The immature daze of high school

High school is a touchy subject. No one wants to read about it, and, except for the highly talented authors who chronicle the lives of southern Californian post-pubescents, no one wants to write about it. We all want to think we’ve matured since then, or that everyone else has matured, since we were all above average in maturity. Even if we did have the occasional escapade or run-in with the law, it was all in the name of Good Clean Fun, unlike the rest of the deviants wandering the hallways of our respective institutions of secondary education.

Thinking back, it’s impressive to note the most blatant acts of immaturity were committed by others. I mean, I never would have driven the principal’s golf cart into the pond, and if Pete Marquhart had asked me, I would have advised him against splashing purple paint all over the front steps of our rival school.

At the very least, I would have suggested he patronize a hardware store other than the one right across the street. From a mature point of view, it was obviously a bad idea. And if Glenn Warren had consulted me before writing obscenities on all the lockers with some girl’s day-glo orange lipstick, I would have told him that teenage angst is a well documented fact but there exist more constructive ways of working through frustration.

Immaturity took other forms as well. There was the guy who walked around using bug spray like deodorant until our history teacher pulled him aside one day and explained the dichotomy of nature versus classroom, ventilation versus death by poisonous chemicals.

There was the guy who jumped into the pond once a month while fully clothed. Then there was the guy who went to all the football games in his tighty-whities.

It is entertaining to remember the deviants and the aberrants. It is amusing to ponder on how they have matured and how, as we were all already mature, we must be infinitesimally more mature at this moment than they can ever hope to be. This is reassurance that we are highly functional adults without whatever hang-ups or personality quirks are common to the average (or above average) high schooler.

So what happens when, in the midst of all our self-congratulation, we are faced with reality? Reality, in this case, taking the form of that high school health classic, The Miracle of Life? I watched The Miracle of Life my freshman year of high school in a class of car thieves and juvenile delinquents. I watched it again last week.

Yes, I thought it was an odd choice for an English class, but I was prepared. I had no qualms. I was mature. There would be no gratuitous sound effects or spontaneous reenactments from the back left-hand corner of the room.

So why was it still so funny? Why, when that clipped British accent started talking about scrotal sacs and hapless, deformed sperm, did I find tears of hysteria running down my cheeks? And why was I not alone?

We could conclude that bodily functions are inherently humorous and that hysteria is thus the socially appropriate response. Unfortunately the humorless people of the world are apt to disagree. They would be more likely to graph our present maturity level as a trace element.

So maybe we haven’t changed that much since high school. Maybe some people are still submerging the recreational vehicles of their current authority figures and poisoning the atmosphere with superfluous bug spray. Maybe not.

Not everyone was that extreme. But the veneer of urban sophistication/maturity on most people is pretty thin and you don’t have to scratch too hard to get to the high schooler inside.

This is not an insult. If true maturity means no more tomfoolery, shenanigans, or ballyhoo and no enjoying the tomfoolery, shenanigans and ballyhoo of others, then I think it is not only unattainable but undesirable. I am not trying to promote illegal shenanigans, ballyhoo or tomfoolery. Simply that a certain amount of ballyhoo (along with a smattering of tomfoolery and, yes, shenanigans) is key to the enjoyment of existence. After all, for most of us, high school was not as long ago as we like to think.