It's time to talk about school spirit. We will begin with Freshman Orientation at Nathan Hale High School, September 1982. First of all, I was thrilled, psyched, amazed to be joining the high school experience. It seemed to me that there was no difference, NONE, between high schoolers and adults. We were all as big as a person humanly needed to be. Freshmen were perhaps on the petite side of adulthood, I allowed - if I had known of David Spade back then, it would have been like, we're like David Spade. Small, yes, but old.
A couple of weeks before school began, my friend Tammy's mom drove us to Alderwood Mall in her black sports car to shop for school clothes, and we listened to "Urgent" by Foreigner, and "Don't talk to Strangers" by Rick Springfield, and most tinglingly of all, "Eye of the Tiger" by Survivor. I think that's the moment that the school spirit was born, in that car that day. We would all need the eye of the tiger in high school, and by gum, I felt, we would have it. For freshman orientation, I planned to wear a white oxford, levi's and a blue fair isle sweater draped over my shoulders. I meant business. This would be like The Paper Chase.
Tammy's older sister Tracey was a cheerleader. What an in! What a way to start things. I had an unofficial sponsor. Other good news was that over the summer, I had finally learned how to open a locker. The goodness of this news can't be underestimated. In 8th grade, where I was the new girl at the school, and had skipped a grade (which I kept all the way on the down low), I never used my locker, because I was too embarrassed to admit that I didn't know how to open one. This should have been taken care of already, in my imaginary 7th grade year somewhere. So I always claimed that my locker was broken, and lugged around this brown adidas bag with all my stuff in it. Everyone always offered the use of their lockers, and I was like, no, naah, no thanks. So when summer came, every night I prayed to some Lord I didn't even have a particular relationship with, "Please, you Lord I've heard about, please let me learn how to open a locker." Every night, "Oh Lord, perhaps you'll remember I'm the one who wants to know how to open a locker," "The secret to opening a locker, Oh Lord, please unveil it before me," "But above all, Lord, my locker..."
The Lord eventually appeared in the form of my friend and upcoming locker partner, Donnette, a pleasant unthreatening soul who seemed like she wouldn't hold this locker secret over my head. We went to the high school a few days before orientation, and spent a few minutes working on it, and I cracked it. Closed locker, me working on it, open locker!
So I walked into freshman orientation fairly euphoric to begin with. Signed up for the classes, filed into the gym for the assembly. The pep squad came out, unspeakably glamourous, with Tracey's friendly face on it to boot. And then the motherhumpin' Beach Boys started in over the loudspeakers, "When some loud braggart tries to put you down and says his school is great....you tell him right away, now what's the matter buddy ain't you heard of my school, it's number one in the state....BE TRUE TO YOUR SCHOOL NOW NOW, JUST LIKE YOU ARE TO YOUR GIRL OR GUY, BE TRUE TO YOUR SCHOOL NOW AND LET YOUR COLORS FLY, BE TRUE TO YOUR SCHOOL..." My hair was standing on end!! The pep squad was peppin' around, as sexy as can be, the music was thumping the bleachers,
WAS IT GOING TO BE LIKE THIS, THE HIGH SCHOOL??
(actual school colors represented above, minus the difficult-to-represent-here white)
No, it wasn't. But as Journey had exhorted me the year before in a dictated memo on my sneakers, I didn't stop believing. I ran for class office three years in a row and lost. I tried out for cheerleading, and didn't make it. I was on the committees for the school dances, I toilet-papered the football players' houses to put the eye of the tiger in them, I organized homecoming. At games, when we did the "We've got spirit, yes we do, we've got spirit, how 'bout you?" thing, I reached deep within to summon the Raider spirit, as deep as situps, as deep as Pilates, ab-boomingly deep. And when we were ahead, and we did the TOTALLY INCONTROVERTIBLE cheer, "We've got more, check the score," the satisfaction I felt was so sublime it's a wonder I didn't pee.