I Survived an All Girls Catholic Prep School
Yes, I wore a plaid skirt. Yes, there were nuns. Yes, I hated every second.
Not all the stereotypes are true, but oh so many of them are. We had plaid skirts, polos, nuns, and drama for your mama. It was the best and worst times of our lives.
The summer before eighth grade, my parents decided to take me out of public school and they sent me to a Catholic school for girls that just happened to be an hour away. Supposedly, this was to keep me out of trouble. Looking back, I suppose I see the logic in their decision, but I got myself into more trouble in my hiked up plaid skirt than I ever did at my graffiti infested public school.
From day one, I was determined to convince my parents they had made a dire mistake. Frankly, they did not much help the situation with their many fervent discussions about the extra expenses incurred for my transfer. Much to my displeasure, my mother had found that the more highfalutin girls would give away or sell their year-old uniforms, and trade them in for bright new ones. After all, who would dare be caught in a faded white polo? One skirt and polo set cost over $100 brand new, so guess who came to the first day of school in a pre-stained polo? Me.
My puny eighth grade class had just over 50 girls, most of whom had known each other since nanny and me playgroup. Being the only new girl that year, I was determined to blend in as seamlessly as possible. Unfortunately, I missed the memo that absolutely no one did her hair or makeup at all girls school, so I showed up with perfectly straightened hair, the best manicure I could give myself, and more makeup than all the Kardashians combined. Not only was I mistaken for a high school student, but the nun who stopped me threatened in-school suspension for my untidy hem and the shortness of my skirt. Before I could protest, she offered to pray for me, and then told me to work on being a better example to the younger gals.
By lunchtime on my first day, I realized there was no way I could ever blend in, so I decided to stand out for all the wrong reasons. Another bright idea brought to you by my middle school self. Everyday, I would wake up at 4:30 AM to get ready for school, and then listen to my mother complain about the ridiculously long drive from 6:45 to 7:45. In my angst, I would pretend to fall asleep, tell her I would drive myself, and remind her daily that it was she and my father that chose this fate for all of us. Every once in a while, right before I would slam the car door, I would boldly throw in the claim that my parents favored my two older siblings because they were allowed to choose where they went to school. (They both graduated from public schools in our hometown).
Surprisingly, with my horrible attitude, I made friends. By the end of my first month, I was part of my own little clique and was even invited to a sleepover at Sofie's house. Sofie was the only other girl in my class that came to school with not a single hair out of place, and I wanted nothing more than to be accepted by her and the other trust fund babies. When she learned where I lived, she dubbed me "ghetto Barbie," a name that I ignorantly allowed my peers to call me for years. When Sofie texted me the address for her sleepover, I finally understood why I was different from the other girls. The message included detailed information about gaining access to her house. I would need my school id to get into her gated community, and even with it, the gatekeeper might have to call her parents to ensure I was allowed in—just in case I was paparazzi in disguise.
Thankfully, I was spared some of the embarrassment when my mother refused to drive me an hour and a half for a sleepover. Sofie's mom offered to pick me up from school when she picked up her own daughter. I could not have been more elated. Not only would I get to ride in a Porsche, but I would spend time at Sofie's before any of the other girls got there, and my mother would lose the opportunity to embarrass me with questions about supervision, alcohol, and boys. Upon our arrival at Sofie's mansion, I sarcastically asked if any paparazzi would be hiding in the bushes. I was quickly silenced by Sofie, who informed me that we were in the Calabasas Hills. Clearly my face gave away how little that meant to me, so Sofie's mom nonchalantly informed me that they lived in the same community as the Kardashians. Instead of being starstruck, I was immediately conscious of my dirty, torn, written on, and once white Vans. I felt like Little J at Blair Waldorf's annual sleepover.
In attendance that night was the granddaughter of the founder at one of the most recognized marketing research companies on the globe. (They often give out coveted awards that car companies feature in their commercials). She told me we could not be friends outside of school because her family would not allow her to spend time with someone like me. She went on to make it clear that she was not allowed to step foot in my hometown alone, and that she had only been once. Apparently, it was a traumatizing experience. Absolutely everyone was staring at her in her (fathers) brand new Porsche. She thought she might be followed, or even threatened for it. I am still proud of myself for smiling through her many abrasive comments. On more than one occasion, she generously stopped the group conversation to define the more refined topics that were brought up. I pretended to listen as she explained to me the nuances of cotillion, the country club, trust funds, and hors d'oeuvres.
Horrified and insecure, I pretended to fall asleep with the other girls, and spent the rest of the night looking through photos of my old friends on my hand-me-down flip phone. At around 5am, Sofie's mom came downstairs to check on us. Finding me awake, she asked if I was alright, and if I would be more comfortable in one of their many guest rooms. After apologizing profusely for not being asleep and lying about naturally waking up early, I promised her I would not be a bother again. Perplexed at my incoherent stuttering, she invited me into the kitchen for coffee. Although I was mortified at the thought of everyone waking up to me spending time with Sofie's mom, I was too afraid to break etiquette in front of such a refined lady.
