I finished watching 13 Reasons Why last night. I read the book, and I think that this is one of the few times where an adaptation was better than the book. Why? They expanded the storylines to make the characters a little more complex. In some ways, a person might be able to identify with not only Hannah, but maybe with some of her abusers as well. The kids who seemed to “have it all,” can be miserable in their own way.
In high school, I ran around with the kids who would have been Hannah’s tormentors. In fact, I remember when I went home for my 10 year high school reunion, I went the salon to have my hair done. When I was seated, the stylist asked me if I remembered her. I didn’t. She told me her name. It was then that I remembered her. She told me that she remembered me, because I had always been nice to her when we were in school. That was all she said, everything came back to the present. We talked about what we we were up to in our lives.
I remember being miserable in high school. I had to pretend to be someone I wasn’t. I hated being so different from everyone else in so many ways. I had bouts of depression. But by this time, I wasn’t picked on. Not while at school anyhow. I had someone’s football jersey to wear on game day. I dated the guys on the various sports teams, and my best friends were cheerleaders, who were also National Honor Society members. I talked to everyone. Inflicting and experiencing misery can take so many different forms, and I didn’t find this out until I became an adult.
I never thought of my friends as being the kind of people that Hannah dealt with, but now I know otherwise. I recently found out that one of the guys from our social circle whom I had very briefly dated, a football player, had grabbed another girl by the neck and pinned her against the wall at a party. This came out recently when she wrote of it in a FB post talking about sexism, the fear of not being believed, and how women are conditioned to not speak up about assault. She didn’t mention his name, but only did to me via instant message because she saw that he and I were having an open (civil) disagreement about something.
I have seen other stories on FB of (awful) experiences in high school from people I knew. Too many. Things I never noticed. Things that make me feel awful for not noticing. Even within my group, or as the girls called us at lunch, “the elite table,” there was unhappiness. Not the picked on kind, but if you saw the show, the kind that Zach was probably feeling.
My best friend, V. who was the captain of the cheerleading squad and our valedictorian, wasn’t happy. (No, she didn’t come up with that awful name for our lunch table.) I thought she had a perfect life, but she felt crushing expectations. In 12 years of school, she never missed a single day. She had perfect grades. Every. Semester. Looking back, she wasn’t exactly a gregarious person, particularly for a cheerleader. In fact, if you ever watched the show Daria, I used to joke that we were kind of like Daria and Jane. That should say something. It should have been my first hint at how she really felt back then.
And this was almost 30 years ago, before cyber-bullying made things worse.
For many, high school really is like 13 Reasons Why. If anything, at its worst, it should be more like The Breakfast Club, but sadly that’s not the case.
That is really awful.