Friday, February 22, 2008

The principles of being the principal's daughter

My Dad and I before Senior Prom

It's been almost two years and I think I'm ready to talk about this.

I have a secret. Some of you know it, and some of you don't.

My dad was the principal of my high school.
And not only that, my grandfather was the principal of my dad's high school. I will never be a principal. I will not carry on this honorable tradition. But that's not the point.


Yes, my dad was the principal of my high school, which meant for 5 years (grades 8-12) I was subjected to the following questions:
Is that... weird?

Do you get special treatment?


OMG what happens if you get sent to the principal's office?!?


Do the teachers hate you?


Finally after receiving satisfactory (and much practiced, on my part) answers to these questions, they would rethink the original weirdness and say: That's kind of... cool. You could get money. And take his car. And you probably never got in trouble.


Indeed, that's true. I never had to worry about forgetting my lunch money. When my dad refused to buy me a car upon me receiving my license, I simply opted to steal his. Once when my friend Dina and I skipped our French class, we drove my Dad's car back to my house to watch A Little Princess and eat ice cream. About 20 minutes into the movie I got a phone call. My dad was calling me. I answered it, apprehensively, knowing that I was caught; his voice morphed into a low growl akin to a lion protecting his territory. It rumbled through my entire body, gripping me with sheer terror: Wheeeeeeeeeere's myyyyyyyy carrrrrrrrr? I made up some bullshit excuse about how I had driven home to get my homework and I would be back in a few minutes. As with most things I got in trouble for when I was younger, my dad yelled at me on the spot, but then we never talked about it again. I rarely suffered any direct repercussions for the things I did because my dad was so unwilling to talk about anything real that his sheer NEED to ignore things led me to get by scott free. I did something ridiculous, he yelled at me, and nothing ever came of it, except maybe a passive-aggressive e-mail about how I had "damaged the trust of our relationship." As a teenager, I could deal with that.


As the principal's daughter, I did get away with a lot of things; the security guards at my high school would turn a blind eye when I would traipse out the front door. Sometimes his secretary wrote me late notes. The vice principal, who was one of my dad's good friends, would laugh when I cut class and came back an hour later toting Starbucks: "Why didn't you bring me any coffee?" he'd ask.

Principal Roy in action

My teachers were less than thrilled to have a little spy in their classrooms. I rarely ratted on any of their ridiculous teaching methods, though with the ones that pissed me off enough I like to think I could have gotten them fired if I had really wanted to. I can't imagine the awkward position my place in their class must have put them in; the care with which they must have navigated that 90 minute block every day is unimaginable. I picture them going home to their families and bemoaning the fact that I was in their class, that now they couldn't subtly badmouth the administration (though some definitely still did), that they had to stick to the syllabus and give tests back on time and actually... teach. In truth they probably didn't give a shit I was there. I never felt that I was special due to my dad's position, but other people did. For me it was completely normal to see my dad walking down the hallway clad in Brooks Brothers and answering his walkie talkie cell phone thingy; for others, seeing us together in the hallway was the epitome of bizarre.

One of the coolest things about my dad's position was that I was privy to information that regular students weren't; I was the go-to person for information about school closings. Freak "hurricane?" Blizzard? My dad was the first person who got a call about delays and closings, so a bunch of people relied on my AIM away messages to notify them of this. I felt like I had some sort of power; my dad didn't necessarily make the decisions about school closings, and he never would have taken my opinion into account on the issue, but it still felt powerful somehow. I knew first. I could tell whoever I wanted. And the reaction I got from my friends when I announced that school was closed the next day made me feel like a hero.

There were some bad things, of course. The worst part about having my dad there was that it really limited the space I had to myself. As a teenager, school and home seem so unbelievably separate that, when the two blur, it seems unreal. My dad permeated almost every space in my life, simply because he had to; he was there at school and he was there at home. He even chaperoned my senior prom, which seriously curtailed the amount of bumping-and-grinding I could engage in. (BUMMER!!11)

Because my school was so small, he knew everyone; he knew the backstory on who I hung out with, what their parents were like, and if they were "good" or "bad" kids. He knew what parties went on because he was friends with the township cops, and in a school of 800 kids grades 8-12, gossip spreads fast. Luckily there weren't that many rumors flying around because I tried to keep a pretty low profile my last few years of school; I knew the kind of trouble I could get into if he found out I had been to the Pavillion or someone's house party. And he could find out easily-- all he had to do was listen to kids talking in the hallway.

My 16th Birthday

That line between school and home, parent and principal was so desperately blurred. I did my best to stay out of trouble simply because I didn't have the audacity or the grace to walk that shaky line. I was rebellious, but on my own terms. I didn't let my rebellion interfere with my school life because it would risk being exposed for the pot smoking, drinking, boy-kissing teenager I was. I'm lucky my dad knew very little about what I was up to. And with Facebook not really gaining popularity until the end of my senior year, there was really no internet evidence that could uncover my fraud.


I'm talking about this because last night my roommate and I were extremely high and we somehow got on the topic of my dad being principal. It suddenly seemed so bizarre based solely on the fact that to me it seemed so normal. Maybe someday I will write a book about my experiences: how awkward it was when my friends' parents would disagree with him on some administrative decision he made, the stupid district politics and iron fist of the schoolboard, the shooting, the time I got caught "cheating" in chemistry. But for now this blog will do. My high school life was so twisted by oddities-- like the vice principal coming over for a barbeque and my English teacher going out for drinks with my stepmom-- that, looking back, it was really kind of enjoyable. And there really was nothing like a good party at the principal's house.


-Jess

4 comments:

Marshall said...

Maybe not, but watch out for a boy named Colin Harper.

Michael said...

One of my friends in my bio class is the principal's daughter and our bio teacher has NO filter. I swear to god, everyday that man says something especially stupid or offensive and finishes it up with a furtive glance to Sarah followed by, "don't tell your dad I said that." She loves it.

Jess and Josh said...

AH they used to do that to me too!

Marshall said...

haha now my comment makes no sense