I was waffling about whether to go to my ten-year high school reunion (it’s not till 2013, but it’s never too early to worry,) so I made a pro/con list:
- There will probably be beer
- I can show up and talk about my “literary career”
- I can try to have sex with that guy I always said I’d try to have sex with at the reunion
- Romy and Michele
- Several hundred dollars of airfare and car rental just to talk about my “literary career”
- It’ll be at the high school or the County Expo Center, where they also have cattle shows
- There’s an annual theater department reunion to which I have never been invited, and those people ostensibly liked me
- The thought of being 28 and having my mother ask me when I’ll be home and insisting I call her if my ride has even one drink, despite the fact that she doesn’t have a car
- It would bring back memories of all of high school, including freshman year, which in terms of horror was basically Eighth Grade II: The Awkwarding.
It was about even, and then I remembered Mole Day, so I won’t be going. Ever.
Now… let me paint the picture. Ninth grade chemistry. I really, really enjoyed chemistry on paper. I found in interesting. The class was a nightmare in three acts.
Act I: The teacher. Mrs. Anders was one of those people who’s really aggressively jolly all the time. She was always drinking out of one of those reusable gas-station mugs. Everyone said she was an alcoholic and her mug was filled with 89-octane screwdrivers, and I absolutely refused to believe them. Now that I’m grown, I bet she was tanked every second of the school day. You had to pay for lab supplies you broke – one time a guy dropped a beaker and she yelled “BUMMER!” at the top of her lungs. One – “bummer?” Really? Were you the understudy for the teacher in Encino Man? And two, don’t yell while teenagers are handling acids. Mrs. Anders was the only person I’ve ever met who said “cool beans” and meant it.
Act II: My lab partner. He was the most awkward person I’ve ever met. Meg and I joke about being awkward, but he was the real McCoy. We got in trouble because he lost our magnesium. How do you lose a chunk of metal in the three minutes it takes to set up a high school chemistry experiment? No one knows. This is the same kid who, when we went around to say what we were thankful for near Thanksgiving, said “I’m thankful for my multiple personalities.” I was always sitting next to him when he did something like that. It was assumed we were friends.
Act III: John Berman. In high school and early college, I didn’t really feel like being gay – can you blame me for not wanting to join a group known for public enthusiasm? I was willing to make an EXCEPTION for John Berman. I had a sighing, sweating, I-think-I-can-smell-his-Axe-body-spray, doodling-his-name-in-my-notebook crush on John Berman. I also had a lush, magnificent crop of acne and whiskers I only needed to shave every nine days, so I was resigned to lust from afar – and actually vastly preferred lusting from afar to having John Berman look over at my side of the room when my lab partner said “Mrs. Anders! I think we’re reaching critical mass!”
So, into this mess wades Mole Day. Do you know what a mole is? I do, because it is seared on my memory. If you have twelve of something, you have a dozen; if you have 6.0221415 x 1023 of something, you have a mole. It’s the number of molecules in a liter of an ideal gas at rest, or something. It’s also the name of a kind of rodent. This whole story rests on that pun.
So, high school chemistry teachers, jealous of Pi Day (March 14 – 3/14 – 3.14, GET IT?!!?!?!?!?!?), established Mole Day on October 23 (October 23 – 10/23 – 6.0221415 x 1023, GET IT ?!?!!??!?!!?), expanding the already bloated calendar of learning-opportunity quasi-festivals. We all had to do Something Involving Moles for Mole Day. It could be anything tangentially related to moles, of any kind.
Did John Berman simply write “Mole Day” on a white t-shirt in sharpie, looking both cool and hot? Yes.
Did my lab partner roll in with a homemade mole puppet that he made say disturbing things? Yes.
Did I wait until the last minute? Did I write a page-long essay on “Great Moles In History?” WAS I FORCED TO READ IT ALOUD IN FRONT OF JOHN BERMAN AND HIS BODY? Yes, yes, yes.
Now, looking back, that essay was kind of a cool idea. The only ones I can remember are John Moleton, (like John Milton but a mole, GET IT !?!?!??!), who wrote Paradise Lost in very, very small letters, and Wolfgang Amadeus Molezart, who adapted bows so they could be held in the claw. I’ve absolutely written worse things. I did not, however, have to read them aloud in front of the class.
So, naturally, the cool thing to do would have been to just own it. Make my mole puns, loud and proud, sell it to the balcony, and balls the balls off of it. Instead, I opted to speed-mumble my page of rodent-themed history puns. “Mrmrmrmmmrmrmr Oliver Crommole mrmrmrmmrmr Toad Hall mrmrmrmrmrmrmr Pope Moletus VII mrmrmrmmrr.” Did I stare at the page the whole time and pick up speed as I went along? Brother, you know it! It was so powerfully uncomfortable. I could have saved everyone a lot of time by saying, “You know what? I’m really weird, really awkward, and in about five years I’m going to lose an amateur strip contest at college night in a really shitty gay bar in New Orleans. Just thought you should know.” I was so obviously being forced to come out as weird. Most people averted their eyes in sympathy – of course, John Berman gave me a look of perplexed pity. The same look you give a hurt bird. There’s nothing you can reasonably be expected to do to help, but you’re sorry it happened, and you’ll be a little sad the rest of the day without really knowing why.
Later, John Berman had a kid with this girl who stole money out of the cash register at Quizno’s and ran away to Dallas, so we’re kind of even, but I still don’t want to go back up to the high school. If those walls could talk, they’d be saying “The unsinkable Moley Brown? Can you believe this jackass?”