I think it to myself sometimes: wouldn’t it be amazing to go back to high school and know what I know now? The mom of the senior I photographed the other day said it out of the blue and I could only smile and agree. Her kid, meanwhile, looked at us like we were both crazy old people who’d forgotten what it was like to actually be in high school. For what it’s worth, I don’t think either of us have. Granted, high school was maybe somewhat different in our day than it is now, but my guess is that it has always sort of necessarily revolved around some kind of daily drama that shifts erratically from one person to the next like static electricity in a carpeted room in winter.
It’s not the drama that makes me want a high school do-over. Or maybe it’s entirely the drama, because I can guarantee that if I went back to high school knowing what I know now, I’d skip the drama every single time.
I’ve had a lot of time to think about this lately because there are teenagers in my life. I don’t hear so much of the dramatics from Step-Daughter lately, but HOLY SMOKES, Step-Son has it on the daily. Sometimes–like tonight–he comes stalking out of his room in a state of high agitation and heads for the garage. I think he punches walls in there or something, because by the time he returns to the living room, he’s a little more able to use his words. Everyone hates him tonight. Again. His only friend is his sister. Again. And yet, five minutes later, he’s leaving for the hamburger joint with a friend, their unapologetically bad rap music scaring all our neighbors until they drive off.
Step-Son is a good looking kid, yes, but I think people read that wrong. Maybe he looks like a player to them–maybe with all his strutting and rap music he even carries himself like that–but I don’t believe he is one. For one thing, I can’t look at him without seeing his dad, and I’m pretty sure no better man ever drew breath. Also, I’ve seen the kid with his heart broken, and I’ve seen him take care of other people who were hurt or heartbroken, and I’ve seen him repeatedly jump in to defend those who he didn’t believe were capable of defending themselves. In a small town like ours where everybody has known everybody else since birth, stepping up to do things like that comes sometimes at a great personal cost, particularly to a freshman in high school. Again, I think people read him wrong. He’s not trying to make himself look all big and bad so much as he’s trying to be a nice guy and help people. And if that means he tells a female friend of his that a male friend of his is going around with other girls, well. (And yes, I do try to explain to him that doing things like this isn’t necessarily advisable if one wants to retain either of them as friends.)
But lately, I think if I went back to high school knowing what I know now, I’d be friends with the kid even if he is a little more drama-prone than I’d like. Or maybe I’d work from the outside to try to drive people in his direction who were actually worth a crap and were likely to be in his life for the long haul. In this town at least, I can about guarantee that that list wouldn’t include people with money running out their ears. Knowing me, it would likely be more than a little slanted in favor of the music and theatre kids. I like them. They’re good people.