I spent roughly my entire youth watching movies instead of playing outside or growing as a person. That’s why cinema has always been my guide, my helpful handbook to the unforgiving labyrinth also known as “life.” But as it turns out—and you might want to sit down for this—movies lie. For instance, thanks to movies like The Breakfast Club, She’s All That, and High School Musical 1 through 3, I really and truly believed…
1. That high school clique culture would be a high-stakes, rigidly divided, fight-or-die feudal society.
2. That exciting, life-changing things would happen on my sixteenth birthday. That I would have my first kiss, or drive a convertible, or get inducted into a coven of witches now that I had reached the Proper Age. In reality, I went bowling and then went to bed early.
3. That I would date a dangerous bad boy. He would have a motorcycle and his hair would be very slick, which could only make him more dangerous. My dad would hate him.
4. That everyone would break out into a carefully choreographed dance number at prom.
5. That taking off my glasses would turn me into a sexy goddess with good eyebrows and perfect bone structure.
6. That all my classmates would look somewhere between 20 and 25. In reality, they looked anywhere between 10 and 19. I personally looked 13 until I was 20.
7. That I or someone I knew would be shoved into a locker.
8. That I would be forced to “write lines.”
9. That we would win the championship game against our rival school with a clutch field goal in the last dwindling seconds of the fourth quarter, and that everything in life would be somehow better because of this.
10. That the head cheerleader would be a Machiavellian she-devil. I will be honest here: I don’t even know who our cheerleaders were.
11. That a hot jock with a heart of gold would befriend me on a dare. He would then fall in love with me in spite of everything, at which point his jerk best friend would reveal the whole scheme and the hot jock in question would be forced to prove he had changed his ways.
12. That the entire fragile academic ecosystem would fall apart because we had (drumroll) a new kid.
13. That joining band, orchestra, the debate club, or student council was basically social suicide. That doing any or all of these things would cause you to become the kind of person the popular kids wouldn’t DEIGN to rub shoulders with lest they catch your strain of unflagging nerd.
14. That I would skip school one day and something really incredible would happen in my absence, thus teaching me the evils of skipping school.
15. That there would be a school newspaper news hound constantly running around the school, showing up where he was least wanted, always on the prowl for the next big scoop.
16. That I would have to do after-school cleaning duty as punishment.
17. That our school would have a swim team.
18. That our student council would Get Things Done.
19. That people would be constantly and reliably offering me illicit substances in the school bathroom.
20. That I would play dodgeball.
21. That I would have to babysit a sack of flower for a week to learn the hardships of parenthood.
22. That my entire sense of self-worth would be determined by whether or not I could do a single pull-up.
23. That I would have to climb a rope in gym class.
24. That someone would release the frogs to protest the frog dissection in biology class.
25. That there would be constant bake sales, or at least a single bake sale. To tell you the truth, my school had a worrying dearth of bake sales and I feel this was a gross injustice on the part of our administration.