Words of wisdom for the class of '05

It was a humid May day, and Madame Jonas' French IV class was restless. Actually, that's putting it too mildly: We were like hummingbirds on heroin.
It was the morning before our senior class banquet, and the girls were in a tizzy because they feared the humidity would wreak havoc on their hairdos that special night. This was 1991, the height of the "big hair" craze, when the consumable resource most in demand wasn't petroleum, but Aqua Net.
The boys were anxious, too, but not because we worried about hair frizz. (We wore no-fuss mullets.) We feared if the girls were preoccupied by their hair, they wouldn't notice we were wearing skinny leather ties that matched our new deck shoes.
After a few minutes of nattering, Madame could endure no more. She wheeled from the chalkboard and pierced the haze of adolescent angst, declaring, "Oh, give me a break!"
The class sat shocked, not so much for what Madame said, but for the language in which she said it. To parle Anglais in her classroom was, as they say in Marseille, a "non-non."
"A few years from now you're not going to care whether your hair was frizzy at your senior banquet," she continued. "You won't even remember what you wore."
Then she uttered a seeming sacrilege that elicited from the class a collective "Sacré bleu!"
"You aren't even going to remember half your classmates 10 years from now," she said. "You'll keep in touch with two, maybe three of these people, and that's it. The rest might as well be strangers."
To say this revelation left the class speechless would be an understatement. It was as if the oxygen had been sucked out of the room: Madame's classroom might as well have been an airlock outside a space station.
Soon, though, our shock gave way to ridicule. Like we had anything to learn from teachers, the kind of people who thought Milli Vanilli was a new flavor at Baskin-Robbins! "Lose touch with our friends? Yeah, right, Madame," we chortled. "I suppose next you're going to tell us Guns N' Roses is about to break up."
Remember what Mark Twain said about his father? When Twain was 14, his father seemed so ignorant he could hardly stand the old man. But when Twain got to be 21, he "was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years." The same principle applies to your teachers: The more you learn, the smarter they seem.
Madame's assertions were on the mark. I DON'T remember much about that banquet. And I HAVEN'T kept in touch with more than a couple of classmates.
Class of 2005, there are some truths you should accept. The guy you've sat next to in homeroom for four years? Ten years from now you won't remember his name. And the girlfriend whose name you're considering tattooing on your biceps? You'll go years at a time without so much as talking to her, especially after she marries your ex-best friend and names the family dog after you.
I'm not trying to bum you out, graduates. My goal is to provide a reality check so you enter the final leg of your high school journey with some perspective. You should know, sooner rather than later, that life isn't like "Dawson's Creek." High school doesn't last forever. In time, most of your classmates will become as irrelevant to your daily life as the advanced algebra course you're finishing up (No offense, Mr. Hopkins.)
There are three lessons to be learned here:
1) Clueless though they may seem, your teachers know a little bit about life. Don't discount their advice simply because they think 50 Cent is bus fare.
2) Don't sweat what all your classmates think about you. The people who might tease you over frizzy hair are about to become strangers.
3) Instead, focus on the handful of close friends who will play a role in your adult life. You know, true friends, the kind of people who have the guts to prevent you from wearing matching leather ties and deck shoes.
If only I'd had such friends back in '91.

- Columnist Ben Bromley uses his French training every time he orders a croissant. A former editor at Lillie Suburban Newspapers, he is now a writer at the Baraboo News Republic.

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