My So-Called Life (Before the Internet)

by Reyna Eisenstark
Originally Published: 

She really did say this. And we really did this. If we were obsessed with, say, our own old-timey version of Doctor Who (which was what, exactly?) we’d have to talk about it in person with our actual friends. Except that I hardly remember talking about TV with my friends. It was sort of the thing that by the time you were a teenager, you just did, and quite a lot, but never really talked about.

We also listened to music all the time. We talked about music. But really it was most important then, as it is now, to know what kind of music your friends liked. That was plenty. I remember the very first music video I saw (Billy Idol’s “White Wedding”) at a friend’s party, even though I had been hearing about MTV for an entire year before that. It was a terribly long wait.

Here’s what we did though: We wrote notes.

We wrote notes to each other during class, in between classes, sometimes at home at night to be brought in the next day. There was one year that I started writing notes to a boy in one of my classes merely because he looked like someone I knew. We wrote notes to each other every day in that class for an entire year (the girl between us angrily had to pass them over) but hardly ever spoke in person. The notes got more and more personal as the year went on. I am pretty sure we said we loved each other in these notes, but I thought it was just a fun thing to say.

Years later, as an adult, when I came across these notes it was so obvious to me that this boy had actually loved me and I had been so utterly and mockingly oblivious. I remember the vague sinking feeling I felt when I saw him the next year in the halls holding hands with some girl, but I hadn’t thought much of it. Reading the notes all these years later made me so sad that I actually threw them out. I couldn’t bear to remember the frivolous girl I had once been.

We also talked on the phone. We talked on the phone for so many hours that I still recall what it felt like to get off the phone with my ear hot and ringing. I am certain this is why I have a harder time hearing with my right ear, my phone ear, all these years later. We talked on the phone about everything that had happened in school just hours earlier. We were desperate to stay connected.

We also saw each other in person, which goes without saying, but I suppose I should say it. We saw movies together and stayed over at each other’s houses (and sometimes said we were staying at other people’s houses) and went to parties and stood for hours and hours on street corners talking about what we were going to do that night and got so distracted by our talking that the night and the city darkened all around us as we just stood there, talking and talking.

We talked. We could not get enough of each other’s talking. We understood each other, just like all teenagers have, way back to even the time when teenagers were first invented, and maybe even before that too.

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