As you know, I touched Kip Winger. And though my inner rock star is fighting with my outer groupie over this event (“touching Kip Winger? You should have been singing with Kip Winger, slut-ho-beyotch!”), the practical me is over it.
As you also know, the day that I was touching Kip Winger, my best friend from junior high found me on Facebook. We went to dinner last night and talked about everything—from the day we got our periods (mine: in Miss Brown’s sixth-grade gym class on the uneven parallel bars) to our start of menopause.
We haven’t spoken but once since our graduation in 19[inaudible mumbling]. We begin with a list of people she’s seen in recent years, like Josh (who used to make me blush when he would sing, “Got a skeeter on my peter, whack it off, whack it off” and “Nothing could be finah than to be in her vagina in the mor-or-or-or-nin'” in my ear in Ken Sanner’s sixth-grade English class); Josh married his high-school sweetheart, Becky, who had the first Hamill Camel haircut. The Eddie I remember as adorable but odd (too into Get Smart) and always lugging around a tuba is still adorable and married to a woman from Dundalk. A guy I used to make out with behind the tennis courts gained weight and lost hair. A guy I wanted to make out with lives around the corner from Andrea.
Because I pursued a less ethnic, more urban geographical location, my connections to our past are limited. I saw the tall-and-gorgeous Robin Meizlish in Target once, and she looked the same; she and I both got degrees in graphic design. (And just like it’s supposed to happen when you see the prettiest girl in high school, I looked like crap that day; I vowed never to wear painted-on sweats to a store again.) Our school’s best artist, Sherri Romm, bought some art from me and owns a salon. And I ran into Susanne Kogan at the beach and discovered she had married Alan Cassel; Andrea fixed them up.
Every so often, we both wonder about that cute Joey Clements.
My parents took Andrea to Ocean City with us when we were girls, where we met Steve, our boyfriend. We found him sitting on a dock by our vacation house, his tanned feet peeking from beneath his blue denim bell bottoms; his blond hair and blue eyes from beneath the brim of his funky denim cap. Steve promised he would write to us both and made good on the promise, leading us to believe he belonged to each of us, when he belonged to neither. And then there was Vicky, a girl from Andrea’s neighborhood, who’d never met him but had decided he was her boyfriend. Andrea tells me Vicky’s dead now.
Our kids are now of the age she and I were when we were best friends. But times have changed. Suburban moms of teens and ‘tweens have to use words like “intercourse” to distinguish that kind of sex from the “blow jobs,” which she says begin at age 12 (even with the Jewish girls, who sacrifice self-esteem and innocence now to be saved from those “suck what?!?!” crows’ feet later). Fourteen is when “fucking” starts. Her daughter uses that word—about other people—in emails to friends.
I cringe when I realize what could lurk just around the corner and am thankful, for a change, that my Jewish daughter is in a tiny Catholic School in a small neighborhood where you can’t sneeze without forty people knowing it (and blessing you).
Our discussion moves to teachers we tormented because we were pure evil. I got one of my first kisses from Daryl Barilla under the table during a film strip in Mr. Degnan’s class. Every time the lights went out, we’d play spin the ruler. The kissers would go down under the table two at a time, so as to be less of a distraction. Daryl’s kiss was too wet. It was thrilling.
The boys in our class pinned Penthouse centerfolds to the projector screen, so that when our teacher pulled it down, a naked woman touched her how-ya-doin’ right in front of the seventh grade. Boys put naked women in all the drawers, too, so he got an eyeful just going for a piece of chalk. Once, after this continual boob bombardment, he was at his wits’ end. He puffed up his red face and, with full fury and force, slammed the wooden yardstick on his desk. It broke in half and hit him in the face. We were all in biiiiig trouble.
Mr. Degnan wasn’t at all like Mr. Hawkins, whom we admired and respected. Perhaps it’s because we’d seen the way he handled Randy Parrish. When Randy misbehaved, Hawkins would drag him out in the hall by his collar, turn him upside-down, and shake him until his lunch money fell out of his pockets.
Mrs. Katz would come to every English class to find us doing whatever was on Welcome Back Kotter the night before. I got in trouble for orchestrating the move to turn all the chairs around so that they were facing the back of the room instead of her. And since I was an A student (hey, it’s English!), she often looked to me as her supporter on days like these. She always looked at me with disappointed eyes after that day, and I apologized profusely, trying to win back her trust. Mrs. Katz’s class was where we watched those exotic drug movies—dark, scary warnings about pot and heroin that only seduced me. I dug them the way I still dig watching Prodigy videos and people in black vinyl body condoms.
Andrea’s fourteen-year-old daughter told her recently, “You know, I’m gonna smoke pot.” And what can Andrea do? By tenth grade, she and I had been doing it for a few years and spent many mornings before the school bell outside the English open space smoking joints with Howard and Allison and Holly. They had strawberry rolling papers so our breath wouldn’t smell so bad.
Andrea’s neighborhood had a fort, where we used to hang out and smoke and drink. She would make out with her boyfriend, John, there. She remembers the vice principal of the school catching us smoking pot. We ran, though, and I don’t think he could ever pin it on us, but he knew, and he looked at us in that way. In my neighborhood, Ricky Stark’s apartment was our fort. He was older and used to get us high and then drive us around. I spent a lot of time at Ricky’s apartment after school watching The Three Stooges and M*A*S*H. His mother was never home, and he would always try to kiss me. I liked him, but he was too skinny. Ironically, he loved to cook, and I think he grew up to go to culinary school.
Andrea remembers us smoking pot and drinking on field trips. Do that today, and you go to jail for five years.
Music has been an integral part of my life, and those classic rock years have informed pretty much everything these days, including my daughter’s School of Rock. We reminisce about all the concerts we saw together—Bad Company (I fell asleep), Led Zeppelin, Foghat, KISS. But KISS is a sore subject. “No you DIDn’t go with me to the KISS concert, and I was pissed! Alan Sanders and Howard Ash had an extra ticket at the last minute, and they asked YOU to go.” The memory came rushing back. I’d like to say she didn’t miss much, but I think KISS had to be pretty awesome to a fourteen-year-old kid.
When I think of Andrea, I think of all the times we went shopping and bought the same clothes (our favorite stores were Maryanne’s and Ormond and Up Against the Wall). We had to promise not to wear our outfits on the same day (we’d call the night before). Back then, blow dryers had just come out, and we would dry our hair and put on ski caps to flatten it; we both had curls and cowlicks. We shoplifted jewelry from Spencer’s Gifts, even though they had a two-way mirror, and we never, ever got caught.
I also think of the time I was odd girl out just after my Sweet Sixteen. She and two other friends stopped speaking to me for no reason. After that, we were never close again. She apologized, but I was hard.
I’m still hard. But I don’t mention it.
I remember the way Andrea used to scrunch up her whole face when she was embarrassed. She still does that. She’s still warm and cute and friendly and just as candid as I am, and she still has the same taste in clothing that I do (I have a pair of shorts similar to the ones she was wearing). Seeing her reminded me of what it was like to have someone so completely your twin, so completely the best, that you would share your favorite clothing and your boyfriend and your secrets.
Last night, when she got home at 10:15, she sent me a Facebook cupcake and said we ought to do it again sometime. I suggested we go shopping and wondered if there was still an Ormond. Andrea said there’s still a Maryanne’s at Security Square Mall, where we used to hang. One mom would drop us off in the morning, and another would pick us up in the afternoon.
Now we just need the nickel bag and the strawberry papers. And Ricky Stark to drive.