Weekly Shocks' Blog

An Obligatory Blog Post About Teenage Angst, or, Could I Have Been a Bigger Pain-in-the-Ass Nerd in High School?

Every once in a while, I get a colorful brochure from the alumni association of my glorious alma mater begging me for money. In my more cynical moments, I’m tempted to send them copies of my educational loan debts and a reciprocal request begging them for money, food, shelter, clothing, dignity, etc., but usually I just dig deep into my bank account and send whatever pittance I’m able to scrounge up. I am, honestly, quite fond of the Boston Latin School despite all of the hellish torture it put me through. In fact, I believe I’ve put enough time between me and my high school days to allow for some of the more gaping wounds to heal, so let’s reopen them, shall we, and relive their horrors afresh.

Boston Latin is one of those brutally prestigious magnet schools that specializes in turning bright, well-rounded, inner-city kids into grade-grubbing, back-stabbing psychopaths, all before they finish puberty. Not that I’m bitter or anything. Modeled after the English public school system, it’s a six-year program, allowing its administrators and teachers an extra couple of years to mold and shape and twist and warp and mutilate the minds of America’s future leaders. And they’ve been doing this for ages. Founded in 1635 (“predating Harvard by more than a year” as it modestly claims at every opportunity), it’s the oldest public school in the country. Because of this (and not because the school has huge entitlement issues and pulsates with conceit and arrogance, I swear), its motto is “Sumus primi.” For those of you not au fait with dead, predominantly useless languages, that’s Latin for “We are the first.” Uh huh. In its auditorium – into which new students are herded on their first day and more or less told they stand an excellent chance of failing out within a year – is a glorious, elegant frieze upon which the names of some of its more illustrious alumni are inscribed. These include Ben Franklin (who failed out himself, but we keep that hush hush), Joe Kennedy (drinking pal of Joseph McCarthy and noted anti-Semite) and Sam Adams (destroyer of tea, lent his name to an expensive and overrated beer). The foyer included a statue of Romulus and Remus feeding at the wolf, which was the symbol of the school. The point was that we, the unwashed, dirty masses of youth and potential talent, were to suckle at the teat of Boston Latin learning and then go on to found epic, glorious civilizations and kill each other. Or something like that, I dunno. If you conveniently forget the killing each other part, it’s sort of condescendingly sweet, I guess. However, you may not be familiar with the actual statue.


Yeah. I’d like to see any kid greet that image every morning, five days a week, for six years, consider its symbolism and implications, and not go irretrievably mental.

I need to emphasize the fact that I did not want to go to Latin. No happy, well-adjusted eleven-year-old would. It’s not as if upon hearing, “Hey! Why not trade in your current life, which consists of having friends and being the smartest kid in your class with a minimal amount of effort to a brand new nightmare existence of having four hours of homework every day and never getting a full night’s sleep ever again?!” I jumped up and down shouting, “Yippee! Where do I sign up?!” No, the real conversation went something like this:

My mom: OK, the entrance exam for Latin is in three months, so we’re getting you a math tutor.

Me: What?! No! I do not want a math tutor! I’m already a giant nerd! Do you want me to die at the hands of a pack of rabid, inner-city school bullies?! And I definitely do not want to go to Latin! I want to be a stand-up comic! Why won’t you support me in my dreams and goals?! Don’t you love me?!

My mom: No. In fact, your father and I hate you with a passion that flames like a thousand suns. You were adopted. And you’re going to Latin, so quit your whining or we’ll give you back to the orphanage!

OK, so it’s possible that I’ve fabricated several key elements of the conversation. Regardless. I distinctly remember feeling a sense of profound dread mixed with an inevitable smattering of pride when I learned I was accepted at Latin, and that profound dread would become my baseline emotion for much of the next six years.

I know that this will come as a shock to many of you, given the coolly sophisticated, sexy lady I’ve since become, but frankly, I was an absolute geek in high school. Hell, I was a geek in a high school designed especially for geeks. Forum editor of the school newspaper, literary editor of the magazine, president of the Public Declamation Society, Treasurer of the German Club and director of our senior-year play: you name the dorky group or organization, and, chances are, I was a member. All of this extracurricular work I did left very little time for academics, and I was, perhaps not surprisingly, a miserable student. By my final year there – at which point I had decided that graduating high school was monstrously overrated and only subjected you to a life of servitude to THE MAN –  I was doing well enough in subjects I enjoyed and barely passing those I did not. My high-minded indignation, of course, was really just a thinly-veiled attempt to mask profound, jaw-dropping academic burnout and sloth-like laziness, and I successfully managed to completely tank my class rank. I think I ended up graduating with a GPA of negative 3, but not before I had insulted and alienated every single teacher I had at the school who would shake his or her head in utter disgust over how much of a time-wasting smart ass I had become in class. (Assuming, of course, I turned up for class at all. I literally missed a third of my senior year of high school. God alone knows how I graduated.)

I’m actually still really embarrassed by my performance in high school, and even more embarrassed by the fact that, despite it, I still managed to do pretty well in higher education. Sometimes, I think I’d like to go back to all of my old high school teachers and present them with my academic credentials and thank them. I’d like to ensure them that, really, even though it appeared otherwise, and I was, in fact, a total dipstick as a teenager, I did actually learn something during my Latin days. I learned enough, in fact, to make most of college a breeze and, much more importantly, my education at Latin introduced me to some of the higher philosophical principles of learning, such as the joys of intellectual challenge and the importance of academic honesty and rigor. Mostly, I’d like to apologize for being such a moronic half-wit. Boston Latin presented a pretty fantastic opportunity for learning, and even a half-assed attempt like mine still produced some pretty fine results, so, maybe I should be more grateful for what I received there.

But then, of course,  I remember that freakish, horrible statue and I decide I’m better off never thinking about that condescending, abusive hellhole ever again. DAMN THE MAN! AND DAMN THAT HORRIBLE WOLF!


Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Smart and Sassy Bloodsuckers « Weekly Shocks’ Blog pingbacked on 9 years ago


  1. * retrograde15 says:

    I can sympathise with a lot of this. Being ‘the boffin’ at primary school, the last thing you want to do is go to ‘the clever girls’ school’, because it makes Year 6 pretty much unbearable.

    But after a few years the wounds definitely do heal! I was less into the extra-curricular however, and more into doing as much music and drama as I could, and showing off my so-called creativity every step of the way. I completely get wanting to go back and apologise, especially to my teachers of the more academic subjects who I just dismissed as obsolete next to music.

    This made me laugh out loud – love the reference to The Man, and the (hopefully embellished) conversation sounds like a fairly realistic conversation to those with more pushy parents.

    Posted 9 years, 1 month ago
  2. * Sun Up says:

    That picture is BEYOND disturbing.

    Posted 9 years ago

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: