Stockholm Syndrome at Lexington High School (Massachusetts)

Good afternoon!  Below is a link to a very interesting post by Billie, to which I responded:

I clicked on the Wikipedia link that Billie provided.  I had never heard of Stockholm Syndrome before, although when I was growing up, Patty Hearst sure was in the news a lot.

If you read my response, I mention that my eyes are opened a bit now.  This very well might have been what was going on with my “best friend” and I in high school, which by the way, (here, here, Google, I’m not ashamed!) was class of 1975, Lexington High School, Lexington, Massachusetts.

The class of 1975 was huge, but if you are from that class, or were in high school at LHS between the fall of 1971 and graduation 1975, you very well may have seen the terribly awkward girl in glasses, frequently wearing a gray t-shirt that said “SLAVE” on it, walking exactly three steps behind a blonde girl only an inch taller who was bossing her around and insulting her non-stop.

Yeah, I wore the shirt.  I think I wore it to make a barely audible, if at all, statement of, “I need help.”

If you knew us, you might remember now.  We were said to be “inseparable.”  Vague rumors that we were lesbians, but I don’t think this talk went very far.  There were a few such pairs.  Often, these pairs would dress identically each day, or get identical haircuts, even pay for identical eyeglasses, or rather, get their parents to pay for them, doubly tough to pull off.  My memory falters here on names and particulars.

Have there been any studies done on this?  Adolescent pairings that go to extreme?  There was some secrecy surrounding the one pair I can picture in my mind.  Where are they now?

Hint for those of you who Googled LHS and came here: I was in the band.  I was a fucking nobody, a loser.  I was also part of “H unit people,” or so I think it was called.  Was it H?  Or G?  Something like that.  Nowadays, I guess they’d say we were “geeks” or “nerds” or other types of losers.  My chapter on high school life in my memoir, This Hunger Is Secret. is called “Locker #47.”  (Thanks to my advisor at Goddard College, Paisley Rekdal, who  encouraged me to write this chapter.  Love ya.)  You can go get This Hunger Is Secret and read the chapter, but you might want to wait for the paperback.  Anyway, I was known to be talented in music but by no means had “promise.”  I wasn’t surrounded by a lot of glitter.  The prom and all that baloney?  Forget it.  High school was no picnic.

You see, LHS Class of 1975, behind those glasses and all the social awkwardness was a desperate, suicidal girl at the end of her rope.  Hanging on by a thread.  Day after day after day.  To cover herself, she smiled a lot, thinking folks wouldn’t guess, and even if they did, wouldn’t really give a shit.

One nightmare day I recall I think happened sophomore year.  I show up at school to find that I’m excommunicated by her and she’s talking to everyone about what a jerk I am.  Eventually, I came to her begging for forgiveness, but I had no clue what I had done!  All I knew was that my heart was pounding all day long from the pressure.  I literally shook all over whenever I saw her from a distance, sputtering out nasty stuff about me and saying she’d never speak to me again.

To me, it was the end of the world.  Teenagers are short-sighted and of course it was not the end of the world.  It wasn’t like the house had burned down.  Or maybe it was.  For years, I looked back on that day as a turning point.  I asked myself, “What if I hadn’t gone begging for forgiveness?  What if I just let her be angry?  What if I’d let her never speak to me again?  I would have been free of her at last!  Why didn’t I take this opportunity to be rid of her for good?  Surely, I would have had a better life…well, maybe.

But it wouldn’t have happened that way.  I realize this now.  She would have gone to me and ensnared me again.  It was oh so much more than Just Say No.

Slave.  Yep.  So finally, she tells me I’m a jerk and I don’t care about her.

“I do!  I do!”

“Then why didn’t you do something when I said, the other night, “I’m depressed”?  Why?

“I didn’t hear, and if I did, I thought you were just saying it.  Lots of people say they’re depressed.”

“You are bad because you did not respond in the way that a Good Friend would, a Best Friend.  We are inseparable, remember?  I said ‘I’m depressed’ to test you.  You did nothing.  You don’t pass the test.  You are scum.  You and your Jewish family are scum.”

“So, I was supposed to respond in some way? The word, “depressed” has many meanings, you know.”

“You are a bad friend.  I am about to go back to the world and cry and tell everyone that it’s all your fault.  See how I cry. See how I hurt.”

And so on.

She used “pity techniques” (my term) to get me to do everything her little heart desired.  She was expert at getting people to feel sorry for her, and then when they did, she ensnared them into doing exactly what she wanted.  And like any ruler that is sick and impossible to please, she was erratic and hard to  predict.  You never knew when she would fly off the handle or explode.  So my life was spent doing everything I could to prevent these explosions, or shall I say, potential explosions, from happening.  I called her “Master.”  Yes, Master.  Or sometimes, “Yes, ma’am.”

As the four years of high school dragged on and on, the abuse worsened. I saw no way out.  I was trapped.  My parents, in turn, decided this girl was the best thing that had ever happened to me!  They “adopted” her as part of our family, closing the clenches in on me. They always talked about how great she was.

I was miserable and lived in hell.  Pretended everything was peachy-keen.  Now you see me, now you don’t.

So we got back together.  Friends again the next day, just like it had been before.  Only a step worse, I guess.

And what role did the teachers play?  They should have intervened, but didn’t.  My parents? Oblivious.

I’m alive today and no longer her slave.  My life is fucking miserable, but I’m not in slavery.  Or maybe I am a slave to my eating disorder.  Well, yeah, I am a slave to that, if you insist on thinking of my eating disorder as being human-like.

Teachers, wake up.  Concerned friends, wake up. God bless the child.  Guess that’s all I want to say.

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