Ah, the high school yearbook.

Back before social media, yearbooks were the sole means of immortalizing your friendships, your dreams and most of all, your bangs. With yearbooks in the news lately, I decided to exhume mine from high school to see if the evidence matches my own recollections of the time. At this point, I’m pretty sure that my memories are a patchwork of events that actually happened spliced with scenes from John Hughes movies. Remember that time I skipped school with my girlfriend, Sloane, and sang “Danke Schoen” in a parade? I bet I mentioned that in my yearbook quote.

Wait, maybe that didn’t happen. But some other stuff sure did, according to the opaque gibberish contained in my senior quote. Like, “FunTDECarterror BR drive-bys.” The first part of that refers to the fact that my friend’s dad ran our school’s driver education program, and one day we took the driver’s ed Chevy Corsica to an amusement park named Fun Town. On the way home, we put the yellow triangular Student Driver sign on the roof and then did things that would certainly have been recorded on video if anyone had cameras then. The second part refers to shooting bottle rockets at one another out of moving vehicles. Which might’ve also happened in the driver’s ed car, now that I think about it.

The reason for the abbreviations and jammed-up text was twofold: You were only allowed a certain number of characters, like a ’90s form of Twitter. And you knew that parents would look at your page, so you wanted to make it inscrutable to them—and potentially to other students. Thus I devoted two precious lines to pure nonsense, just to mess with people. I wrote “Good luck” followed by a 36-character mishmash that includes “TH700R4,” which was the model number for the transmission in my Camaro. When the yearbook came out, a girl asked, “What does ‘RJEOPPTKK’ mean?” I told her she’d just have to figure it out. OPP, how can I explain it? I’m proud of my high school self for using the yearbook to make fun of yearbooks.

I’m less proud of my photo. In an attempt at novelty, I tried hanging upside down and pouring a soda so that it would look like the liquid was flowing up. But that photo didn’t really work—my clothes bunched up around my shoulders and all the blood rushed to my head, making me look like a sickly beet-faced turtle emerging from a Champion sweatshirt. So I abandoned that concept and submitted a backup shot in which I was holding a chain saw and standing next to a life-size promotional cutout of Kramer from Seinfeld, which we’d stolen from a Kentucky Fried Chicken. Why the chain saw? That’s probably what the yearbook people asked, too, since it got cropped out of the photo. Ultimately, it was just me standing next to Michael Richards, a reputable comic actor who would surely never do anything to make you wish he wasn’t in your yearbook photo for all eternity.

The photos and quotes were only part of the story, though. At our school, we signed one another’s yearbooks. For instance, my friend Nobu, a Japanese exchange student, wrote about our great times studying and doing charitable work throughout the community. And by that, I mean he wrote, “I think you have a big gazo every time you drink a lot it’s cool.” What he’s saying, and anyone will tell you, is that I stayed hydrated and everyone knew that. I was famous for it. I drank a lot of WATER and GATORADE. OK, never mind Nobu.

And never mind what guys wrote. It’s more interesting to see what girls wrote in my yearbook, which reads like the long-form consolation of a hapless dweeb. “I feel bad that you have had such bad luck with girls,” wrote one girl. Another said, “Don’t worry, just remember that all our moms think you’re hot stuff.” Still another girl wrote, “I want you to take me weightlifting with you sometime, just so I can see that body of yours working out!” Hey, hold on a moment. I’m not sure how I responded to that at the time, but it was probably along the lines of, “Cool! I could use a spot.” Perceptiveness: Not my strong suit.

Overall, my yearbook isn’t as mortifying as it could be—either for me or anybody else. So I dug out my wife’s yearbook. At her school on the South Shore, the quotes were more elaborate, including a line for your nickname. I pointed out that one guy’s nickname read “Da Man,” and she said, “Yeah, right. Nobody called him that.” Exactly. That’s why it’s hilarious. That kid’s quote also included the line, “Buch’s mom, she’s wicked fat.” Three thousand years in the future, archaeologists could discover that page in a cave in Siberia and instantly deduce that it came from turn-of-the-millennium Boston.

My wife’s quote referenced a Great Woods concert and sneaking out at night. But it was generally sweet. She thanked her family. I don’t think she has anything to regret. Except the bangs. ◆

Think that’s funny? Send unbiased emails to ezra@improper.com.

Think that’s funny? Send unbiased emails to ezra@improper.com.

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