I think I'm so smart

Even though I find it tiresome when people refuse to take responsibility for their actions, I'd like to point my own hypocritical, accusatory finger at my high school math teacher and foist blame upon her for my pretty much unending lack of financial stability over the past twenty-some years.


I switched high schools between ninth and tenth grades because we moved across the country...I had no say in that. My father wanted me to go to a private Catholic school, not because we were particularly religious (we weren't), nor because I had gone to one before (I had, for a variety of reasons...some of which I did have a say in) nor because the public schools were inferior. They weren't; in fact, they were far, far better.

Every day I took a tour of the public high school's parking lot sitting in the back row of the yellow public school bus. I looked longingly at the huge building with its gymnasium that didn't double as a cafeteria and church, its multiple departments of study and and ginormous football field, the students not wearing plaid. A half hour or so later I got dropped of at a cheapo, inner city Catholic school. Never mind that it was a sucky, second-rate school with a guidance counselor who hung out in her office smoking cigarettes with the cool kids, never mind that it had a skeletal curriculum that obviously wasn't devoted its student shooting for ivy league-or even college, never mind that the good-looking guy down the street got dropped off at the public school. I was getting a private education.

Anyway, I had been advanced in math in my prior high school (which, by the way, didn't suck), and when I enrolled in the next math course in my new high school the sole math teacher on staff was thrown for quite a loop...a loop so unfathomable she wouldn't have it. So I and the other transfer student who coincidentally was in the same situation as me (WHAT?!? two advance students in one year?!?!) had to plead our case to not be forced to choice between retaking a class we had both already passed or not taking math for a year. Finally she capitulated, but not without informing us on the first day of class that, "Since you two think you're sooooo smart, you will be held to higher expectations." Bring it on, I thought. I was a math whiz.

Oh, she brought it. She found ways to dock points where no points were dockable. One time we both got credit taken away for several problems on an exam that we both got entirely correct; when we asked her about it, she replied with, "Well, if you two are sooooo smart you shouldn't need to do these problem in five steps. You should have been able to do them in two." The fact that the exam specifically expressed the problem had to be solved in five steps was a non-issue according to her.

So during next exam, because we were both sooooo smart, we learned from our past mistakes. My fellow warrior and I both solved the problems in two steps. Yup, big surprise, our wonderful math teacher marked us down for not following directions.

"For two kids who are sooooo smart you aren't very good at following directions."

So I got a 2.0 in each of the two math classes I took from her, then just dropped math after that. She sure was good at instilling a love of numbers in her most promising students.

From there it was a slippery and direct slope to my present state of indebtedness: my high school GPA slipped so I wasn't in the top ten of my graduating class (instead I was lucky 13). I had to pay for college on my own (at this point my parents were divorced and my dad didn't want to contribute to my college education-hell! he had paid for a private high school, so who blames him! and my mom couldn't afford to help me out).

My stellar high school doled out the scholarships/grants it had to the top ten students...many of the top ten got two and three helpings of aid (utterly independent of financial need or any type of consideration as to course work...I mean, really, is a senior year coursework of yearbook, drama, voice, study hall and some other easy 4.0 class *really* compare with college prep coursework?) ...well, I got dick for student aid.

So in college I worked full time, went to school full time. Couldn't even get student loans until my fifth year of college because of some now defunct stupid requirements to be "independent" in the eyes of the feds. I took out as much as I could then for that lone semester left and graduated with little debt.

But my BA in Humanities didn't go far towards that amazing career I anticipated would appear after graduation. It was the late 80's, there was that recession, and of course Student Placement Services at my university wouldn't let me interview because, "the businesses coming here don't want to waste their time interviewing someone with your degree." Soooooooooo, I did what I knew best- I went back to school. I worked on a second degree in pre-med, applied to med school, got accepted, racked up a gazillion dollars in student loans during that time. Got married in-between my third and fourth years of med school, got pregnant within days of the honeymoon. Had my son a month after graduating. Took off six months, then another six months.

I never went back to medicine, and I have been doing the stay-at-home-mom thing full time, with the occasional free-lance photographer gig here and there to keep me from going nuts.

But free-lance photography doesn't pay my med school loans. Neither does my husband's job, at least not consistently. So, I have been deferring my student loans more often than not. Sooooo smart, what with compounding interest and whatnot.

So, obviously, it's all her fault, my tenth grade math teacher for this crap load of debt I have incurred.

I feel so much better wallowing in my victimhood, knowing that it isn't my fault that my credit score wouldn't qualify me for a Victoria's Secret Angel Card.


It's the mineral make-up

Yesterday afternoon one of my 8 year-old son's friends told me, out of the blue, that I looked too young to be a mom. I take my compliments where I can get them, so this 41 year-old ran with that one.

Just then the doorbell rang. I was about to mention my graceful aging to my friend as she stood in the doorway when the kid came running around the corner and announced, "I should probably tell you that I am somewhat color blind in the red and green range...I think that's why you look young to me."

And so it goes.