Seventeen

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I’ve been staring at this photo for a while now. The way I would stare in a mirror while screaming Bloody Mary.

Who is that? And more importantly, whose pearls are those?

A twist of fate and a scheduling conflict will take me back to Miami next week – coinciding with my high school reunion. So, in an effort to mentally prepare for the terrible community play rendition of Hot Tub Time Machine that I’m about to headline, I rummaged through a box of mementos, read cringe-worthy letters and found this, my senior year portrait.

At first glance, I was reminded that while I was taking this picture, my boyfriend was sitting in the waiting room with the promise of reaching third base on the ride home. He was adorable, gentlemanly and sweet, but terribly flat chested and had a penis, which eventually caused our demise.

When I looked closer though, the me from 1996 had a prophetic message embedded in my eyebrows – one that only took twenty years of hindsight to actually see it. Unlike what I thought about myself at the time, I was pretty damn unhideous. I would even go as far to say that I was pretty cute. Yes it’s a cliche, teens and their self-esteem issues. But I’d truly look in the mirror and see an out-of-place monster. How terribly sad.

On the bright side, if I had that face today it would be riddled with HPV, so I guess it worked out.

The other non-hideous things about seventeen were the rest of the know-nothings that I befriended. The valedictorian. The nice guy. The Goody Two-Shoes. The bad ass. The comedian. The rebel. The weirdo. The rich girl. The super rich girl. (I went to private school.) The artist. The Goth. The drama queen. My secret girlfriend. They were glorious. Each one. Raging with hormones, broken out with acne and hiding torn hymens from Jesus. Together we made up a super diverse version of The Breakfast Club that could have been made for Telemundo after dark.

But that was then. Next week we will be reunited for an episode of Oprah’s Where Are They Now, where the impulse to undo our high school stereotypes will most likely lead to boring each other with talk of investment banking, bibs and breakfast nooks. But as much as my body recoils with the thought of being trapped in a boring conversation, my FOMO is too powerful not to be there. And I’m willing to bet that in the midst of polite conversation, I’ll see a glimmer of the shitheads we once were. And I’m also willing to put money on having to hold someone’s hair back at the end of the night.

It was Catholic school for Christ’s sake.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The perfect ten

A superstitious buddhist atheist taught me a song about the ten commandments. Superstitious because she was afraid of ghosts and curses brought on by an “evil eye.” And atheist because she wasn’t 100 percent convinced of anything. And, well, she wasn’t really a practicing buddhist. She suffered a terrible affliction that prevented her from ever reaching enlightenment. She was unable to meditate. A career-ender for any serious Buddhist. But, she still loved the Dali Lama. When she saw him on TV or on the cover of his books she would squeal the same way as if she’d seen a manatee.

“He’s so cute,” she’d say.

Many years before discovering Buddha and friends, she entered the mystical world of Catholicism by way of middle school. She was there for one entire school year. Just one. And although she remains unable to identify two out of the three members of the Holy Trinity, she came away from that experience with a song called, “The perfect ten.”

The first time I heard it, she blurted it out in the middle of a Wendy’s. Like some sort of tourette-like trance that didn’t allow her to blink while singing the alleged children’s song. Clearly she was waiting her entire adult life to sing this song once again. So there we were at a Wendy’s, in Hialeah, in the middle of what can only be called a singing fit.

Normally I wouldn’t care, but this song requires crowd participation and double claps after the chorus. So, I was a little mortified.

The song begins with, “Number one we’ve just begun, God should be first in your life…” and it goes through the rest in cute rhymes until we get to “Number six don’t get your kicks from killing one another.” And then we wind down to “Number ten don’t covet when you see your neighbor’s house – or wife.” And, there is really a musical pause between “house <beat, beat> or wife.”

And, just when you think it’s over. Just when you’re about to wipe your face from the tears and the accidental snot that has escaped your nose from laughing so hard is when this part comes out of nowhere:

“That’s the list that God insists we stay away from these sins. That is why we practice commandments one through ten. The perfect ten <clap>, <clap>, The perfect ten <clap>, <clap>. They’re just as good as they were way back when. God gave the perfect ten <clap>, <clap>. The perfect ten <clap>, <clap>. Let’s say them once again.”

And she did.

But, it was my fault. I kept on requesting the same song. I couldn’t get enough of the stupid thing. This song was much better than her version of the chants of the Tibetan monks.

But, as my mom would most likely say, there’s something special about that song. After all these years she remembered every word. Every single word. And now, from asking her to repeat it an unhealthy amount of times, I too know every word. Wait a minute. And now, after reading this you too…

Holy shit! This thing is like the movie The Ring.