Lord, I miss junior high. Chasing girls, cutting class to hang out at the pool hall, going all British Sterling at the junior high dance … No job, no real academic pressure, nothing left to do but run, run, run.

If you are a person who is in junior high, I hate you more than a little. And do you know why I hate you? Because you don’t know how good you’ve got it. You will whimper incessantly about homework and curfews and blooming acne. You will say absolutely inane things like: “I can’t wait until I’m an adult so I can do what I want,” and then go stomping off to your cozy room with the high-def television, the computer and the iPod dock.

I hate you, have I said that? Meet me behind the Mayflower building after work and I will thrash you soundly until you understand.

I was like you once. Back in my day, it was chamois shirts, corduroy jackets and metal belts with sliding fasteners, but it was the same. We were cool and carefree and we whined all the time about the constraints of the adult world and the tyranny of teachers.

Jackasses.

We had it made back then, and so do you. But just you wait. In a year or two, you’ll be in high school. You’ll have to get a job, think about college, pay more attention to your grades. Bullies will be people who will stab you in a parking lot, not just oversized punks who will give you noogies in shop class. Smashing windows and setting fires won’t be regarded as youthful hijinks, but as criminal offenses. You will have to answer for everything you do. And good for you, ungrateful snots. It’s about time you start paying for all your joy.

I’ve been thinking about junior high lately because I’ve been confronted by many ghosts from my own past through the wormhole called Facebook.

You know Facebook. It’s been around for more than a year on the Internet, and a year on the Internet is like forever. Facebook is a place where you will encounter people you have not seen, heard from or thought of in 20 years or more. They appear like Ebenezer’s visitors on Christmas Eve.

The bully who tormented your prepubescent days is selling trucks at a lot in Augusta and there he is, with a profile photo and everything. He still looks like a big, fat jerk, doesn’t he?

The girl you would have traded your piggy bank, puppy and little brother for back in the day is now married with six children. Behold! Facebook has her entire history listed for you to cringe and weep over.

Let me be clear. I was never a social network kind of guy. I don’t even go to class reunions. But if you have books or anything else to sell, the marketing experts will tell you to get aboard or you will perish in poverty, loneliness and certain skin diseases linked to depression.

So, I got on Facebook, wrote up the obligatory blurb about myself (I like long walks on the beach, astronomy and dead things) and posted a few photos. Hi, folks. Remember me? Please buy my book. I’ve been eating raviolis for three years straight.

One of the first friends who found me was a young lady named Sue. Back in junior high (when all was chamois and thus, right with the world) I dated Sue, but also her best friend. For decades now, I’ve been smug about all of this.

Back then, I will tell anyone willing to listen, I was a total player. Sue was sweet and pretty and great to take on field trips. Her best friend was dark and dangerous and perfect for the parking lot behind the YMCA.

I played them both, dating one in daylight, the other by night. And I got away with it because, let’s face it, I was a stud back then, with the canvas belt and my name ironed onto a baseball shirt bought at Sterns.

Only I hadn’t. Within three Facebook conversations, Sue told me that she knew it all along. She knew that I was sneaking off in the bravado of youth to meet with her friend just up the street. And boom, like that! A whole childhood of cunning and guile was proven a lie.

It occurs to me that had Facebook not been invented by some visionary geek working from his mom’s basement, I might have never heard Sue’s name again and this sacred memory might have remained intact.

Welcome to the cyber age, where age regression therapy is not always voluntary.

Social networks don’t just link people to other people, they link you to the past. Through Facebook, I have found old friends who seemed to vanish when the explosion of high school tore a hole in our lives and sent us drifting in different directions. The jocks, the freaks, the preps; they’re all grown up now with kids and careers, baldness, addictions and divorces. It’s a weird time warp where the kid you last saw doing a keg stand at a pit party is, in the next glance, an architect on the West Coast who moonlights as a flamenco dancer.

Weird, but oddly fulfilling. The Internet shrinks the world and bends time in a way that makes decades disappear. You’ll see forgotten friends go from the prom to a midlife crisis in two or three mouse clicks. The girl who wrote “I hope we’ll always remain friends” in your yearbook? Now you can look her up and see if she really meant it.

Be careful though, dude. I hear she married that nerdy kid with the high-water pants you used to pick on in junior high. He went on to become a champion kick boxer, you know, and I hear he’s been looking for you.

Yet another glaring example of how you can’t trust anything that happens in junior high.

Mark LaFlamme is a Sun Journal staff writer. He has traded his corduroy jacket for a shirt and tie.


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