I went to an all girls high school. My experience of this was, figuratively, much more Friday Night Lights than it was Heathers. Next year it will have been 20 years since we started seventh grade. 20 years! My God, we’re so old. We’re still friends.
In that time a few of our parents have died and we’ve buried them. People have had babies. Some of them are married - or about to be - to the boy they met in high school, one of them from the boy’s school across the way. Does this all sound like a nightmare to you? I thought it might once for me also, but that couldn’t be farther from true.
Lately I have occasion to look back on this time and realise as an adult the full measure of how lucky I was/am.
We were taught in a school of girls by a staff of almost exclusively women, many of whom had grown up during the first wave of feminism and so it was taught to us, from the moment we could be cogent of ourselves as a body of women, that we should never undermine each other. That just wasn’t done, and so we didn’t. Fourteen years in the real world has taught me that this was the exception, not the rule.
It was where we learned early on that for everyone to do well was best for all of us, collectively. The marks were scaled for your final exams, across the state, so the better everyone did as a whole, the better the marks were for each person (that these marks probably mattered much less in the scheme of things than you were lead to believe as an anxious teenager is by the by.)
One of the few male teachers we had, when he wasn’t showing us intense documentaries from the ’70s (and planting nascent ideas in some of us about some day becoming journalists), he was very fond of telling us at any opportunity that advertising, and the beauty industry in particular, was bullshit.
“All this is doing, girls, is making you feel insecure for no reason so you will spend money,” he’d say. “Which is absolute rubbish. You have brains, and that’s what counts in the world.” Other things he was fond of imparting included a virulent resistance to censorship (“There is no single idea in the world, in itself, that can hurt you,”) and to remind us, often, to always earn our own money from as early as possible.
So to people who are fond of saying “Those who don’t do, teach”, I say, verily: Fuck you. These experiences turned me into who I am much more than my parents did, as they were incapable of giving me what I needed (for their own complex reasons) in order to become what I like to think of as a good person.
But my friends always did, and I will go to my grave knowing these people, and so, how lucky I am to have met them.