Contemplating High-School Hang-Ups

Josie Gellar in Never Been Kissed

It's been five years since I graduated from high school and I've changed a lot from the person I used to be. In high school, I was a geek girl--an overachieving student who loved creative writing and hated PE. I had a close circle of friends but I wasn't the most popular or social girl. On top of that, I had bad glasses and hair, braces, and I dressed terribly. I'm happy to say that my appearance has improved since those days; I'm a better dresser and I no longer have braces, thank goodness. I'm also more outgoing and comfortable with myself.

Yet a part of me still carries around the geek girl persona and thinks that other people see me as the awkward, odd-looking girl I was in high school. Whenever I meet people who think I'm cool, interesting, fun, or--God forbid--cute, I expect them to eventually discover that I'm in fact a fraud. Pathetic, I know.

I don't think I'm alone in feeling this way, however. Pop culture is rife with examples of people who have high school hang-ups. Never Been Kissed is all about a geek girl who finds redemption by going back to high school and experiencing life as a popular girl. Last week's episode of Grey's Anatomy focused on high school stereotypes and how they haunt and define us well into our adult lives: Witness Dr. Bailey, a tough no-nonsense chief resident, turn into a flustered schoolgirl when she runs into her crush from her high school days. The more trashy daytime talk shows occasionally have episodes where former geeks who turn into successful, attractive people confront old bullies. You can call me neurotic, but maybe I'm symptomatic of a larger trend in mainstream society.

High school hang-ups become most problematic when you let them rule your life too much. This is the lesson I learned recently when I finally met someone whom I'd thought was (and this is very embarassing to admit) too cool for me. Namely, I thought this person would be condescending and cold and not even give me the time of day. I'm glad to say that I was totally wrong and all of this neurotic behaviour was in my head; this person turned out to be warm, genuine, and respectful, and I was totally wrong about the type of reception I would have received. If I'd let myself stop me from meeting this person, I would've missed out.

How many other people out there feel haunted by high school memories of the people they used to be? If you have a story you'd like to share, leave a comment.

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