Saturday, January 28, 2012


This kid from my high school class was on Jeopardy Thursday night. He's a doctor in the Army now. He won. I was annoyed. (This is one of those posts where I use my blog as a form of therapy to talk out a problem because lolz lack of universal health care! You've been warned.)

When we were in high school, he was kind of an ass. We had a class together as seniors, I think math (which seems improbable because I was very much always in the "dumb" math classes and he very definitely shouldn't have been if he went on to go to med school and cut people open for a living, so maybe it was a religion class?), and he was just...I dunno...arrogant? Full of himself? A condescending little prick?

When it had been settled on which colleges we were going to and he learned where I was headed, he asked me, "Oh, LSU, huh? Do you know what their mascot is?" "Yeah," I responded, "it's a tiger." This all knowing Catholic school brat replies to my honest answer with, "No. They're the Bayou Bengals."

People. Don't EVER question my ability to hold a grudge. I am the most Irish Catholic Russian Jew there is. I haven't forgotten that comment, obviously. Just the smug of it. It wasn't what he said, necessarily. It's that the way he said it made me feel stupid and insecure. (Reoccurring theme!) Which, yes, how it made me feel is my issue. Adult me recognizes that. Still!

It was also an annoying comment because it was wrong. Ask any person with even the most tenuous ties to LSU how they feel about being called the Bayou Bengals and they'll tell you they like being called that only slightly more than they like being called corn dogs.

But I didn't even know he was wrong. The official mascot was the tiger. The LSU Tigers. That's what I knew. But for all I knew he could know something that I didn't. He acted so superior and right about it, he must have been. What did I know? I have fully admitted that when I set foot on campus in Baton Rouge I knew next to nothing about the school. Not the party reputation, not the football history, not the colors, not that Death Valley was the name of the stadium and not a reference to my home state. I did know that it was 2400 miles away from people like this and that it, unlike guys like this, had accepted me.

I was being told by a guy, in a condescending tone, what my university's mascot was and I didn't call him out on it. They are the Tigers. I feebly backed down. I hate moments when I do that and it's probably why I rarely do so now. Even when I should probably just let things go.

The reason I to this day hate my high school and why I never claim it in this city that is sort of obsessed with where you got your high school education is that the second I am around any of those people again these feelings of insecurity and not fitting in and not being good enough or smart enough and dealing with the trappings of wealthy and entitled jerks all start to creep right back in. "Oh. That's the place where I didn't belong. That's the place I always felt like an outsider and a loser." Feelings that, honestly, I spend a lot of time trying to shake to this day. THAT'S where they started. With people like this guy acting superior to me. (My mom recently admitted that it was the wrong high school for me and were she to do it all over again I would have been much better served by going to a more art focused school and not a 1400 person strict Catholic one that spent the first 140 years of its history catering to men and not women. Hindsight is AWESOME! In another bold turn, she admitted yesterday that things come a lot easier for my brother than me. *record scratch* Wha?! I was shocked.) (For clarification: I can say that the academics were fantastic and I had some amazing teachers. But that's about all I can say.)

I seriously can't even write about high school without all those old, icky feelings starting to creep back in and why continuing to live in this city is one of the worst things I do to myself. (I also had a run in at the gym the other day with a grudge that goes even further back, to a guy who was awful to me in grade school. It's been a stellar week for reliving old injuries.)

BUT! It's not all gloom and doom. What I realized as I pondered his win on Jeopardy, and I ended up being genuinely happy for him, and anxious when he started in the hole, (though there did seem to be an abundance of military questions last night which favored him and the final jeopardy question was both medical related and so blatantly obvious it felt fixed, so we'll see how he does tomorrow) is that we ALL have our own baggage. This guy's smug superiority was likely based on his own insecurities. On his own not fitting in or feeling accepted. We didn't have a ton of interactions but I remember him as sort of awkward, maybe a little pudgy (also something I dealt with in high school), who commuted to our school from the East Bay and probably was not the most popular of kids. He wasn't trying to be mean to me. Not that there weren't people who were trying to be mean, there very definitely were and those people can rot, he just wasn't one of them. All these years later I seriously doubt he even remembers his off the cuff comment about college mascots. The fact that it resonates so strongly with me is my own issue, as I completely recognize.

I saw a bunch of well wishes for him on facebook, just generally, not to him specifically (I don't think he has a facebook), from other high school acquaintances. I rolled my eyes thinking, "You people weren't even nice to him in high school!" It rang as insincere. Then I pondered further and thought: it's not that they are being insincere, it's that everyone has changed. We aren't necessarily the same people we were then (god I hope not). They really were happy for one of their own. And maybe even they aren't completely the jerks they were then. Maybe they evolved?

We're all trying to put aside the insults and injuries we carry with us like armor that color our interactions with others, make us untrusting and insecure adults. At least that's my problem. (One of many. Shut it.) It's up to me to, as my horoscope said last week, shed the old armor I've been carrying around for wwwaaayyy too long. Deep breaths. Gonna make an effort not to carry these grudges with me for so long. Or at all. Because lawd knows I'm not perfect. So basically: congrats to him, I need to stop being a grudge holding asshole. There. We worked it out. Thanks, internet!

Updated: he won Friday night, too. He, thankfully, got a San Francisco Giants question right, which he seemed to say emphatically. $40k-ish for two days of answering questions, the only person to get final jeopardy right on Friday night? Not bad.

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