By Gena Oppenheim
Recently, at a dinner party, folks started confessing the most rebellious things they did in high school. While tales of streaking through assemblies and getting high on oregano in the lockeroom were unveiled, my palms began to sweat. The truth is, despite having grown up in New York City…I was a pretty tame teen. My parents, by having no real formal rules or curfews gave me only one real way to rebel: to be as straight laced as possible (way to go reverse psychology.) I’ll never forget one Friday night, when I was home editing my method acting zine, my father came over and put a post-it note in front of me featuring a giant square.
The next day, with the post-it note in my pocket, I decided I was gonna be like those girls on Degrassi High (while properly pronouncing the word, “drama” of course.) I attended a party. I danced (well I at least threw my arms up in the air when “Jump Around” came on.) And then I hung out on a street corner. At 10pm! It was on this said corner that someone saw that age-old teen magnet for mayhem: wet cement. Never mind that it was almost directly in front of our school, this was what John Hughes comedies were made of. Somehow a stick was procured and initials began to be drawn. When it was my turn, I took a deep breath and prepared to not be so square. I gingerly wrote my initials and high-fived my merry band of rebels.
That Monday people were chatting about how some kids scrawled their names in front of the church near school. Since it was in front of a place of worship, it seemed serious. I felt like I was going to throw up, so I did the natural rebellious thing: went to the principal, started to cry and before she had a chance to speak wailed, “I did it! I defaced sacrificial ground.” Thinking I was about to be suspended, I bowed down my head and waited for judgment. Instead, however, she looked at me a twinkle in her eye and said, “What are you talking about?
“I wrote my initials in the cement.”
“Where?” she asked gently. She pulled out a picture of the sidewalk. In all the adolescent scribbles one name was missing: mine. “But, I did it! I’m confessing.” She then took my hand, “I’m sure you did. But you only scratched the surface. You have to really dig in for a name to stick.” Needless to say I wasn’t suspended (nor was anyone else…my whole class got a talking to about respecting other people’s property.)
Maybe that’s why I’m a writer, I’m just always trying to dig in and make that square an octagon.
GENA OPPENHEIM Gena is a fourth generation New Yorker who teaches second-grade. She is a graduate of Barnard College, and received her MFA from NYU Tisch's Graduate Musical Theatre Writing Program. http://twitter.com/#!/genabeans