10 September 2009


from the insightful, tongue-in-cheek novel Empire Falls, by Richard Russo (made into an HBO miniseries) --

"in matters of affection, the rules of engagement at Empire High were detailed yet unambiguous, an extension of procedures established in junior high, a set of guidelines that couldn't have been any clearer if they'd been posted on the schoolhouse door. if you were a girl and your heart inclined toward a particular boy, you had one of your girlfriends make inquiries from one of that boy's friends. such contact represented the commencement of a series of complex negotiations, the opening rounds of which were handled by friends. boy's friend A might report to girl's friend B that the boy in question considered her a fox, or, if he felt particularly strongly, a major fox. those experienced in these matters knew that it was wise to proceed cautiously, since too much ardor could delay things for weeks. the girl in question might be in negotiations with other parties, and no boy wanted to be on record as considering a girl a major fox only to discover that she considered him merely cool. friends had to be instructed carefully about how much emotional currency they could spend, since rogue emotions led to inflation, lessening the value of everyone's feelings. once a level of affection within the comfort zone of both parties was agreed upon, the principals could then meet for the exchange of mementos -- rings, jackets, photos, key chains -- to seal the deal, always assuming that the seconds had properly represented the lovers to begin with ........

"the cutthroat savagery of high school romance inspired in nearly all adults a collective amnesia. having survived it themselves, they locked those memories far away in some dark chamber of their subconscious, where things that were too terrible to contemplate are permanently stored. the more skilled you were at the game in high school, the more deeply your guilty recollections were buried. this was the reason parents so often worried vaguely about their high school children, yet balked at inquiring after their social lives. heartbreak, they reassured themselves, was 'all part of growing up'."

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