Thursday, November 29, 2012

17 Again

Just like Matthew Perry!*

As those of you who read regularly may recall, I am a mentor for a young, gifted, and a black high-school student at my alma mater. I started last year, and even though she and I hadn't spoken in, like 6 months, I think our bond is strong and relentless, like James. Last night was the mentor-mentee meeting, which was way later this year because of Hurricane Sandy. Seeing as it's practically December, I missed the chance to talk to her about college choices, but we met up before the meeting to catch up on life. 

And I discovered that I'm basically still a teenager. I walked into the school and felt like I'd stepped into a bizarro world--everything looked the same but also didn't, you know? All high-tech, with the student and faculty key cards and flatscreen TV announcing the day's events and lunch! But I did instantly feel poor and chubby, and I think I suffered a quick bout of anorexia when I first crossed the threshold, so it was sorta like old times. Before my mentee arrived, I did run into a former classmate who was now working there as an art teacher. In the first of what would be 5 catch-up conversations with classmates, I realized that I've pretty much blocked middle school/high school out with the permanence of a Vietnam vet. But what makes it weird is that I was very active in school and well-liked, so when I see alums, they don't really get why I'm not particularly interested in reminiscing. 

It's also cause they're almost all lawyers or work in finance. They live the kind of lives one would expect after attending one of the best schools in the country, and then some of the best colleges in the country. 

I work at a magazine. It's about art. 

But what felt most uncomfortable was that I was the only adult at the dinner who was dressed like the students. I felt the self-consciousness that plagued me in the 90s (and was briefly mollified by Lisa Loeb and Ani Difranco), and wondered if I deserved to be there. As I approach 30 (in a year and a week, but still) and assume the role of "mentor" in a young woman's life, I think I should probably have sensible eating habits, money for dreams, and.... my shit together, right? Alas, no. 

When we got to the location of the dinner, one of the admins introduced me to senior boy who was applying to colleges. 

"Do you have any advice for him?" She asked expectantly, as he stood next her awkwardly tall. 

Without really thinking, I said, "Don't fuck it up."


I mean, what else is there--lord knows I don't have the answers!

But really, it was a nice evening. I got to talk to friends I hadn't seen since graduating, and we all marveled at the changes in the school. (They have Women of Color and Men of Color clubs now! And Asian Cultural Society! And LGBTQ club! And Ujamaa! Y'all, back in my day the only "women of color" club we had was the cheerleading squad, the members of which were all black, plus one white girl who had rhythm!) My mentee also told me about a trip she took to Europe in the spring, and it was kinda heartwarming and magical to hear a young blacktress squeal with excitement over the first realization that she was beautiful. I don't know how many of you have traveled while brown inside Caucasia, but there really is nothing like the boost you get when you're a young traveler in a land where everyone's down with the brown. I'm glad she found out when she was young, so she can go to college with confidence and not settle for less! My high-school themed evening continued into this morning, when I went to the dentist to get fitted for a new retainer--or I guess, to be specific, it's a night guard. 

Because, you know, I'm winning. 

I must say, though, I love having a mentee--aka a constant reminder of how far I've come. Plus, she gets all of my jokes, which is pretty great. But does that mean I'm really immature or just a crossover sensation?

*Speaking of Perry--talk about a comeback kid, am I right? His show Go On is nailing it!!!! I think what I love most is that the lead blacktor from Everybody Hates Chris is a series regular. He's on his way to being the black Neil Patrick Harris.

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