After I called her "ma'am" for the tenth time, Sofie's mom told me I could just call her Dolores, and to relax. For the next few hours, she complimented my politeness and asked if I had any trouble with the more pompous friends of Sofia's. Of course, I did not tell her that the majority of them had already disowned me for being middle-class. Of course, she knew the truth, and told me stories of her humble origins like we were best girlfriends at brunch. From that day forward, I was best friends with Sofie, and Dolores would let me stay over any time I wanted. Some of the others, however, were not invited back.
Not surprisingly, over 70 percent of my school had some sort of Catholic background, which led to me being invited to youth group every week. Being forced to go to school-wide Mass every month had squashed any curiosity I had about Catholic youth group or Confirmation classes, so I declined all invitations for the first year. My lowest grade was in religion class, and the nun who taught me attributed my lack of knowledge to spiritual warfare, a troubled home life, Sofie, and pure angsty teen rebellion. That year alone, she caught me sneakily listening to headphones during the Mass three times, trying to ditch the Mass by hiding in the bathroom once, and sleeping in the Mass more times than I would like to admit. As punishment, she gave me the choice of going to youth group and writing an essay on my experience, or calling my parents.
The thought of losing my seemingly unlimited freedom as a high school freshman was unfathomable, so that Wednesday, I went to a Christian youth group. The sermon and worship made me intensely uncomfortable, but they had snacks, hot chocolate, and guys my age, so I continued to go. My grade in religion class improved, and that nun had the most smug look on her face whenever we spoke from then on. The purpose of youth group to my friends and me, however, was to meet guys. I also had the added perk of the church being down the road from my school, and since youth group was from 7 PM to 9 PM every Wednesday, it was a guarantee that I would sleepover somewhere every time.
At that age, almost none of us took youth group seriously, and we shunned the few who did. Sofie came along when I told her about the guys, and we wreaked havoc on those poor youth pastors. Some of the older guys would come stoned and we soon convinced them to bring enough weed to share. We would offer up hide-n-seek as the game suggestion every week, just to sneak off to play less appropriate games with the guys. Sofie and I made it a habit to wear crop tops and shorts under our parent-approved outfits, and then strip our outer layers before going inside. Eventually, I redeemed myself by genuinely being involved with that church, but it took years of shenanigans before I calmed down.
Everything I had built came crumbling down during my sophomore year. Sofie had convinced her parents that the nuns were out to get her, and they transferred her to an even more expensive co-ed school. By that time, the majority of our original clique had transferred as well, and I was still famously known as the less fortunate girl that allowed the wealthy girls to call her "Ghetto Barbie." As unflattering a reputation as it was, the attention helped me to secure a smaller and less judgmental group of friends rather quickly. It also helped that I stayed close with my friends who transferred to co-ed schools, and could secure us all invites to meet guys at football games.
That year, we were told to start thinking about college, and met our college counselors for the first time. My mother had recently taken a job in another state, something I refused to tell anyone about for months afterwards. Somehow, the counselor had found out, and came up with the idea to put me in an art class as an outlet, some advanced classes as a push and distraction, and Zumba to make up for an extra PE credit I was missing. I did not appreciate the sentiment, and spent the first month complaining through my schedule.
My horrible reputation preceded me, and I made friends with the seniors in every class. Those were the Catholic School girls pictured in movies. They were beautiful, wealthy, and rebellious. They smoked in the bathrooms, skipped Mass to meet their boyfriends, and came to class every Monday with new tales of weekends past, each more terrible than the last. I quickly became their little party prodigy, much to the displeasure of my college counselor.
Oh how naive I was to think I would stay friends with those girls when they left for college. By junior year, my class had dwindled down to half of what it once was, and all the seniors I had befriended the previous year had graduated. In desperation, I befriended the few girls that were left at my tiny youth group, simply so I wouldn't have to sit alone at lunch. A few weeks into that year, the last two girls I had ever been friends with finally convinced their parents to let them transfer. At school, I was alone. In retrospect, I was never the mean girl. I was acquaintances with everyone, and only one girl ever told me I wasn't welcome at their table. There was a certain skewed perception of me, but it was mostly one of confusion—the girl that goes to church hungover and is friends with everyone and no one.
Teenage girls can be cruel, especially when they see weakness, so I became the girl who didn't care. During lunch and Mass, I would sneak to my car to call my boyfriend. When he was busy or we were fighting, I would take a nap or catch up on homework, and lie to everyone who asked what I was doing.
Senior year is supposed to be kickass, but by the time it rolled around, I had given up. Most of my teachers had given up on me as well, and I made it clear that I didn't need any friends. I was constantly getting in trouble for uniform violations, being late to school, and falling asleep in class. I had in-school suspension the day before graduation.
The day I graduated, I got in trouble for wearing Birkenstocks. We were instructed numerous times to wear heels, but it was my mission to end with one last uniform violation. My mother came to town, and made grand promises to do my hair and makeup and drive me to the ceremony, but instead, she went to lunch and ignored my calls.
After the ceremony, I took two obligatory photos with my family before making up a lie that I had promised to make an appearance at a friend's graduation party. I took a few photos with girls I never spoke to again, and drove around for a few hours before going home. That night, I got drunk alone in my bedroom, and that was it. A sad little party of one. There was no big hurrah or joyride down the coast. I watched snapchats of all the cliche things you're supposed to do when you graduate, and then I just passed out with my cap cocked to the side.
All those years of wishing it was over, and my high school career ended in the most anti-climactic angsty way possible.