Social life, high school & college

One of the pervasive myths in our society is that high school is the pinnacle of social fun, surpassed only, of course, by college.    I hate it when people talk about the “good old days” when they were 17 and the world was their oyster.  They were in school and popular and apparently it doesn’t get any better than that.


High school social life?  Please.  I am soooo happy my kids won’t have to deal with all the nonsense that goes on in high school.   When you are that age and you are in it, it seems like everything.   Trying to impress some cute boy, trying to fit in, and trying to be an individual.   No pressure.

Whenever someone asks me if I worry about my kids’ social life (which is what they really mean when they talk about socialization) I think of the following two stories.

The first comes from high school, the second from college.

In high school, one of the most sought after boys was Kevin S.  (I am not changing, only shortening names.  If you’ve known me since high school this shouldn’t be too hard to figure out.  Due to the nature of the story I feel no need to protect the identity of those involved.)   He was a swimmer – a diver to be exact – and we all thought he was adorable.   One of my friends, Samantha, dated him for most of our Junior and part of our Senior year.   The school we attended was non-traditional, and we didn’t have classes all day.  During our free “mods” as they were called, we could spend time on an open resource floor, studying (or not studying, as was often the case).   Kevin, Samantha, another friend Alicia and I all had the same free mod at the end of the day, and would sit at a table together in Science resource.   Every other day for an entire year.

Remember that.  It’s important.

Cut to a few years ago, when the website made a splash.  Someone in our high school class sent me the link, and I signed up.  A few days later I got an email, and I saw that the name of the sender was Kevin S.!  Pretty cool, I thought.   I opened it up and the message read something like this:

“Hi Amy,   I saw that you joined the East Class of ’85 on, but I have no idea who you are, even after looking you up in the yearbook.   Regards, Kevin S.”

You’ve got to be kidding me.

Luckily he caught me in a good mood, and I laughed and wrote him back, asking did he remember Samantha?  Well I was one of her friends.  You sat at a table across from me for an entire year…?

So much for the importance of high school socialization.

The second story comes out of college.  My Freshman year our theater company put on a production of Tartuffe.   I played Marianne, and a girl named Lori P. played Elmire, Marianne’s mother.  Now, anyone who has ever been in theater knows that casts tend to get to know each other pretty well.  Hours of rehearsal, hours of staging, hours of performances.   Lori and I also did a Mask Improvisation class together.  We saw each other every day – she had a crush on my boyfriend at the time and we used to joke about it in the dressing room.

Then, a few years after Joshua and I got married, we were living on 21st St. in Chelsea.  I was walking home from our store one day and there, at a pizza place on 7th Avenue, sat Lori at a table with 3 other people.   I went in and approached them:


She looked up at me and her expression was blank.

“It’s Amy Brougher.  You and I acted together in Tartuffe?”

She broke out into a big smile, stood and hugged me, then pulled me down to sit on her lap.  (It was a very Lori kind of thing to do.  Very touchy feely.)   Then she turned to her friends and said:

“You guys, this is Amy. She is the daughter of my very first acting teacher!  We practically grew up together!”

Ummm, what? WHAT?  I was so astonished that I froze, smile on my face, sitting on her lap.  And said nothing.

The definition of awkward.

In lieu of any witty or clever way out of the situation due to the fact that my brain had basically stopped functioning,  I made some quick small talk and got out of there.  I wonder how long it took before it hit her who I really was.

It’s so great for your ego when people you spent hours and hours with have absolutely no memory of you a few years later.   Thank goodness for high school and college social life!

Truth be told I am in regular contact with no one from college – not one person – which I know is probably unusual.  I have two Facebook “friends” who were in college with me so I kind of know what’s going on with them, but we don’t see each other or talk (I don’t count Facebook updates as actual communication).

As for high school?  There are 4 people I talk to on a regular basis.   There were 731 people in my graduating class.

So am I concerned that my unschooled children will lack proper socialization?  Hardly.  There is an entire world full of people out there.

I’m sure we’ll find a few we like, even without school.

