At lunch today we were all discussing our memories of prom night. Some were dumped by their boyfriends, others (like me) had the guy they liked showing up with their ex girlfriend, and another had their graduation so long ago she had to waltz with her father as a tradition. When you work with someone from Argentina, Puerto Rico, Bulgaria and New York, recounting war stories from high school can get pretty interesting. As it happened my prom night memories were pretty similar to everyone else except of course for the New Yorker.
School here is so different from back home that is like a parallel universe I’ve never visited and not matter how many times it has been explained to me it remains confusing, scary and clouded in an almost science-fiction-like fog of mystery.
It has always baffled me how school works here. From electives classes and going to different schools for each phase (elementary, middle, high school), to the school districts things by neighborhoods and homecoming parties and prom queens and kings. Back at home you don’t get to elect your classes, even if math is not your strongest area, you still have to suffer through eleven miserable, terrifying, traumatic years of algebra, geometry, arithmetic and my nemesis… trigonometry. Fucking trig I still have nightmares about it. When I watched TV and teenagers said hi to each other tentatively in school saying “You are in my history class aren’t you?” I never understood what they meant. Back at home we got a classroom assigned with other 30 to 40 students, you get assigned a seat at which you are to remain for the rest of the year and teachers come to you. Back at home you have no choice but befriend your classmates, you spend five days a weeks, 6 to 7 hours a day in a classroom with them, breathing the same air, sharing the same torturous math teacher and forced to work in groups. You sit in the seat next to someone for 6 to 8 hours for five days weeks and you learn to like them whether you like it or not.
I was the new girl on my sophomore year in High School. Since wretched math was kicking my ass I had to change schools to one that allowed students to choose if they wanted to spend their last two years learning social or science studies. Since the left side of my brain is stunted and never developed I went with social and spent my last two years in heaven with classes like French, Latin, Sociology, Philosophy, Psychology, Art History, English, and the right side of my brain enjoyed the party while the left grew cobwebs.
Whenever I think of high school here I remember how easy it was for me to change school and make friends. I had a blast on my last two years in high school and I shiver to think how much harder it would’ve been here. I was the new girl in a graduating class that had been in the same school since elementary. I was the new girl among teenagers that had seen each other for eleven years, five days a week. They knew each other’s grandparents, cousins, they knew each other secrets and had memories dating back to the time when some were still sucking thumb. Here it would’ve been impossible for me to befriend them since I don’t make friends easily, but back at home was so easy because we were stuck with each other all day.
Here is so different! Prom is before you actually graduate and the parties are unsupervised and at hotel rooms… I can’t even wrap my mind around it. Our graduation party was the day we got our diplomas and we work our dresses and suits under our gowns, we partied with family members and friends until five in the morning at a rented hall, had dinner, a champagne toast (even though most student were under 18 and therefore not allowed by law to drink). We partied as if it was a wedding, with a DJ, a photographer, a band and flowers. The party was the last time I saw some of them and a big way to say goodbye with a bang. It would’ve felt sort of anticlimactic if I had to see them all the next Monday after such a celebration.
Here you dress up, rent a limo and go to a hotel room to have drunken sex with a boy who has no idea what he is doing. Even if things were done that way back home parents would’ve never allowed their kids to go to a hotel room after a party. Here let me pay for hotel room where some randy teenage boy is going to pop my little girl’s cherry. Riiiiight.
Doesn’t anybody notice how simply wrong that is? *She says failing at trying to sound non-judgmental* Don’t get me wrong there were plenty of people that were sexually active at my graduation, but that didn’t mean we were allowed to celebrate our high school graduation party at some random hotel room without adult supervision. Back at home even the most rebellious rebel wouldn’t have dared to smoke in school property. There, school grounds are almost holy grounds and you don’t fuck around with school ground, you don’t graffiti, have sex under bleachers, smoke, drink, and give birth in bathrooms.
My poor cousin had to finish her high school years here and she was once almost took a mint from a guy who offered without knowing he was giving her Ecstasy. She saw people getting high in the bathrooms and I can’t even imagine getting away with smoking a cigarette at my old school, where the Spanish (from Spain) priests had eyes like a hawk and would know if someone skip school and called your parents if you talked back or misbehaved.
I love this country and I am happy to be here but I am also happy that I came here when I did, with two years of college under my belt and that I didn’t get electives that were going to keep me from meeting my friends, I am happy I didn’t have prom king or queens. I am glad I finished school back home where my graduation class was of two hundred people instead of getting lost in a sea of anonymity in a class of a thousand like my cousin and two of my friends.
I am forever grateful that I didn’t have to celebrate getting out of school by going to a hotel room to feel pressured into having sex with some pimply inexperienced boy with sweaty hands who didn’t know the clitoris from the anus. Amen.