I remember I sat down on a corner, by the stairs that came from the soccer field to the main yard, and just ate what I had just bought in the canteen. I believe I had a donut and some orange juice, as it was only a thirty-minute break. Those thirty minutes felt always like thirty hours. I just read something of some book I had in my backpack or looked at what others might be doing. But I stopped doing that quickly because I didn’t want anyone to think I was eavesdropping or something.
Of course, I already liked boys back then but there was no desire or sexual tension of any sort. Not that I couldn’t be sexual but I thought of the school as a space free of that tension as I rapidly realized no one would correspond those feelings. Especially not the boys I thought were the cutest, normally those who played sports or had some sort of annoying attitude. Somehow that last thing made me look at them even more.
I got really good at looking at guys without them, nor the annoying girls that always flocked around them, notice me. It’s a skill I still have although I don’t care anymore if a man, straight, gay or whatever, catches me looking at them. At the end of the day, it should be a compliment. Of course, any boy back then wouldn’t have taken it like that. I believe all guys in my school started dating when they were like fourteen but I’m not really sure. It just seemed like it.
The girls, on the other side, were different. For the exception of some guys, all of them were exactly the same: sporty and mean spirited. But the girls were divided almost equally into two groups: nerdy or artistic kind of chicks and the popular girls. These last ones were only popular because of the money their parents had and because they had a bit more grace than any of the others. They were not especially cute or anything, they were just better actresses from a very young age.
See, my last high school years were spent in a private school, which used to be very exclusive. Not everyone could get in as money and status were kind of mandatory to get in and if you didn’t have any of those, you had to be related to someone that could help you get in. It was that simple and everyone knew although no one ever spoke about it.
So I was there, whether I wanted it or not, and I soon realized how much of a nightmare it would be. I had never been great in large groups and there were at least eight groups of the same grade, each one consisting of twenty-five people. That was intimidating and the worst part was, every years groups changed. So you could end up with that person that looked at you as if he had shit under his nose, or you could end up making new friends.
All right, now we have to clarify that word, that social networking has prostituted in an awful way. A friend is a person that you trust and that trusts you back, who knows all about you and you know all about him or her. Of course the word “all” is not literal, but you get my drift. I think the key to a friendship is trust and that means being real, being just as you are with that person and that person thinking you’re amazing because you are who you are.
Well, I never really felt I had friends in school. Never. I had good school companions, whose company made the days less annoying and the classes a bit less boring. But I wouldn’t call them friends. They never really knew me and I don’t blame them because I never let them know who I was or who I wanted to be. I think it was, especially towards the end, a huge collaboration effort to make school a bit more fun and bearable.
They were all women, in my case. Girls that, like me, felt a bit in the edge of the social circles that had formed with the years in that school and we just got along fine because we were all eager to finish up and leave forever. I always related more to women because I found them less intimidating. Even today, I still look more for the support of a women that from a man. Back then, as well as today, I feel intimidated by men. Why? Very easy answer: because there’s always competition between men and I have always hated to compete, as I know I’m no match for anyone.
Yes people, that was when my self-esteem problems began. I mean, I can maybe trace them back a bit more but high school just compressed al my fears and anxieties into one place. Sports were the worst. Playing football, basketball or even badminton was a torture for me. Not only because I absolutely hate exercising but because it put me in the spotlight. Many will know how awful it feels to be chosen at the end I always ended up being the last or next to last one to be chosen for any game.
Of course, if that happened today, I wouldn’t mind. I would not play actually and I would have a witty response to anything someone told me. I can be very abrasive but that is a perfect answer in many cases. But back then; it was not a choice to be like that. I wasn’t fun enough to just make a fun statement. The reality was that I was a shy boy and I’d rather shut up that say anything to anyone. I felt bad enough as myself, because of all the pressure around. There was no need to make it worse if I could avoid it.
In class, it was different because there was no interaction between students. All you had to do was stare at the teacher and answer if you were questioned. No, I wasn’t shy because I was smart. I wasn’t smart at all. Besides a few dates and country names I had learned from reading, there was not much more I could bring to any class. Literature, funny enough, was a torture. A load of books I didn’t understand made me miserable. I never read all of them to be honest. That reminds me; in my school all classes were taught in French so it wasn’t as easy as you might have thought.
Then of course, I had my “nemesis” course: mathematics. To say that I sucked in that class would be a large understatement. I never got anything past the divisions. I only understood equation two years after we had seen them, which of course, was a bit too late. What I always hated was when the teachers said that mathematics would always be necessary in daily life so it was imperative that we got good grades. I never got more that a twelve over twenty, and that was not very often. As for my daily life, I never use equations. Thank God, I’m not a rich man.
Like later in life, they would always scare us with exams and tests and so on. And, ignorant as one is when young, we would all be scared of them. It’s a natural response that now, I know, is just to make you feel in a rush, in order to be on the lookout for anything. Tests only get easy when you know your answers and how do you that? By understanding in class. Studying at home doesn’t do shit. And sorry if someone disagrees but I’m a strong believer that if you get it the first time, that’s the time that counts.
At home, I had my TV and Internet. There was no YouTube craze by then, nor Facebook or Twitter. But you could get distracted with chat rooms and even pornography. I cannot say I didn’t check that out when I was younger, it would be a lie. And besides that, the Internet had stories and videogames and news to offer. So I was driven to that and not to study math that was complicated and that, by age sixteen, I had given up to. To this day, it annoys me to see a lot of numbers in a sheet of paper.
As we all did, I’m sure of it. I handled on one side my home life and, on the other, my school life. That’s why I hated seeing people from school in the supermarket or in a mall. I felt they were invading my space, the one were I felt more at ease, where laughing did not feel out of place. You might think I’m being exaggerated but that’s how I felt. That’s why being parent to a teenager is hard: it’s a person that’s feeling so many things at the same time and they often have no idea how to handle it all.
In secret, and I’m sure many did the same; I was looking forward to the end of high school, the graduation ceremony. People often say how that time of your life is perfect because there was nothing to be worried, you get to have lots of friends, first loves and you were just happy all around. But that is a filthy awful lie, because it’s not the same for everyone. I wasn’t happy there, at all. I didn’t have any friends and, much less, loves. I wanted to get away from there and once I did I made sure to live a life I could say “Well, it may be crappy but this is mine and I’m me. And if you don’t like it, fuck off”.