My brother got his eighth grade yearbook today.
Being your average middle school boy, he flipped through it quickly and then left it in his backpack. He forgot to bring it outside during their end-of-the-year picnic to get it signed. When I was in middle school, I lived for yearbook day.
I counted the days. I’d anxiously sit in my chair, stuck at the end of the alphabet when they were delivered to our classrooms. I’d search for my own picture first, then flip through the entire thing with my fingers crossed that I’d been featured somewhere else.
(I made the critical mistake of not befriending the yearbook staff. Despite my best attempts, I was only included outside of the mandatory yearly photo twice. Once was when I submitted my own photo for the 8th grade “Baby Picture” spread, and the other was of me in a potato costume.)
Once I got home, I would more closely examine the book. I read every. single. page. I studied the faces of my classmates. Then I studied the faces of the kids a grade above and below me. Then I’d whisper their names to myself. (Luckily I wasn’t harming small neighborhood animals at this point, or I could have easily been committed.)
I’d carefully select four or five different colored gel pens and carry the yearbook with me everywhere I went for the final two weeks of class. Being too scared to actually ask anyone to sign it, I had to be ready to pounce when someone else suggested that their yearbook be signed.
The rules of reciprocation very clearly state that if I rip your yearbook out of your hands and quickly scrawl “HAGS” on the inside cover, you have to do the same for me.
If, at the end of the “yearbook signing season,” I didn’t feel satisfied with the number of signatures I’d gotten, I’d sign it myself. I’d select a variety of people - some from the popular crowd, some of the nerdier kids, even a teacher or two, and I’d put their names at the back in big swooping handwriting.
I also took care to gently Sharpie out the faces of the people I didn’t like and to circle the names and faces of people I was friends with. (Thankfully, both of these highly disturbing habits died before high school started.)
My intention in doing all of these things was probably to disguise how invisible I was in middle school. Like I’d have this pristine collection of books in chronological order on my bookshelf that would show off how many friends I had.
Looking back, it’s both amusing and alarming that I took it all so seriously. Only occasionally do I ever pull them out to flip through them, and instead of making it look like I had great friends (which I did!) and good fun (also true!,) it just makes me look pathetic.
My middle school years are probably best summed up in this message from my eighth grade yearbook - “Were you in my class? I don’t even know you but HAGS. - Jackie”
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