Last week I wrote about the responses some of my high school girlfriends (a.k.a. the Mob) gave to a question posed by one of our 11-member group.
She sent an email to everyone. “Do any of you want to make a confession to all of us?” she challenged.
I’m impressed by how youthful and trivial some of the confessions were. Writing a word on a hand before a vocabulary test; stealing a piece of candy; pretending to be sick. If only these were our sole trespasses.
I’ll bet we’ve all done worse since high school. Much worse. I know I have. But who is going to email 10 long-time friends the gory details about the most shameful transgressions of their last seven decades?
Nevertheless, a few more answers trickled in this week.
“I don't remember much cheating,” one friend said, “but I do remember a couple of lies in awkward situations. A guy who was a year older than me asked me to the prom. It was the first time I had been asked. I thought he was nerdy so I said I would be out of town. He, of course, called my house that weekend and there I was.
“In retrospect I don’t know what the right thing would have been,” she said. “Probably I should have gone with him and maybe I would have found out he wasn't so nerdy. I trust he has no memory of that event.”
Another friend confessed she kept her 11th grade English book open on the floor during a test. The teacher never caught her. “I was not about to memorize all those poems and authors,” she said. “It seemed a waste of time and energy to me.”
Another Mob member: “When I was 7, I went to a classmate’s apartment after school. “My friend showed me her Easter basket, which was in a closet. She offered me ONE piece of candy before running back to the living room. Under the pretense of using the loo, I sneaked back to the crime scene and took another piece.
“I was caught red-handed by her mother.
“To make matters worse,” she said, “My mother was furious! My friend lived six blocks from school and my mother didn’t know where I was or who the friend was.
“I was never invited back.”
Some typical sibling squabbling from another friend: “I was in a very angry and raging hot moment when I called my brother a fart. I was about 8. My mother heard it and washed my mouth out with Fels-Naptha soap.”
"No need to confess at this late date," I'd say to her. "You already received your punishment."
Another concerning candy: "When I was about five, my father had a small grocery store in Detroit. One day one of my friends (a boy) convinced me that I should go in and get some candy.
So I did. As I cruised around the candy section I could feel my father's eye on the back of my shoulders. When the time was right I grabbed some candy and went outside to share with my friend.
"Somehow, I knew my father watched the whole incident, but he never said a thing to me. I never did that again," she said. "Whew, now it is out in the universe. My soul is clean!!!"
Finally, I remembered an adolescent sin that also involves stealing. I started smoking when I was 16. My boyfriend (who was 17) smoked and I thought it made me look cool and sophisticated. Super dumb, in retrospect. I quit, cold turkey, 10 years later.
My father used to empty his pockets every night and put the accumulated loose change, his pack of cigarettes and his cigarette lighter on top of his dresser.
I usually bought my own cigarettes, filtered Salems or Marlboros. Both of my parents smoked Lucky Strikes. Unfiltered.
I occasionally stole a couple of Lucky Strikes from my father’s dresser top. I smoked them in a locked bathroom, blew the smoke out the window, and flushed the evidence.
But guilt is a wonderful thing. In order to mitigate the shame for stealing my dad’s cigarettes, I paid for them by adding the cost of what I stole to his pile of loose change. He never noticed.
Does this still count as stealing?
Guilt is wonderful. Sometimes it makes us confess, even 60-plus years later. Sometimes it keeps us from repeating the crime. Sometimes it makes us suffer.
Sometimes it just keeps us quiet.