The Nicest Yearbook Entry

Dawn Mosher, I have your 1992 yearbook. It’s my oversight — I chose not to buy any sort of class of ’92 memorabilia (stupid stupid stupid), so when one came available on eBay, I jumped at it. Embarrassingly, my hairstyle hasn’t improved from those 1992 photographs.


The last two years of junior high, after that first awful shock of having everyone in the school district in your classes, were somewhat better. I settled down a little bit and got yearbooks those years. Most of the time, I didn’t have to use too much whiteout to let my parents peer through them, not that the words were so bad, they just leered frighteningly bold and real from the pages. The nicest entry I ever read in my yearbook was written by someone I hardly knew beyond bumping into a few times in class and yet seemed perceive me more clearly than I even saw myself.

As far as I can remember, it went something like this:

… I’m not going to write anything about your brain ‘cuz
I’m sure that you’re sick of hearing about it …

I’m not going to run around the topic; in junior high, I got good marks for being somewhat prompt and efficient with my work. After a few years, I had earned a good reputation among teachers and I get the feeling that sometimes I received good marks not so much because of the quality of work I was turning in but rather because of the reputedly good stuff I handed in. Naturally, most of us are sheep in the first few years of junior high — you go along with what’s said, you say what people want to hear. Teachers said I was smart. Therefore, students also thought so.

I wanted desperately to be just normal, though. Granted, it’s nice when the grade reports come out to feel at least somewhat good about yourself by the end of the day but it’s also uncomfortable to be singled out. Having nice grades isn’t a terrible fate, the majority of you would say, and you’re absolutely correct. I once read an excerpt from Harriet the Spy (by Louise Fitzhugh) in a children’s reading anthology. The editorial comment went that those with higher income, while part of a class that most of us would like to join, are still a minority of people (and some would say that that minority is ever shrinking, but I’m not here to talk politics). The excerpt itself detailed how, after losing her notebook of observations, Harriet found herself outcast and horribly alienated from her peers. I never experienced that degree of exile, but I never felt quite like I could identify with the most “normal” people.

All of this would come together in the yearbooks. Almost no one offered to sign mine but I felt doggedly determined to get lots of signatures — would prove that I was popular, eh — so I would solicit and receive entries that almost invariably read “I don’t know you too well, but I think you’re really smart” which at the time felt … well, it felt all right, but there was so little actual content that I felt faintly damned with feeble praise. Of course, most of the people that I didn’t know (but got their signature, all the same) would read the other entries like this, decide it was a good thing to say, and tell me more of the same. I get that way sometime when I’m signing a group birthday card — you look at what other people have said, find some neutral and bland greeting, and leave your forgettable mark on the card (well, most of my marks have been more regrettable than forgettable).

I thus felt some measure of salvation when I read the entry at the top. No cookie-cutter entry; no pressure to conform at a time that most of us were milling along in our clone-like ways, T-shirts and jeans and be sure to get the right pair of sneakers too. This entry brought a sense of “normalcy” to my life; I didn’t feel like I was being placed so highly above everyone else any more, I didn’t feel like I was too remarkable. I had achieved “it”; I had become just another regular guy to at least someone.

Those of you who I haven’t yet put to sleep will probably wonder at the perverseness of such a feeling. Who doesn’t want to be the standout, whether in grade school (where for my second grade class photograph, I’m kneeling in the front row but have come up so far that the person behind me had to scrunch over to the side to be visible) or in high school? I think that it has something to do with the whole junior high/pre-teenager mentality. Briefly, the thousands of child psychology books that have been written on the subject probably mumble something about transition stages and awkward hormone developments, and while that might explain some of it to me, I don’t think it’s enough. It’s not so much that, at least in my junior high, you get packed into a building that first year with two hundred of your peers, at least one hundred of which you’ve never met because they went to school across the town; it’s not really that everyone looks so old (I remember sitting at the same table in Language Arts with a kid that needed to shave every day); it’s not really that you finally have to learn a combination for your locker and panic every break between class as the dial jams and you flail away at the latch. If you stand out, you become a target.

Naturally, the unpopular kids were targets. Stoners and freaks and punks and geeks (and all the other words that lose their innocence coming out of young mouths) made their rounds, went to classes just the same as everyone else and still he doesn’t fit in because he has corduroys, she doesn’t fit because she wears skirts, they don’t fit in because they run off and smoke behind the storage shed. The casually, fashionably cruel would amuse their grinning lap dogs with random insults and minor torments. Of course, I’m painting a caricature, but not by much: try reading William Golding’s Lord of the Flies or Robert Cormier’s The Chocolate War.

I’m not going to say that I was a victim or that I was innocent of baiting or that I swung to either extreme. In truth, I’ve never been accused of having more than mediocre social skills — try talking to me some time, if you pass by me, and you’ll see what I mean. As such, I both took and gave out my fair share of nastyness, from arguing with my future college roommate about the relative merits of computer systems (5.25″ disks are no good! Are so!) to talking about the local pariah to being continually harassed for an entire semester with the name of one of my crushes.

I like to think that maybe the person who wrote the entry above also was in the same vague limbo as me — not really much of either, one of those shuffling along the corridors hoping for better days to come, thinking of glory days (already!) and wishing maybe to be a little bit popular, just enough to be absolutely untouchable and not enough to face constant sniping and pressure to knock the King/Queen off the Hill. I like to think that we shared wishes and hopes because life was lonely enough without having to know and be uncomfortable with your sense of a unique self. It helps me, at least, to share days and thoughts with my peers.

I didn’t realize it until much later that the entry was more an invitation to discussion than a paean to my joe regularity. Here was finally someone that, had I worked the nerve up to it, I could call and talk to. Now, of course, I look upon those years of callow youth (not so long ago; ha, listen to me, the pretentious) and wonder what might have been, that summer. She moved away a year later and I never managed to thank her for her insight.


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4 Responses to “The Nicest Yearbook Entry”

  1. Dawn Mosher Says:

    OMG! I think that is me. I lost a lot of my stuff about two or three years ago including my yearbooks. That is so wild. I too went to Cheney Jr. and Cheney High. Who are you? Were there other yearbooks on ebay?! Yikes, I don’t remember much of who I went to school with, I kinda blocked it out. Those were not good years for me, I was one of the tortured. This is wild.

  2. dearJ Says:

    I actually got it on eBay a couple of years ago; some guy in Chula Vista was selling it (I only saw the one) — let me know if you want it back. I graduated a couple of years ahead of you — 1992 — and used a picture to illustrate different points in this blog.

  3. Dawn Mosher Says:

    I would like it back. As I mentioned I lost a lot of my stuff. God, what was that sophmore year. Wow. How much did you pay for it?

  4. waterh20 Says:

    dang man thats a nice blog you wrote. I enjoyed it

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