High School did not have to be a cesspool. It was a mistake my parents had made by moving us from a university town, where I fit in somewhat, to a suburb where most of the kids were Whiskey Tango. Some of them were jocks. In other words, it was Dumb Fuck USA. Then there were the Jewish kids. They weren’t nice to me, because I wasn’t Jewish (then, since I actually converted later), but they comprised the only smart student body there. But even though we had classes together, like AP English, I was not one of them, and they were not going to talk to me either. Some of them were so cruel to me, I couldn’t understand it. But so were the non-Jewish kids too, at times. I was physically attractive (although I did not think so, but I knew I didn’t have a physical defect, other than wild hair), deep down, I mistakenly attributed it to my own social deficits, rather than to the environment.
It wasn’t all my fault that I didn’t fit into this school. My parents were not from this background themselves. My father was an attorney, and he had gone to one of the best public high schools in the US where they made you study Latin, then law school at one of the finest public universities. He had almost no books in the house but you can see where I’m going with this. They were WASPS, a middle upper middle class income and upward aspirations.My mother was getting a PhD. She had something of a background, too: Her mother also gone to college (in the 1930s, very rare), and her mother, too (attended college, around 1910, then part of literary society).My father’s grandmother had also gone to college (in the 1900s–and graduate school, in the 1900s or 1910s.). All of this was highly unusual for any family. I was brought up to be very polite, and because I was afraid of my father, I was quiet, gentle, girlish, well spoken, and diffident. These qualities though were not going to play well in this town. They were not qualities that marked you for survival of the fittest.
This was not to say that my parents were exotic or interesting, even though they were educated. They were conventional without any signs of eccentricity. They were not intellectuals. Far from it. My father read airport thrillers. He was not intellectual material and neither was my mother. This also made me confused sometimes, because it was difficult to understand how people with such relatives and experiences could end up this way. We had eccentric relatives though.
Stained glass artists, newspaper reporters, Hollywood make up artists, NASA rocket scientists, eccentric meteorologists and CIA operatives. Those were some of our relatives. Sometimes I felt like I had not only been accidentally dumped in the wrong town but that I was also an orphan. Somehow I did not feel, even as a child, like I belonged where I was. Many people say this, but this was not just a matter of looks or interests. I was fundamentally different from them. I understood later, on a mystical level, why. At the time it was just mass confusion. I was a kid, I understood little of why things were the way they were, but I accepted it, understood that you just had to live in that sort of haze, because my parents never would have had those discussions or answered my questions. The only other choice was running away and I was already wise, thanks to a made for TV movie about teenage runaway prostitutes, that that was how you would probably end up.
There was no hope, I realized, after my parents moved us to that house. We lived here. It was my bad luck and it was not going to work. My parents had failed to notice that they had moved us to a place where we were uncommon in our surroundings which would be a good indicator that I would not fit into the schools. I was some kind of an artist. This was probably clear from the only time I remembered being punished: drawing with marker on my bedspread. The other portent was a ventriloquist dummy I had in the attic. I was disappointed by him because he didn’t have moving blinkers so I left him alone. But these were the things I liked as a child, drawing and magic, theater and ventriloquism. They might as well have dumped me in the Sinai desert.