Dear “The Loved Ones”: High School is Hard Enough (Mitt Romney, I’m looking at you)

14 May

Some things about this trailer are perfect. The music in the first 30 seconds, the boys’ unwashed hair, the way conversations about prom happen at lockers (I got asked to prom standing at my locker wearing an old sweatshirt, and no, there wasn’t a speech prepared, there weren’t flowers or a sign, I knew he was asking me in a half-panic after his first choice had said yes to someone else during lunch).

You know what else is perfect? The fact that Holly looks about 10 years older than her boyfriend Brendan. Eighteen-year-old boys are BABIES, you guys. Are they not drinking milk? Because the hormones in milk are not doing to boys what they’re doing to girls.

And then at 1:28, fake-Lena-Dunham goes all American psycho on her crush! Watch:

THE BRITISH ACCENT. THE “SUCK IT” FINGER. THE HAMMERED TOE. The conjunctivitis eyeliner. And then, because they couldn’t resist, they threw in the girlfight in the prom dresses. Special to Adam Best of Flicksided: while I buy the Texas Chainsaw Massacre reference, I somehow really doubt this ever “meets Sixteen Candles.”

How does this end? My prom night ended when we got kicked out of the hotel room where we weren’t even drinking (and not planning to stay the night, it was just a party thrown by my date’s first choice) and went for pancakes at IHOP and then I was dropped off at a very respectable hour. No one that I was close to lost anything that night– not toenails, nor virginity, nor sense of humanity. Maybe an earring.

What’s with this prom-horror genre? Do we have such a strong sense of prom as an American rite of passage that we’re all, “If they can ruin PROM, then nothing’s sacred?”

Please.

Read on to see how I magically work this around to Mitt Romney and Barack Obama’s childhood bullying and what it means for America: 

Even at the time, I knew prom was a bust. In fact, I don’t know a single person who pinned hopes– romantic or transformational or even sexual– on prom. We were all such a clusterf*** of having dated each other and broken up with each other and made out with each other and fought with each other and ignored each other and asked random people and prom was scheduled a month before graduation, so we’d all have to see each other in the halls for another four weeksmy god, a lifetime…

Overall, very anticlimactic.

Which is fine. By the time high school’s over, you all should be trying to get out of there with minimal damage inflicted to yourself or to others. You should all smile and hug your tormenters at graduation, and sign everyone’s yearbook with “keep in touch”— except do kids even bother to do that now, what with FB? Or is it all, “FB me, bizatch!”

But we don’t forget our tormentors, and it can be hard to forgive ourselves, and maybe we shouldn’t. Mitt Romney shouldn’t have forgotten what he did, and while the furor in this week’s news over his high school cruelties may seem overblown, it isn’t. It says something about his moral compass. (I like a strong one in my leaders, personally, particularly those given control of a gazillion dollar military industry. It’s a quirk of mine.) Steve Almond makes an elegant and heartwrenching argument for why childhood cruelties matter into adulthood in this essay: “That’s how adolescence works. It’s a place of tremendous pain and recklessness, a place where you have to pretend not to care about anyone or anything too much because to do so would release the chaos of your actual self into the world.” That doesn’t mean we don’t care. It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t face consequences, even if those are only guilt and shame, visited upon us later. Go read it.

Did you hear? Barack Obama was also a “terrible grade school bully”— only, his crime seems pretty innocent compared to Mitt Romney’s. He was younger and physically, it includes nothing more than a slight shove. But you know what really matters? Obama’s wasn’t dragged out when reporters interviewed classmates. He put this story in his memoirs. Because he remembers it. He hasn’t forgotten it. Like Steve Almond, he knows it was a moment when his humanity fails him, and he holds it up to the light, and he examines it, and he expresses remorse.

Eighteen-year-old boys may LOOK like babies, you guys, but they’re not. They’re practicing adults and they are by turns terrified and weak and not strong enough to stand up to their friends when their friends are doing wrong and also strong enough to lead sports teams into championships and be incredibly, fascinatingly loyal to their girlfriends, boyfriends, friends, and families, and strong enough to fall in love and they’ve been deemed strong enough to go to war.

And teenage girls, well, that’s one of the most terrifying demographics on the planet.

And we may have been children, or near-adults, or in some liminal space between the two, but that doesn’t mean we have forgotten or even that we should assume forgiveness. Witnessing is all about remembering, and being brave enough to look what was done or not done squarely in the eye and admit that was a part of our life. It isn’t separate. It isn’t contained by graduation. It goes on and on.

So maybe don’t kidnap your prom date, tie him to a chair, and torture him with a drill.

MM

PS– Why is this movie called The Loved Ones? I mean, super Biblical, right? What is that?

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2 Responses to “Dear “The Loved Ones”: High School is Hard Enough (Mitt Romney, I’m looking at you)”

  1. Ryan A Forsythe 16 May 2012 at 9:12 pm #

    “By the time high school’s over, you all should be trying to get out of there with minimal damage inflicted to yourself or to others.”
    –Are you sure you didn’t mean “by the time grad school’s over”?

    Also, I agree the 16 Candles doesn’t fit, but what would be a better comp.? ‘Saw’ meets ‘Pretty in Pink’? ‘Misery’ meets ‘Footloose’? This requires careful consideration.

    • MM 16 May 2012 at 10:25 pm #

      I probably meant by the time anything’s over: camp, contract employment, prison sentence, grad school (I listed those by ascending entrapment, can you tell?)

      I probably would have gone for the prequel to grosse point blank meets…

      Actually, I’m just going to stop there and say someone should definitely make the prequel to grosse point blank.

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