Yearbook Ruined Senior Year

I was thrilled to be the yearbook editor my senior year of high school, class of ’89, but it turned to total crap. Fortunately, watching my dad have my back rocked my senior year. Since then, I’ve lost sleep remembering regrettable yearbook signings. Thinking back, I understand where the snark came from and how to differentiate the hateful from the … nah, it’s all hateful.

Girl with long hair in profile in front of a school building with a man ominously perched on the roof

This photo was sent to me over Twitter as my 30th high school reunion approached. If you took it, let me know so I can credit you for my multitude of readers.

As the child of an English teacher turned speech language pathologist and a journalist turned lawyer, I knew good and well the difference between sweaty and sweetie. Unfortunately, having just moved and not all that thrilled about it, I signed many yearbooks in 7th grade, “Your such a sweatie.” Regrettable.

I learned that my peers weren’t all that clique-y and didn’t hold strong allegiances to popularity. Also, I wasn’t the only one with a twisted sense of humor. One friend signed my 9th grade yearbook, “I hope you get cancer and die.” He passed away shortly after high school, and I still think about him and his peace sign doodles.

In tenth grade I overheard someone say something about how the shiny leggings worn by a girl on the track team reminded him of a race horse. I copied that imagining down in someone’s yearbook without reflection on how it would feel for that girl to believe it was about her and not the shine of her pants. Regrettable. Fortunately, someone pointed out that was a jerk maneuver before I scrawled it in everyone’s yearbook. Also, I would soon receive my comeuppance.

My junior year, a friend and I drove around town soliciting yearbook ads. It was on one such trip that I had my first parking lot accident. I left a note. It’s a good thing too. Someone saw me scrape the side of a car and reported my tag to the police. The person whom I hit called my mother and said she was impressed with my honesty. If I were honest, the letter was pure panic. I wasn’t sure what to do, but didn’t want to hang around.

Senior year I thought I had it made. My ad buddy was the Assistant Editor, and I was the Editor. We drove around town taking photos of neon, we worked together on a style manual (stolen mostly from the editors the year before us) and we went to Topeka to visit the publisher. The new yearbook teacher did things differently and I was up for that, but I didn’t want to reassign everyone’s positions. We had section editors, copy editors, photographers and all that already set up and running. Things began to go downhill after that refusal.

It was our first year with desktop publishing. Previously we were typing things in triplicate, using cropping tools and wax pencils on photographs, and drafting on light tables. We only had two computers, and we shared them with the newspaper staff. I busied myself doing mock-ups, indexing and checking proofs to free up the computer. The teacher busted me from Editor-in-Chief to Managing Editor. I dealt with it. Then he told me I had to quit my speech class. Friggin’ kidding me?! I went to speech and the teacher asked me what was up with my face.

Is there anything worse than cry babying in a classroom of your peers? Holy embarrassment, Batman! The speech teacher said she would take care of it. The next thing I knew, I was kicked out of yearbook. Then I was forced back in, and it was horrid. The yearbook teacher took to regularly berating me in front of the class. By that time, I had become more of a flighter than a fighter. The speech teacher continued to advocate for me, but my father had to be called in because, really, did I need to change my schedule or what? Oh, and I eventually lost it on that pathetic excuse for a man in a burst of hot air that cleared the yearbook offices.

“What’s your problem?” The principal opened the meeting by addressing this question to me. I wasn’t aware that I had a problem and said as much, suggesting that she could address the same question to the yearbook teacher. My brain checked out after that because, as the least powerful person in the room, I got the feeling the meeting was not for my benefit. But then…

The yearbook teacher smugly listed my sins and shortcomings. As he got going, he pointed at me and said, “Listen hon-.”

“Hold on a second!” my father said, putting his hand out to lower the finger directed at my nose. “I’ll make you a deal. I won’t call you ‘asshole’ and you won’t call my daughter ‘hon’.” Oh, yes. My ears perked up. I hated the demeaning way this teacher spoke to me. My father explained to this man that “hon” is derogatory and sexist at best and indicative of an inappropriate relationship at worst. Then my dad asked for a five minute break.

Dad and I went into the teacher’s lounge where he lit up a cigarette. You could smoke anywhere you wanted at the time, so if you are keeping track, we worked on typewriters and smoked in public schools. “How are you feeling?” Dad asked. I high fived my champion. It was the best moment of my senior year.

I wish I could say things got better, but they didn’t. The teacher changed my name spelling in the mug shots. He tried to blame me by saying I didn’t do the copy editing. However, in the first place we had a copy editor and in the second place I had corrected it as part of the work I did indexing. Then he tried to pass it off as a joke because everyone finds pranks by a full-grown adult to belittle a child hilarious and endearing. Whatever. I only remembered it when my kids pulled out my yearbook.

What I did care about was owning a final copy of the yearbook. I presumed, for a variety of reasons, that I would receive a complementary copy. I didn’t, and it was humiliating to be accused of stealing. My friends took a collection and bought me one of the last copies. The major contributor was a good and generous friend, who also has since passed away.

I struggled my senior year, but yearbook is what ruined it.