I was thinking about high school today, and not like an overarching “best years of my life” golden nostalgia, or a “fuck that cess-pit” vitriol, but just about popularity.
Usually, when people ask me if I was popular in high school, I generally say yes. Okay, that’s a little bit of an under-statement. I usually say, “Yaaaaaaaaaas.” But I wanted to seem not weird. I mean, I wasn’t like the party-starter or the fire-starter or the non-starter, but people knew who I was and I wasn’t generally egged in the halls.
Looking back, I’m realizing that people knew who I was because I was essentially a human firecracker shitting out rainbows—I was The Gay Kid. There are other LGBTQIA+ people I graduated with, and that were in the grades below me—but the ones who were in my grade weren’t as socially tone-deaf as I was, and so I was kind of Queen of the Gays. No big deal.
Funnily enough, I never officially, publicly came out in high school. I’ve been out since I was 15, but that was to my friends and family and sometimes random strangers, but I never had the ominous “Yes, it’s true,” Facebook post. Somehow everyone just knew, but I feel like I contributed to it by being like, “Ugh, yes Zayn’s biceps are godly.” That probably was been a little too “homo” for a “no homo” to save.
But I was thinking about popularity and high school and all the boys I stalked on social media—
Side bar: So unrelated, but I had a major crush on a boy in high school and I used to go to his Facebook page so often that I could click on the search bar and his fucking profile would pop up. That’s the digital equivalent of the Kermit the Frog sipping tea meme.
—when I remembered a little occasion where I really felt I had eclipsed the bigotry associated with being stone-cold gay in a Catholic, all-boys prep school. Yeah, that’s where I got my high school diploma.
There was this guy in a math class of mine, who I knew just like tangentially—as in we had had friendly conversations about the Pythagorean Theorem—who I found out didn’t like me. Actually, he really didn’t like me.
I found this out through Paul—the scrumptious bby of a friend I mentioned in my last post—who was talking to this boy—I guess we can call him…ugh, what’s like a really regular name, Herbert (?)—basically about how much I suck as a person.
Essentially, this is how the conversation went when Paul told me about his discussion with Herbert:
ME: (probably looking at myself in the mirror)
PAUL: So I had an interesting conversation with Herbert.
ME: Which Herbert?
PAUL: Herbert C.
ME: Oh, we had a class together!
PAUL: Yeah. We were talking about how he didn’t like you.
ME: I’m sorry, what.
PAUL: Yeah, and we had this long conversation and finally came to the conclusion that he doesn’t like you for your personality.
ME: Why the fuck are you telling me this?
PAUL: No but don’t you see how great this is? I showed him that the reason he doesn’t like you isn’t because you’re gay, but because he hates your personality.
ME: Yeah but he still doesn’t like me.
PAUL: Yeah, but not because you’re gay. This is progress!
ME: (shatters mirror)
Aside from the glaring issue of Paul have the social tact of an elephant, I was—shockingly—not pleased to have my bubble burst. I thought that everyone loved/tolerated me. Or if they hated me, I could brush it off. But no, apparently my personality was anathema to my classmates.
Now, a few years after the fact, I think I can appreciate that not everyone will love me. Just kidding, it still bugs me. But I think I can accept the fact that it bugs me. And maybe one day I can appreciate that not everyone will love me. But by then, I plan on being so famous that I can sweep away in my Givenchy—okay, reading back, I can understand why Herbert might not have been a fan. It makes a little bit of sense.
High school is such a weird time, because I don’t think you can replicate it with any other type of experience. It is the absolute fucking worst, but there’s something amazing in that worst-ness. Like, college is amazing for learning to lean on yourself, but high school is the first time you can really chisel away and see yourself. You can rage against the flat botanical wallpaper of your surroundings; you can seethe and fall in love and wallow. I mean, you can do that in college and in life, but there is something uniquely beautiful about the passion of high school emotions. I don’t think I loved or grieved as fully as in high school, because it was such an incomplete, full-thrust power.
That got really serious, so let’s bring it back to the silly. Once, in summer camp, when I was doing the deep-water test, I dove into the water and my bathing suit slipped down to my knees and everyone saw my butt.