by Elyse Douglas
Elyse: My best memories from adolescence involve high school. I started off in ninth grade as a tall, gangly “four eyed” kid with braces, painfully shy and insecure. I would half-run, half-walk down the hallway, with my head down, eyes lowered, in the hopes that no one would notice me. I attended a Catholic, co-ed school, staffed primarily by Sisters of Mercy, but there were a few lay teachers. One was my freshman year history teacher, a single young man right out of college. I developed a huge crush on him and learned to type just so I could type up his world history outline. (My typing skills helped me much more in life than learning world history, although I did remember some facts about English kings and queens for a while.)
Things started to turn around when I convinced my parents to let me get contact lenses (which I paid for by having a small paper route – throwing papers onto doorstops from my bicycle every morning). Then the boys started getting taller, my braces came off, and suddenly, in eleventh grade, I was considered desirable! The high point of the year was when I was in a production of Camelot, in the chorus.
How I loved the make-up, the make-believe, and the costumes… and I know I looked stunning as a siren in King Arthur’s Court because one of the Sisters told me that a Father who came to see the show actually singled me out as the prettiest girl in the show. Then the boy who played King Pellinore asked me out on a date. He was a great actor, and finally, finally, I had a boyfriend. We danced close at the junior prom, even in a Catholic high school auditorium, and made out in his father’s car until the wee hours of the morning.
By senior year, I had learned to play the guitar so I could lead a hootenanny, I was on the student council, I accompanied the Christmas chorus on the piano, I was named valedictorian, and I lost Pellinore. I dated a few other guys, but it took me until the end of senior year to catch another star, one of the best athletes in the school, who took me to the senior reception. More close dancing and lots more necking. Those were great memories.
My worst memories involve my home life. My parents fought continuously. My sister and brother left for college, leaving me alone in the war zone. I developed an ulcer. I wrote furiously in my journal every night; I wrote poems; I walked the beach – and then my parents sold our beach house, and I was devastated. But you know, we all survive adolescence and crazy home lives. And I have to agree with what one of my boyfriends said: My parents must have done something right, because I turned out to be a pretty nice person.
Douglas: My best memories are of baseball summer days under high blue skies, scooping up baseballs off the fat bats of opposing players who were bigger and richer than I. My best memories are also of falling in love every month with a new girl – and then some of the worst memories are of being too shy to ever let them know it. And then there was the pain and confusion of crashing adolescent emotions – as well as utter shock when I realized that adults were nearly as confused as I was. I thought they had figured life out. Seeing that they hadn’t was very discouraging. Very early on, I knew I had a long, rough road ahead of me.