Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Never Been Fingered

… By a cop, I mean, in the sense of being accused of committing a crime. What did you think I meant? Oh, get your mind out of the gutter.

When I discuss the town I grew up in, I often call it strange. Upon thinking about it, however, I realize that it’s actually no more unusual than dozens of other towns like it throughout the country. (A comparison I made it high school — “a Haddonfield or Woodsboro or Springwood without the body count” — still holds true today.) However, the fact that my town is overall as exciting as a cardboard box doesn’t mean that interesting, noteworthy and occasionally downright cinematic-seeming events didn’t happen there. (Cinematic, for me, is the pinnacle of interesting. My most of my interesting days are like The Matrix meets North by Northwest. I’m super fascinating.)

Yesterday, I remembered that my high school hosted a real-life version of the 1999 Drew Barrymore movie Never Been Kissed, only refracted through the lens of my hometown and therefore transformed into something both worse and funnier. (If you must know, the memory jogger was watching Eyes Wide Shut and wondering why and when Leelee Sobieski had ever made it into the public eye aside from looking like the lovechild of Jodie Foster and Helen Hunt, which is to say a clone of Jodie Foster.) I believe it was my junior year. Picture it: me more awkward, the world a little more hopeful, and everything, everything being set to The Dandy Warhols’ “Bohemian Like You.” I think we all heard either during or after lunch that something big (by our school’s standard) had gone down. I guess it was a big deal. A girl who most of my friends had never heard of and who had only recently transferred into the school had turned out to be an undercover cop who posed as a teenager in order to infiltrate high school drug circles and arrest drug-users and dealers. A few kids got expelled. Most of them were girls, if I remember correctly. The ones I knew didn’t seem especially druggy — or at least no more so than anyone else. I had gone to lower school with one of them. I don’t know what happened to her.

this may or may not be an accurate representation of the cop

Though my town is fairly small, its one high school is not, so I never had any first-hand interaction with this girl. She was only placed in non-honors classes, which tells a lot about how cops and school admins think high school drug use goes down. But it was all anyone talked about — at least for a week or until a good movie came out — and I got bits and pieces. Her name was Crystal or possibly Chrystal. I prefer the latter. A Chrystal not only does drugs but her parents also do and probably did during the period in which they named her. Potdealers, you can trust Chrystal. For all I know, that could have been the woman’s real name, but I’d like to think it was a crucial detail in the construction of the fictional student.

My Spanish teacher had Chrystal in one of her classes and I remember her saying that the big reveal made sense in the end, because “she was a terrible student who never did her homework.” (Then shouldn’t we all have been undercover cops, Senora Miller?) And in that sense, Chrystal’s job sounded like the best one ever: Go to school, fake being a student, mouth off to the teacher to create a badass image, never do homework and ultimately hang out with the cool kids.

I remember one girl — an actual pothead who escaped the sting — who had a class with Chrystal. She recalled Chrystal as seeming strange. After the fact, it was clear that Chrystal was trying to create a “bad girl” rep and therefore attempted to dress the part, only her efforts missed the mark and what should have been “tough girl” ended up reading as “lesbian.” And that’s kind of hilarious, especially given Chrystal’s mission to break into social cliques in a small town and only causing lady pothead types to say “Let’s not invite that new lesbian chick to our reefer party. I think she wants to jump my bones.”

Beyond all that, I was struck by the fact that this Chrystal, while being an adult only posing as a teenager for law enforcement purposes, had essentially done the bitchiest, evilest, most high-school-girl thing ever: won people’s trust and then suddenly and inexplicably betrayed them. In the greater context, she did it for a reason, but on a personal level I feel like it would have stung all the same to the girls on the receiving end, who were suddenly deprived of their friends and what small amount of comfort they would have known in high school society. (Also deprived of the comfort of weed, I’d imagine.) In a sense, what happened to them was a more severe version of what happens to the Betty Finns of the world when their once-trusted allies unceremonious dump them or blab a secret or even blab a lie that destroys their lives, at least on the high school level. Boo hoo, I know. If it makes you think better of me, know that I always expect the release of cat from bag to begin with these words: “Hey everyone! I suppose you’re all wondering why I’ve gathered you here. Who has seen that movie that just came out, Never Been Kissed? No one? Okay, well don’t worry — you don’t need to because you’re living it!”

My memory of this strange event — that, yes, happened in my not-so-strange hometown — pops into my mind every now and then, especially if I’m flipping channels and shoot past the actual Never Been Kissed. It’s so incongruous with what high school was like in general that I have to stop and consider for a moment whether it actually happened. It did, and real life seemed as interesting as life on screen for a short while, before people eventually returned to talking about the weather, the passage of time and the various shades of concrete visible on the school grounds. (This is not to say that my high school life did not again mirror pop culture. It did a few times, most notably with a real-life version of the WB series Popular that I really cannot discuss at any length, lest my blog draw the attention of unwanted high school characters that I no longer have to interact with. But if you went to high school with me, you probably know what I’m talking about.) In the end, the story of the real-life Never Been Kissed seemed an important enough intersection between pop culture and my life to warrant a mention here.

Really, more memorable high school events should make striking parallels with movies still in theaters when said events are happening.

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