I inherited a tendency to save things and as I’ve come into my work as an artist, this habit has further ingrained itself into my being.
My mom sent me a package a while back that included a large Ziploc bag full of letters my friends and I had written to each other during high school. I saved them, then she saved them for me. About 95% of the notes are written to me by friends, but I do have a few of my own in that pile. They’re embarrassing.
However embarrassing, one thing that was so interesting to me was that these notes are like artifacts. They’re some of the last communication of its type for teenagers. I had my first beeper my freshmen year, and a cellphone my sophomore or junior year.
With access to technology, teens these days do not write letters during class like this. One of the letters is a printed message from AOL. My friend writes, “AHHHHHH!! I know I’ll print it! you’ll just have to welcome the new notes of the 20th century!!!”
Second, there are SO MANY letters! And I know what I have isn’t the half of it. We also seemingly wrote all of them during class. This is probably why I still have dreams about not being able to graduate high school.
Next, the content of the letters. To no one’s surprise, they’re mainly about boys. Also about how boring class was or what test we were preparing for, and a sprinkling of gripes about being grounded and what parties we would miss or go to without the other.
Today I slowly started to unfold and read all of the letters and there was another thread that was surprising to me. Now that the memories have flooded back, it’s not so surprising.
Many of these letters were warning of certain boys, providing support for friends who were victims of these boys, and formulating ways to prepare for parties and events where these boys would be. It was a web of letters that were a way for us girls to protect each other and to help each other.
It’s sad that high school boys appear to be just as difficult for girls to navigate. We were so young we weren’t even spelling simple words correctly. Like the word ‘rapist.’
I see you.
And you’re lucky I don’t go to high school reunions.