great thing about those times was that while our parents were busy worrying about paying bills and whatnot, we could just masturbate all day. And believe you me, I did. TMI? I apolgize. But when you're an awkward, hairy, acne-covered, shy pre-teen girl, who feels like a freak because she still hasn't gotten her first period, you need that release to survive.

I'm done oversharing now.

Anonymous said...

excellent post!
it makes me sad to think that my days of "when i grow up…" are almost to an end... what am i doing with my life?!?!? how will i take care of myself?!?

-B- said...

Ditto to the person above mentioning the endless AOL disks received in the mail...my little brother (also gay: coincidence?) collected them for years and eventually turned all 500+ into an art piece. Even at infuriatingly low speed, imagine all the porn those free hours represent!

Also, I hear it on the "unable to admit defeat" thing. It only shows up for me in certain areas (most notably romantic/sexual rejection and the ability to fit into those jeans from four years back), but the outcome definitely tends to swing wildly between good and very, very bad. So I sympathize.

Alecia Smith said...

Nice Post.
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Torrey said...

Tulane Chris!
I went to Tulane and Your Woman was a hit when we were there too.

I have sent the "Sorr about the bag" entry--highlighting the telegram-- to all my TU friends and we are all trying to figure out how to be best friends with you. What's the best way to go about this?

Go Green Wave and SATB,

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