Over the past year, in several conversations, former high school classmates have exclaimed, "Wow! You haven't changed since high school!" Well, my friends, I've been thinking on that one quite a bit lately and come to the conclusion that this should never be said to anyone. Unless, of course, that "anyone" is a sworn nemesis or the like. It's decidedly NOT a compliment. Let me explain.
One can take that statement two ways - looks haven't changed, or personality hasn't changed. Either is a terrible thing to imply. For starters, let's go with the "looks" interpretation. I'm 49. I've birthed three children, including a set of twins. Sleep eludes me to the point that I often stop and concentrate very hard to make sure what I experience is real and not a hallucination (sometimes, I'm still not sure). My eyes are shifty; my skin mottled. "Turkey neck" creeped in when I wasn't looking about a year ago. Without very expensive and questionable eye cream, saggy bags would dominate the upper half of my face. If this is what I looked like in high school - presumably, I did, if I "haven't changed" - so much about my lonely weekend nights sitting around watching Dallas and Falcon Crest, daydreaming that someone would call and invite me out, becomes clear. I suppose that looking like a haggard, overworked, sleep-deprived deviant curbs one's social life in the teen years. No wonder I didn't go to the prom (something from which I still haven't recovered). Who wants to date a girl who looks like a mom? I don't remember having an "I want to speak to the manager" haircut in high school, but who can remember anything at my age? And then there's my squat Hobbit body and dreadful Fred Flintstone feet...well, maybe that part is still accurate.
If personality is in question, there's no denying that High School Courtney was the antithesis of Modern Day Courtney. In high school, I sat alone most days, petrified of everyone. My self-esteem, well, what self-esteem? There exists an "awkward" gene in my bloodline, and I'm sad to report it did not skip a generation. Awkwardness flows through my veins like sludge through a drainage tunnel. It's malignant, uncontrollable, and wildly unpredictable. On the rare occasions I did open my mouth, ridiculous statements tumbled forth, leaving people staring, mouths agape and eyes confused, before simply walking away. Refining my social technique took time and practice, but I can now carry on a decent conversation with about a 68% rate of normalcy. Over the years, I've learned to embrace the awkwardness and make it work for me, but in the ghastly high school years I had no such skill. As a middle-aged lady, I also don't care any more what people think and it's liberating. In a scant few years, I plan to slide into old lady eccentricity - you have been warned.
So please, PLEASE stop telling people they haven't changed since high school. Overthinkers like yours truly lose sleep they cannot afford to lose (see: awkward/sleep-deprived/deviant) worrying even more about the impression left behind in the hallowed halls of the secondary school from which they matriculated lo these many years ago. Unless it's your actual nemesis. Then, fire away, cackling an inward wicked cackle when he or she takes it as a compliment.
Courtney is a most fabulous writer and teacher of gifted middle school students. She is the author of two novels - see the "Cate Books" page of this site for information! Watch for updates about future books that need to be part of your personal library. In the meanwhile, enjoy her pithy life observations.