Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Rank Secret

We all have something in our past we like to hide. Something that we would prefer people never find out about. I have a secret from high school that I jealously guard, making sure that friends, coworkers, and particularly employers never find out.

I was my high school Valedictorian.

I had a class rank of 1 out of 1,048.

How it happened is a complete fluke. Like many places, my high school gives bonus points on the grade point average for taking advanced or honors classes. This makes the perfect 4.0 GPA just a starting point. Then it becomes a matter of collecting as much honor credit as possible.

At my high school, class rank was based on semester grades from ninth grade through the first semester of the senior year. What grades you got the second semester senior year counted for bupkis. As we were making out our schedules for the senior year, my girlfriend and future wife noticed that I had signed up to take Psychology first semester and Philosophy second semester. She suggested I flip them since Philosophy was an honors course and would inflate my GPA just that much more. I rolled my eyes, but in a harbinger of the habits that would make marital bliss that much more likely, I took her advice.

That fall I had a course in Problems In American Democracy aka Americanism Vs. Communism aka Civics (honors level, natch) with the over-achieving Class President. About the second week, he started quizzing me about my transcript. He was surveying a short list of top students to see who was in the running to beat him for Valedictorian. Most students had no clue what their real weighted GPA was or how to calculate it. The actual formula for adding the honors credit was extremely arcane and only about three people in the school really understood it: the head guidance counselor, the class president, and me.

By the end of the semester, the Class President had the whole race handicapped and it was mine to lose. By getting all A’s I finished with a GPA of 4.451 and beat the Golf Team Captain by a margin of 0.004 grade points. And it was all due to the philosophy class bonus points. The Class President landed a distant third and out of the money.

Why do I bring this up now, particularly since I have been close-mouthed on the topic for so many years? This weekend I am going to my 25th anniversary class reunion and everybody there will remember that I was the Valedictorian. Just like everybody remembers the SGA President, the Prom Queen, and the Football Star. I’m a cliché out of a John Hughes movie.

Don’t get me wrong. I love class reunions. I have been to my 5th, 10th, and 20th. I like seeing people I haven’t heard from in five or ten years. I enjoy finding out who has gotten married, divorced, had kids, lost weight, gained weight, gone blonde, and so on. The career vectors of my classmates are fascinating. We have a disproportionate surfeit of lawyers. Some of the biggest stoners are now medical doctors. The bubbly blondes all went into public relations. Class reunions are great studies in group dynamics.

At the five year reunion, the Golf Team President got very drunk and expressed how pissed he was when I, a transfer student, showed up out of nowhere and sniped what he had worked so hard for by making him settle for Salutatorian. If I had known it meant so much to him, I might have let him have it. Particularly since I did so little with it. I got to give a speech which I made just edgy enough to wake up some of the school administrators, but that was the one perk of the honor. By the point that class rank is announced, college acceptances were already in the mail and scholarships had all been awarded. It was a brief moment of glory I have been living down ever since.

Now you know my secret. As time passes, it becomes even less relevant. For just one weekend I will be again wearing that metaphorical mortarboard and living down my past. Wish me luck. I will report back with all the juicy gossip.

BlatantCommentWhoring™: Do you go to class reunions, and do you enjoy them?


Mooselet said...

First off, I want to hear the speech.

My 20th reunion is this year and owing mostly to distance I won't be going. I'm not sure if I would go even if I still lived nearby - high school was not a happy time for me.

Anonymous said...

I didn't have much fun in high school either. I wasn't picked on too much; mostly, I was just ignored, and didn't have much of a social life for the first three years. I had gone to a gifted and talented elementary school, which meant that I was a year advanced in many subjects, so many of my classes as a freshman were with sophomores who had already bonded with each other, setting the stage for my isolation. My senior year I forged a few close friendships and actually started dating someone (who went to a different school), but I still kept thinking about how great it would be to get out -- and when I got to college, I discovered was rigther than even I had imagined. I was one of those kids who really blossomed socially at college, and halfway through my first semester there I was thinking of high school as a bad dream.

Still, I have idle curiosity about the people I went to high school with, and like most people with an Internet connection and too much free time, I signed up with Classmates in 1999 or 2000. That's no doubt how they got my e-mail info. In 2002, I got an e-mail from Brad and Tava, who had been the power couple in high school and who, hilariously to me, now were apparently the co-organizers of our 10th reunion. Were they still together, or did they feel that their social standing in high school demanded that they put aside their history and take this leadership role? I had no real desire to go, and since I was living in Germany at the time it would have been logistically difficult anyway, but my then-girlfriend had just gotten through her reunion year, and she assured me that the group e-mails that went around during the organizational stages were both informative and amusing, so I replied and asked them to keep me in the loop.

I never heard back from them.

Man, even now, that still stings in ways that kind of embarass me. I mean, come on! How can the cool kids maintain there place in the social heirarchy if there aren't any uncool kids to look down on? The whole structure of coolness at the reunion must have been hopelessly unbalanced!

