So last week I was talking to my father about my upcoming high school reunion. He, as I knew he would, recounted stories from his high school reunion (Class of 1842) One of his favorite stories, and I know it's his favorite because the details are remarkably similar with every telling, involves the moment when, many years after high school, he came face to face with The Girl. You all remember The Girl. She has attended every high school, in every class, ever since girls were allowed out of the kitchen and into the school room, thus altering the course of formal education forever by reducing it to a convenient excuse to spend time in close proximity with prospective dates. (See also: The Boy.)
Dad has often told the story of how he admired, from a distance of course (Dad has always had a very healthy sense of self-preservation) The Girl. He tells how he used to wish he could have dated her. Or even been able to command the English language long enough to introduce himself. But being a member of a long and proud line of absurdly shy people, he knew that if he were to speak to her he would, of course, burst into flames.
Years later at his reunion, he threw caution, not to mention pyrophobia, to the wind and actually spoke to her. With words. Out loud. And the result was positively mind-boggling. Dad summoned the courage to confess that he'd wanted to ask her out way back when. Her response? "Oh, I wish you had. I never went to a single dance in high school because everyone assumed I already had a date, and I was too shy to let you know I was interested."
I know. I was shocked too. Who knew they had dancing back then?
Anyway, like I said, I've heard this story many times. Dad used to bring this story up every time my high school had a dance and I was spending the evening hanging out with my likewise dateless friends. So, yeah, I heard it pretty much every weekend. It was sweet, I suppose, for Dad to try to make me believe that the only reason I wasn't at the dance was because everyone assumed I was too cool to go with them. Delusional, sure, but sweet. Still I knew the truth. I knew that all The Girls from my class were going to every dance, every party and living every day as if it were the Prom. Well, maybe not every day. I'm sure they had bad days, too. You know. Days they lived as if it were just Homecoming.
So imagine my suprise, (suprise, shock, whatever) to learn recently that some of The Girls at my school did NOT, in fact, attend every dance. Some of these girls are now, after lo, these many years, even claiming to have been SHY. Really. They are.
I'm finding this somewhat difficult to believe in some cases. Consider, for example, the girl who was not only beautiful and popular but she was skilled athletically as well. That's right. She played sports. In public. Wearing a sports uniform. In front of everyone. Shy? Seriously?
Or? OR? The girl who was so beautiful and smart and, let's say it together: popular that I used to wonder what it would be like to just live one day in her world? Turns out? She thinks she was shy, too!
It doesn't end there. There are GUYS from my class who are now saying that THEY were shy! Guys who inspired many a daydream in many a female mind, guys who were cute, hilarious, smart, athletic...and...shy?
Clearly they have no idea what "shy" means, because if they really thought they were shy, well, they were doing it wrong.
Of course, I'm willing to concede that they may have, for whatever reason, believed they were shy. And perception is the stuff of which certain realities are made. But still. Were they really that shy? If so, what would High School life have been like if I had only known then what I know now? I mean, besides the fact that I wouldn't EVER use calculus again once finals were over? (Seriously, not once.) How would life have been if I had known that they might have burst into flames at the thoughts of speaking to other people? Besides smoky and hot, I mean.
I guess I'll never really know. I have decided one thing, though:
Perception is a powerful, powerful thing.
It is also highly unreliable.