About Amy

Amy Milstein was born and raised on a farm in Indiana, but after 20+ years considers herself a full-fledged New Yorker. She is married with two kids, who do not go to school but are instead life learners. This means they learn by living in the world (real life ) instead of hearing about it and simulating it in a classroom. With her family, Amy loves to travel, read, watch movies, write, sew, knit - the list is endless.
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2 Responses to Social life, high school & college

  1. M says:

    One thing I know for sure, your teachers (and Doug’s too) NEVER have forgotten either of you and never fail to ask about you both. I had similar experiences with classmates, but a year out of school,my teachers looked at me blankly. Sigh. (LOL LOL).

  2. Jen says:

    I’m someone who is curious about unschooling, and in following a link to your website I clicked on this post. I think it is sad for those whose glory days are from high school, as it suggests that they failed to build a life with meaning. For a select few (the popular / beautiful / physically gifted) I can see how high school can seem like paradise if they went from being unique and sought after to being just one of the crowd amongst many.

    I completely agree that people we spend large amounts of time with can be forgotten about entirely or easily misremembered, as I have experienced being both the forgotten and the person who has forgotten. However, I don’t see the link to how this relates to socialization. There are thousands of people who will pass through our lives, hundreds (perhaps even thousands depending on our circumstances and how often they change) we will be ‘friends’ (or friendly acquaintances) for portions of time as we work or study together or pursue a same interest with others, and only a very small number that we will like so much or connect so deeply with that we will retain and pursue their friendship despite changes in the circumstances that brought us together.

    We can (and most likely will, particularly as children) be shaped, changed and ‘socialized’ by the people who are around us, whether they are there for a short time or a lifetime. For me, my children being well-socialized would mean that they would be skilled at engaging well in whatever social situation they find themselves (which would involve having the ability to ‘read’ the situation and the various social cues), and be able to effectively build, maintain / discontinue a variety of different kinds of healthy relationships as appropriate, and manage unhealthy ones thrust upon them by circumstances without losing their sense of self and while being able to maintain their values and treat others with respect regardless of whether they like or agree with them. This would involve being able to recognize when there is an inherent imbalance of power in a relationship, or when a situation engenders a relationship to become particularly intense and fun for a period of time but that it is unlikely to remain that way.

    In the first example, I suspect that Kevin’s attention was so focused on the fact that he was with his girlfriend, that whoever she brought with her was not registering half as much on his radar as she was. Presuming he was friendly and not inappropriate or rude in his treatment of you as a teenager, then he was likely far more important to your socialization than you were to him – you had an experience of being around and becoming comfortable with someone who was ‘sought after’ which provided you with a tangible experience of how even the popular / important / talented people are still just people. Regardless of whether he remembered you, he still contributed to your process of socialization as a teen. Which isn’t, of course, to say that school is the only place to find people we can admire / seek who may feel out of our league, but then we realise that they’re just another person, similar yet different to ourselves.

    In the second, you had a friend with whom to share the highs and lows of your theatre experience and who made that experience better. Plus, she sounds like a memorable character – not many people would have the courage to tell someone they had a crush on their boyfriend (and that would certainly make her memorable to me if I were you), fewer still would have anyone sit on their lap let alone someone they’d not at first recognized – and likely to be the type who attracts a lot of people and has scores of ‘friends’. While her misremembering you makes for an awkward encounter, it doesn’t demean or devalue the time that you spent together and her role in warm memories you have.

    In fact, part of the process of socialization is being able to recognize that sometimes people matter more to us than we to them. Or that someone who is highly memorable to us (for whatever reason) may not find us as highly memorable in return. That nothing is lost and much is gained from being open to having transient relationships with people. That a cute diver might not remember you years later, but it can still be fun to associate with him (as long as you’re not doing anything to compromise yourself in order to do so), and that you can have fabulous bonding experiences with people who may later get you confused with someone else, and that’s okay. In both instances I suspect it was better for you to have had those high school / university experiences than it was for you to study at a table on your own or keep it ‘strictly professional’ and not have fun chatting with Lori. Therefore, I perceive that the original experiences were positive socialization experiences, and you being able to find it funny that Kevin forgot you and being able to handle the restaurant scene with Lori without making it awkward for everyone suggests that you are actually well-socialized. You understand that these relationships had value at the time, but they do not define you now, and therefore it doesn’t really matter how or whether they remember you.

    I seem to have gotten a wee bit carried away in writing this! Sorry for leaving a reply that’s almost as long as your post!!! Especially a first-ever comment.