Patty Unleashed: 8.10.16
Where did you go to high school? Yes, that question—the one that seems bizarre to people who have not grown up in St. Louis, and in many ways off-putting to those who did. Am I being asked that so people can judge where I grew up? If my family has dough? What my religion is? I’d like to say I am too refined/special/sophisticated to ask that question, but I’m not. I love the connections I made in high school, and there is nothing better than meeting someone who graduated from the same place as you. So, what is it about the friends we make in high school? Why are they the ones who seem to always turn up right when you need them? Is it because they knew us as the gangly, stupid teenagers we were at 13?
Like many St. Louisans, I attended a single-sex school, Nerinx Hall. In the 1970s, it was recovering from a scandal: activist nuns who protested the Vietnam War. Let me just say that by today’s standards, no one would even notice, but in those days, it drove down attendance. As a result, class sizes were small and the school had the reputation of being a place that educated strong, liberal-minded, empowered, young women. Not necessarily what many parents wanted in the ’70s. I am ever so grateful my parents did. The school itself is not all that pretty. It does not sit on rolling hills or have beautiful buildings. It is a single-story, sprawling building that looks ‘sturdy’ both inside and out. It still graduates smart, empowered women, many more than when I was there. I took a tour recently and they’ve made many improvements. But the reality is, it will always be a little ugly, which makes it perfect: Education has nothing to do with the building and everything to do with the people inside it.
On a recent Wednesday night I had dinner with two high school friends, Odean and Beth, from the class of ‘78. The topics ranged from our families to a symposium Odean just coordinated to how to track down (stalk) a former classmate. Each subject was discussed with the same amount of gravitas as the next. Yes, in reality Odean’s work was probably more important than our stalking efforts, but not at that table. For 2 ½ hours, I felt like I was 16 again.
So is that what it is, the reason we hold onto our high school days? Because for a little bit of time we can escape our responsibilities? Or is it because these high school friends remember the way we were and have such low expectations of us that we feel no pressure to be anything but ourselves? Regardless, I am proud to answer the question, where’d you go to high school? And happy that our alumna include a well-known scientist, an Olympian, a sitcom star, a Real Housewife of Orange County, tons of doctors, lawyers, businesswomen, stay- at- home moms and a humor columnist. Probably just like your high school.
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