Megan's Head

A place where Megan gets off her head.

The Haunting of KDHS

I suppose it was bound to happen. Someone was bound to decide to start the KDHS matriculating group of 1982 on facebook and I would end up on it. And that would be the beginning of me starting to have to think about high school, and in my case, how much I hated it.

102 people (so far) out of about 200 have been joined, and as could be expected from a Jewish South African class that graduated in the terrible early 80’s, the spread around the usual places in Jewish diaspora is wide, with only a handful of us still back at home. (The irony is not lost on me that most immigrating Jews felt like staying here was the soft, comfortable option!)

I need to be honest. I remember as little as 20 names as people with faces, personalities and substance. Most are so vague that I can barely attach them to a face, especially one that is 30 years older. And while I am interested in some of the people individually, and even made facebook friends with them before the group, especially ancient primary school ones, I find that, mostly, I am conjuring up horrible memories of school. Two nights ago I had one of those ‘back to school’ nightmares, in which old faces from my school past are back to make my life miserable, and I can’t find the maths classroom, ever.

I am momentarily, at the age of 46, finding myself having those totally rebel moments. I want to wear the black arm band that we wore (Karen Zwi, I remember you in particular) when Neil Agget died in detention. I want to smoke cigarettes in the downstairs girls’ toilets (even though I haven’t smoked for 10 years). I want to sing anti government songs, write bleak death poetry and beat up the boys who beat us up (and lied). I am terrified to find out what most of my old classmates think and feel now, because my instincts tell me that while we  have turned almost middle aged many of them have stayed as conservative (if not become more so) then they were.

I find myself reliving those disappointments and injustices again. I find myself remembering the frustrations of being a young thinker in a tank full of rules. I find myself remembering the hurts felt by me and others, and really not enjoying those memories at all. I find myself thinking with shame about some of the childish, insensitive hurts I caused.

And I am shocked at how deep those wounds go, and that I still feel them.

So, when lots of people in the facebook group suggest a class reunion, I swallow bile and my palms sweat. I experience a kind of fear that I do not normally feel in my life (even though I still live in South Africa). The weird thing is, I have done what I consider to be really well in my life. I live well, work at what I love, have a beautiful long term relationship and joyous friendships. I am mostly proud of myself. Except when I think about school. So, King David High School, and those that were with me, this is my honest response.

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3 Comments

  1. It all sounds so dreadfully familiar. The thing with “those schools” (and anyone who went to one knows which ones I mean) is that they set up a cut-throat competitiveness around Achievement and Success.

    Now that Facebook has more or less hijacked the friendlier agenda of “let’s catch up/track down old friends/finish unfinished business/stalk each other/sleep together”, high school reunions are just really an excuse for a bit of a personal judgement fest.

    You (could,maybe – nah – would, probably) get judged by your degrees; by your income; by how you’ve aged (which might translate to: how close you look to Botoxed – but – without looking Botoxed); by your prominence in the media (or lack of it); by whether you’ve jumped the hoop of Marriage & 2 kids; by whether you’ve dodged the bullets of divorce and personal tragedy. It varies. A friend of mine was once asked: “What are you – married, seeing someone, or nothing?”

    Not everyone does it, of course. Many will just shuffle in with the same complacent, dutiful attendance that filled classrooms. Some may be lovely and genuinely interested and genuinely interesting. Some may surprise you. But I’m still not sure I’d go.

  2. Avril Klatzkin Notelovitz

    I read all the above posts and wonder about why I thought that everyone was popular, loved , smart and happy. And I was the ONLY one who wasnt? Are you Megan Choritz? You write with insight and provoke lots of thoughts on high school. I found it as stressful as you did!

  3. megan

    I was Megan Choritz (and still use that for my writing and theatre although Furniss is much easier, sexier and not Jewish!) Avril, when I look at that pic of us in the boys’ uniforms I end up seeing beyond that moment and how darkly things turned out that day. Do you remember? I was popular and smart, but not happy at school. I often wonder why I can’t just remember the good stuff.

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