In a recent conversation, I query my eldest son, now a junior in high school, “Do people still hold hands in the hallways at school? Like kids that are boyfriend and girlfriend, walking to class together?”
He looks at me kind of funny and shakes his head.
“Nobody does that.”
“What?” I look at him, puzzled, and indignant. “What do you mean nobody holds hands in the hallways? You mean to tell me that kids that are supposedly going out with each other don’t hold hands on the way to class?”
“No, I’ve never seen anybody do that.”
Aside from being completely bewildered—not being able to wrap my mind around the fact that culturally, socially, in just a generation or so, things had changed so much that kids didn’t interact the same way in school at all.
I proceed to rant. “When I was your age, anybody who had a boyfriend or girlfriend, we always held hands in the hallways. Wore our boyfriend’s football jackets and all that—”
“Definitely nobody’s doing that anymore, Mom,” he interrupts, reminding me just how cheesy it was. Or was it?
I find myself savoring the specifics of my generation.
“You don’t seem like the kind of person that would wear a football jacket,” my son says.
“I know, but I was. We were undefeated state champs and my boyfriend was cool, the whole team was cool. Any girl who went out with a guy on the football team wore his jacket, for sure.”
Dazed and confused: A bygone era of debauchery, worn with pride
I ponder the presumed innocence of my 16-year-old—and how completely reckless and wild I was at his age, as were most of my friends, as were a majority (it seemed) of the kids in my high school. I mean, we were like Fast Times at Ridgemont High. Or Dazed and Confused. Drunk girls falling down at keg parties in the woods. Guys smoking weed in their little Chevettes in the school parking lot before school, coming into Civics class blind-stoned with glassy eyeballs and goofy smiles on their peach-fuzz faces.
Not that I condone all that, necessarily, but there’s something a bit rowdier and more care-free—and I suppose residual of the 60s and 70s—that we who came of age in the 80s got to ride the wave of. And it was (mostly) fun.
We were the last generation that had such freedom.
“When I was your age, in high school, my girlfriend wrote notes that she signed from my mom to get me out of class early,” I impart to my son. Now that he’s old enough, I drop hints, sparingly, of just how rebellious we were.
Now I can’t even take my own kid out of school for a day without a dissertation outlining a worthy excuse. Hell, my kids don’t even wanna miss a day of school. That’s how much more rule-abiding they are.
I like that we were hell-raisers. Maybe my crew raised a little more than most but certainly we were well supported in Smallsbury (nickname for Salisbury where I grew up on the Eastern Shore of Maryland) where not mucha nuthin happened unless we made it happen.
“God, remember the time we all showed up in court?” I reminisce with a high school girlfriend about the time we had to defend a boy who was at risk of being sent off to forestry camp. This was after a scuffle with some cops one night when we’d all been busted for underage drinking at a party.
“We hitchhiked from Ocean City—barefoot!—to show up at the courthouse, can you believe that shit? Then the lawyer said, ‘Now who exactly said, ‘Get your fucking hands off of me’? And I was like, uhh, that was me.”
Our friend got sent off to forestry camp anyway.
And who the hell has the cojones, the downright dontgiveafuckness to show up in court barefoot? Let alone hitchhike to get there after a night of partying at the beach.
Such was the tenor of high school life for me so I find myself still fixated on kids these days not even holding hands in school.
“Sheesh,” I say, content to have survived my own madness yet admittedly slightly sorry for my kid, for having not the slightest clue.