Chapter 4: The 80s
Surely there was no better time to be a teenager than the mid-80s. Back when mullets were cutting-edge New Wave hair cuts and big-shouldered mini dresses ruled the school.
Everything began to turn around for me my Junior year. I became one of the more chosen ones in choir because I was a member of the Madrigals group. Choir was already a pretty elite group in my school - there were a lot of popular people in concert choir. Even more so in Madrigals. My junior year we had the student council president, four homecoming maids, a former cheerleader (she dumped cheerleading for choir much as I had dumped band for it), the1984 Most Beautiful and the 1985 Mr. LBHS. Probably more. I don't keep their resumes.
I became friends with Nicki, our star Senior alto who was best friends with Debbie. Debbie had the voice of an angel but was just defiant enough to refuse Mrs. Edward's insistence that she sign up for Madrigals. I sat next to Debbie in choir when I could. (She was a Soprano I - the break glass highest voice - and I was a Soprano II - the not-as-high voice with an ear for harmony.) To this day, Debbie remains one of my top go-to girlfriends for advice. But I became best friends with Beth, an alto that was a Junior like me.
Beth was more popular than me - she was elected a Junior homecoming maid - and she dated a very cute tenor named Richie
(also in Madrigals).She already kind of had a group of choir girlfriends but I had the advantage of being in madrigals with her. In addition to that, the two of us also had chemistry and Algebra 2 together, so we got to be good friends. I spent a lot of weekends at Beth's house. [RIGHT: A picture of Beth and me from our senior yearbook. The caption reads, "LBHS's new in-school suspension."]
I got my first real boyfriend that year, a cute senior Mormon boy who had joined choir at the insistence of his friend Bill (who was best friends with Richie...in case you wondered about the six degrees of separation in a small-town high school). His name was Bucky. What? It was Mississippi. This was not unusual.
Every other year, our choir took a big trip to an international festival. By doing it every other year, we had time to raise the funds (because clearly public school boards did not pay for international choir trips) but it also meant that if you spent three years in concert choir, you would get at least one trip. Class of '84 was an off year, so we got one trip - our junior year. We went to Mexico.
Everyone was very excited! But not everyone went. Bucky opted out of the trip. All of Madrigals would go, which included Beth and Richie and Bill and Nicki. Debbie was going. Everyone excitedly started figuring out who they would room with. [LEFT: Mrs. E would assemble us and have us sing all over Mexico. Here, at the foot of the Sun Pyramid. From my senior yearbook]
Beth roomed with Christi, Stacy and Jan, her group of choir girlfriends that she'd had before me.
I ended up in a room with three leftover girls - Me, Sara and Lisa. I saw "leftover" but when I say that choir was full of popular people I was not exaggerating. Sara had been elected Sophisticated Sophomore in the 1982 yearbook and Lisa ended up our Senior class president the next year.
On the trip, there was a room of four Sophomore girls and one of them was having trouble with one of the others. There may or may not have been some theft of personal property. So Shelley got permission to move out of their room and into ours, since there were just three of us. So that one unhinged sophomore girl actually precipitated the beginning of my lifelong friendship with Shelley.
Shelley and I began sitting together on the bus rides between Mexico City, Acapulco and Taxco. Shelley had also been in band - she was the drum major her freshman year - but gave it up when she got to high school in lieu of choir. In doing so, she'd kind of lost her best friend. Not that they weren't friends anymore, only that it was two very different circles so those friendships just kind of fell away. The same thing happened with Daisey and me my junior year. Anyway, as we talked on the bus, it turned out that Shelley lived pretty close to the apartments where I lived with my dad, and she no longer had anyone to ride to school with her, so she started picking me up and that was the end of my bus-riding days!
See? My life was completely turning around!
Shelley was an only child and she and her mom were very close. It was a Gilmore Girls story, where her mom had Shelley pretty
young (not as young as Lorelei, but like 20 or 21) and the first several years of her life it was just the two of them. I adored being at Shelley's house and her mom treated me like her own kid. I became introduced to (and learned to make) the perfect sweet tea at Shelley's house. And they had Mtv, which I'd only been able to watch when I was lucky enough to babysit for someone who had it. Shelley and I became avid Mtv'ers. We'd rush home every afternoon after school to sit in her TV room and watch for hours, studiously learning and practicing Pat Benatar and Michael Jackson and Madonna's dance moves. [RIGHT: Senior homecoming parade. Front row, left to right: Me, Shelley, Sara - my roommate from Mexico; Back row: Jim, Beth]
Life was pretty much exactly as depicted in John Hughes movies.
My senior year, Shelley was also in Madrigals. I was elected Librarian of the Concert Choir, which meant I was responsible for cataloging and distributing all the sheet music, as well as standing at the front of class and taking attendance every day while Mrs. E ran our warm-up exercises. My friend Beth was Concert Choir president.
Even though I was popular-adjacent, I was never popular myself. I never had another boyfriend in high school after Bucky and I broke up my junior year. I liked a lot of boys but none of them were interested in me. I never went to a prom because no one asked me. That was how it was then. There was talk that one boy was thinking of asking me but then Daisey - who had been dating him before her family moved to Florida the summer before our senior year - came home for prom she he took her instead. [LEFT: Daisey and Me senior year when she came home for prom.]
I was definitely a late bloomer. When I graduated high school I weighed 98 pounds and had no boobs. At my 20th reunion, a boy I'd had a mad crush on nearly all of senior year said to me, "You didn't look like this in high school! You looked...12."
But I had a good group of friends and my life was happy.