What If You Could Be 16 Again – But Knowing All You Know Today?

If I could go back and be sixteen again, but knowing all I know today, would I want to? I’m not crazy about the idea of doing high school all over again. My Aunt Pauline told me high school would be the best time in my life. She was wrong. I’ve had much better times since then.  

But what if I did go back and I was 16 again? 

I know the first thing I’d do. I’d drop plane geometry. I wasn’t meant to use protractors or calculate the degrees in an angle. To this day, I don’t understand how the compass can still work as the pencil gets shorter. Plane geometry is a mystery, but it’s one I’ve never once in my life needed to solve. 

From my first hour in the class I knew I shouldn’t be there. The teacher, Mr. Jones, spent the entire first class period explaining how to open the textbook.  

“These books are new and we have to open them correctly so the spines don’t break. Now, everybody, open the front cover of your book – all the way. That’s it. Now, smooth it flat.” He looked around the room. “No, don’t bend it back. Smoooooth it.” Once he was satisfied with the smoothing, he said, “Now, do the same with the back cover. Okay. Now, turn back to the front. Open the first page, and smooth it down. Now, turn to the back … Now the front again….”

Actually, that was my best day in the class 

I’d change dating next – That is, I wouldn’t do it.  It really wasn’t much fun. Actually, spending the day doing my hair and makeup and picking out what I’d wear on the date was the best part.  

I’d get over myself. High school could be very entertaining – comedy, drama, and most of its fiction. This time, I’d sit back and enjoy the show … 

  • Lovers nesting in corners, leaning in, staring into each other’s eyes – I wonder why they always looked so oddly anguished.
  • Girls bouncing between friends like shiny silver balls in a pinball machine – BFFs one day and hair-tearing enemies the next. 
  • The drama Jim and Billy cause by getting into a semester-long, fist, and mud-slinging feud over a girl who will eventually dump them both. But in the meantime, it’s fun for the rest of us getting to choose up sides and rumble 
  • The indelible image of the middle-aged speech teacher with hair dyed red, wearing a pencil skirt and perching on her desk with her legs crossed. 
  • The sour-faced teacher who’s always skulking around with her inordinately large nose in the air, looking for offenses and seeming pained at the sound of laughter. I’m curious about whatever trauma so soured her on kids and fun.

I’d dance! Because I’d know the Watusi, the jerk, the swim, and the Freddie wouldn’t last forever, I’d dance, and  I wouldn’t care who I danced with as long as I was dancing. 

I’d go back to the hangout at Gulf Shores again – but the way it was when I was sixteen – before Gulf Shores was all high-rises and hotels. Then the only buildings in all that white sand were a couple of shell shops, a bar or two, and the Hangout, a hamburger stand with a cement dance floor and non-stop dance records by the Platters, Beach Boys, and the Mamas and Papas. I’d sing along again to Louie Louie — even though nobody ever understood the words.

I’d hang out at the A & W Root Beer stand to meet up with friends. I’d go to the teen dance at the Elks Club or the American Legion Hall. And the dance couldn’t end till they played The House of the Rising Sun.

I’d save my money to buy record albums and 45s by the Animals, Kinks, Troggs, Doors, and Herman’s Hermits, and I’d spend all day Saturday in my room with my best friend, listening to records and trying different hairstyles and makeup. 

I’d forget about how I looked and jump in the waterI wouldn’t lay on the sand trying to burn myself into the right shade of pretty. No matter how pasty white my legs were, I’d put on a bathing suit, go to the beach & ditch the cover-up. I’d dive in and let my makeup run and my hair get soggy– even if cute boys were around. 

I wouldn’t be a wimp when challenged by a mean girl. I’d laugh at snarky comments. 

I remember when I was 16,  one of the way-too-superior girls made a scene in the lunchroom. She pointed her finger at me and said, in a voice like grinding metal, “You went out with WL. Didn’t you?” I had, and for no reason felt guilty about it. 

She demanded, “Why?!  Why did you go out with him?”  

I didn’t know how to answer that, so I didn’t.  

She came closer and snarled, “I’m dating him, so you stay away from him.”  

I was okay with that. I’d already heard all WL knew about how great he was. But I knew everybody was looking at me. My face was crimson and I stammered something wimpy. 

But that wouldn’t happen today. I’d walk away from her, but throw back over my shoulder, “Okay, he’s all yours, but trust me, the jokes on you.”  

Some people I’d remember to avoid – Maybe you remember some of the same ones.  

  • The cute boy you had a crush on who never gave you the time of day. I wonder if he’s really as cute as I remember him. 
  • The judgmental, finger-pointing girl everybody was afraid of — I imagine she grew up to be the finger-pointing shrew of the PTA. 
  • The arrogant know-it-all boy who constantly found ways to put people down? I like to think he grew up to marry her. 
  • The boy who stood you up for a date? I hope he became the shrew’s second husband. 

If I could go back and be sixteen again, but knowing all I know today, would I? Maybe for a weekend, or even a week, it might be fun.   

But I like what I have right now – a brilliant husband, children who are grown and self-supporting, Mr. Magoo, my dog, a home, and a business. I sure wouldn’t like to have to start all over and build my life again 

June 26, 2020