By the time I was five, I had lived in four different countries. If you do something often enough you get really good at it, and I am really skilled - sometimes to the point of seeming heartless- at leaving things behind, at not looking back, at being gone and not being found again. There have been people from my past that have looked for me for years without finding me. Even in these cyber times of blogs and email I managed to stay hidden. So when I joined facebook, I was utterly unprepared to be suddenly and overwhelmingly found by many many people from many parts of my past all at once.
High school, for instance. Let's talk about high school. I found these pictures, recently, of me in my sophomore year of high school after my winter prom.
As you see from the faux-pearl tiara, I was elected sophomore prom princess. 'Oh Social triumph!' you say. But it wasn't really. It was more uncomfortable and perplexing than anything else. I went with a boy I didn't know well. We had an awkward time. When my name was announced as princess, another girl squawked, "But I'M more popular than SHE is! I should have won!" So I was not alone in my perplexity.
After the prom was over, my date took me for drinks (this was Taiwan. No carding in bars.) I ordered some girly drink - a singapore sling, I think - and offered my date the Maraschino cherry from it. And he, predictably perhaps, replied "That's not the cherry I want." That's high school. Not all of it. I had friends and joy, and read William Faulkner which blew my mind wide open. But the good things are so interspersed with squirm-making memories like the prom that, when I graduated, I was thrilled to leave it all behind. And I left it completely behind. Never went to a reunion, only stayed in touch with a couple of friends, and that was fine with me.
Now here I am, a middle-aged woman, found by a whole heap of people who seem to remember high school much more happily than I do, or who, at least, have a much healthier sense of the continuity of their own lives. And I don't like it. So here's a question for those of you who have lived more or less in one place - one country, one state, or one city - all your lives; how do you do it? How do you reconcile the self you are now with the self you were then, especially when you run into someone who, say, remembers that time you were puking drunk, or who might have leeringly implied things about your maraschino cherry? In the pre-cyber past I was always able to put all that far behind me. But, apparently, putting it behind me is behind me now because there it is in front of me. So what do you do with your pasts?