Another installment of my embarrassing stories, told through audio!
Probably the day that I noticed something was up was when we had to demonstrate that the best way to listen was “to be like a ball, not a sponge or a wall” and I noticed my scene partner, who had recently been suspended for getting caught smoking, wasn’t taking it as seriously as I was. I think I might have thought he was just there for the food, which was usually better than the dining hall’s food. We also got caffeinated sodas, which were all but banned on campus, since we were living at high altitude and dehydration was taken very seriously.
There were definitely a few others who were as devoted as I was to Peer Counselors — or “Peer Ears,” as we called it. One was Jamie, the valedictorian, another was an opera singing major named Ashley who later came back to the school to work as an administrator, another was an interdisciplinary arts student from Japan who designed our club hoodies. One of them said “Our Ears Don’t Talk. They’re Here to Listen!” and the other said “We Listen to the Voice of Your Heart.” I wore mine at least once a week, but the thing is, I don’t think anybody ever once came to me for advice. Sometimes my friends would confide in me, but that was about it.
Not that we could ever even keep secrets at boarding school, anyway. Everyone gossiped at boarding school. At my public high school, if you asked someone what was going on with so-and-so, or why someone broke up with someone, you’d get told to mind your own business. But at Idyllwild, we all gossiped about everyone and everything. Maybe it was just because I had more friends there, but I think it was because we all lived together and we were all going to find out about everything, anyway. We knew when teachers were pregnant long before they announced it, we knew who secretly smoked or drank, who was cheating on whom. There just weren’t enough places to hide.
It was still nice to have a place to open up, though. Our school psychologist was a great guy, and I learned a lot about people I’d never really understood or never thought I could be friends with. We mostly talked about personal experiences with mental health and mental illness, but sometimes we’d submit anonymous suggestions for topics. One day the school psychologist announced that we would be talking about sex and relationships, and the girl whose suggestion it was immediately got flustered and said it was her idea, but that she hadn’t really thought we should talk about sex, she’d meant it as a joke. This was the same girl who wore a Neopets shirt sometimes, and when I asked her about it, always said, “Oh, I don’t know what it means, I got it at a thrift store.” Ironically cutesy T-shirts were something of a fad in those days, so it took me years to realize she had actually lied. I wonder what she would have said if I’d told her that I also played Neopets.
This is what I think about when people talk about having had sex in high school, by the way. I think about how I had Peer Ears and Neopets instead.
Stuff I Did This Week—uh, Month: Wow, it’s been a while, hasn’t it? There’s been a lot! First of all, if you missed it, I had a piece in The New York Times about Britney Spears and growing up in the public eye. Then I did interviews with NPR Weekend Edition and Christiane Amanpour about that article!
I also got to surprise Daisy Ridley, who is absolutely adorable and a HUGE fan of Matilda, on Comedy Central’s Stir Crazy!
On the podcast front, I was on Out with Suzi Ruffell, who was absolutely lovely. I’m also going to be on the fantastic American Hysteria (talking about my life and my article and moral panics) and the equally fantastic Low Culture Boil podcast (talking about groupie memoirs?!) very soon!
Fake BBC Show of the Week: Stuff It, Simon! (From the people who brought you Up Your Arse, Alistair!)