Reading this made me realize that this summer will/would be my 15th reunion. I haven't heard anything, but I've also changed email addresses a couple of times in the last five years, so it's possible I just missed the note. Again, I wouldn't really want to go. Besides, I've already had the sort of triumphant experience that I would have dreamed about for my reunion anyway. The summer after I graduated from my Ivy League college, I was at a shoe store in my hometown and the salesman was one of those one-year-older-than-me kids from my freshman English class, who really had been actively mean to me. He was living at home with his parents still, selling shoes at the mall, and acted like we had been friends. I wasn't even too smug -- not openly, at least.

Jamy said...

I don't go because I don't have any to attend. I didn't go to high school--I was in a special program where I entered college when I was 14 (my 9th grade year). There was a year of "transition school," then full-time college the next year (what would have been the 10th grade). So, no high school reunion. In the Early Entrance Program, friendships easily crossed entry year and since some people finished college in three years and other in five (me!), there is nothing to peg a reunion to. They did have an "all-year" reunion once and I attended. Oh, and there is an "EEP" group on Facebook, which I joined. I'm the oldest member by far.

Thumper said...

We went to our 10 year was okay. I don't look forward to them the other people do. Our 30 year is coming up in a couple of years and I don't really want to go, but the Spouse Thingy does.

I have to admit, I could not tell you who our valedictorian was. I know the Spouse Thingy graduated 5th and I gradtuated 18th, but that's it. And I only know that because it was on our transcripts.

Jeff and Charli Lee said...

How is it possible to comment on anything but the OSHA approved eye protection you were wearing? Were you concerned that those jealous classmates would hurl eye-piercing spitballs at you?

Of course I'm qualified to jest because mine were just as huge. ONLY - mine had the distinction of being two-toned. Yes, that's correct. Dark brown on top and light brown on the bottom. It just didn't get any hipper than that.

The Mistress of the Dark said...

They would have to pay me large sums of money to go to my class reunion. I skipped out on my 10 year...and will skip out of the rest too. My high school years were in no way the best of my life.

Anonymous said...

5 year reunion - I think that's just silly (my class had one - I did not go). I didn't go to a reunion till the 20th, and then only because my best friends talked me into it. It was ok, and I've gone to a couple more, but they were pretty boring for me.


2fs said...

I went to my 20th (that would be in 2000, for those of you wanting to be younger than I am). It was interesting, for the very reasons you note: if I hadn't known, I'd've guessed the people in the room ranged in age from their early 30s to their early 50s (when, of course, everyone was 38 or so - spouses excepted). I would have gone to the 25th, but it wasn't a full-fledged reunion: more a small group of a particular crowd meeting at a park or something. If my class gets it together and has a 30th, I'll go.

Note: wasn't terribly popular in high school, although I had my group of friends. Curiously, if I'd've been single at the 20th, there was a definite vibe from at least one person there that that needn't have continued, at least for that evening...

Elizabeth said...

In our school people wanted to know who the Valedictorian and Salutatorian would be, but they also wanted to know who got ranked 69th. That honor was bestowed on me. I'm so proud.

HRH Courtney, Queen of Everything said...

I went to 10. I'll probably go to 20. I was 10th in my class, fyi.

yellojkt said...

Those are huge goggles I have on. I went to tinted lenses in college. Check out my wedding pictures for a gander at those.

A fifth reunion was kinda silly.

The now-divorced power couple ostensibly plan the reunion, but that mostly means hiring the company.

Cedar said...

You know, I didn't particularly like HS that much, and everyone I knew kept telling me, "Wait until you get to college. Everything will be different in college!" and, I don't know--things were kinda the same in college. People were assholes. People were obsessed with being cool. Being smart was looked down upon (unless it was for the purpose of trying to impress somebody). My Sig O and I went to the same college, altho we didn't know each other or run with the same crowds (we met after he graduated). He had an awesome time at our school (probably because he wasn't as obsessed with grades as I was, and he did a lot of drugs), and truly doesn't understand my unhappiness when I think about college. We're getting married this summer, and he wants to invite a bunch of friends of his from college, including a number of people I loathed generally because of their smug, obnoxious, peer-pressure hipster attitudes, and a few specifically because they did something mean to me.

I thought I was miserable in HS, but looking back on it, it wasn't that bad, especially my senior year. At the time, I would have said no way to attending a reunion, but now I think it would be fun.

Anonymous said...

1,048 individual people? That's an amazingly huge class size. And a pretty impressive feat to be the toppermost. Truly. I had a different experience. I was in a class of 98 and I was the leading dude through junior year, but I actually threw the top spot...if you can believe it...for a girl. The younger sister of the guy who actually became the top dog begged me to take the fall because as top dog he would receive a scholarship to RPI and I wasn't interested in going there. He was. So I dropped a few tests in Calculus and that brought my average down just enough to allow him to pass. True story. He went to RPI, and I dated his sister, didn't make a damn bit of difference in the world. It was cool to have such complete power over destiny.

Anonymous said...

I always thought that the biggest perk to being Valedictorian would be could say you were Valedictorian. I'm kind of glad to see I was right.

Our class doesn't do reunions on the "five" years. I was looking forward to going to both #10 and #20, and then as each one approached something happened and my life turned to hell for awhile, which made the idea of going just uncomfortable. If only they did the damned fives, I'd be in good shape!

trusty getto said...

Ha! I was a lame 14/440. But, I'm somehow not surprised that you were Valedictorian.

Not only did I attend my 20th reunion, but I also posted on it :)

A late congrats to you, then, matey!