The Partisan: Dark and Fading High School Memories

OPINION 

By Royal Calkins

I graduated from high school 14 years before Brett Kavanaugh. My memories from good ol’ Mt. Whitney High are fading, of course, but I do recall that it was a time when women and girls were even more objectified than they are now, if that’s possible.

Though there must have been some, I never heard of any sexual assaults involving any of my schoolmates. But something did happen that was nearly as bad, or maybe as bad. I really don’t know the details, however, which is the point of this piece. The fact that some people don’t remember something, like that party in suburban Maryland where Kavanaugh apparently assaulted Christine Blasey Ford, doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. Sometimes, we choose not to know exactly what is happening and then choose not to remember what we did know.

Even now I hate to think about the foul thing that happened during my senior year. It’s hard even to use the name it was given. They called it a pig dance. It involved some of the most popular guys in the class of ’68 and, I believe, some fellows from our rival school.

The way I understand it, they each put money in a pot and then asked a homely girl to be their date to the Friday-night dance. Then, standing in a group in the gym, they announced to their victims what was going on and said there was about to be a vote. Whoever had the homeliest date would win the pot.

I was at the dance. I remember some commotion about halfway through, probably 50 feet from where I stood trying to get up the nerve to ask someone to dance. I remember some yelling and a couple of chaperone types wading into the crowd and then people leaving the gym. I remember some laughter.

“What’s going on?” I asked those around me while they were asking the same question of those around them.

Finally, someone told us.

“Pig dance,” he said.

I don’t remember who told me the few details I picked up later, and I find it remarkable, and revealing, that I never heard the full story. I have an idea who some of the guys were but I am not certain. I don’t think I ever heard the names of the girls. I really didn’t want to know. I wanted to look away.

Here’s the thing. Like the sexual assault of a 15-year-old girl in a suburban Maryland bedroom, this was an ugly thing and not something I really wanted to ponder. Apparently my schoolmates didn’t want to ponder it either. It was not the topic of general conversation on Monday or anytime after that. I don’t remember anyone ever discussing it except for the briefest mentions.  Kavanaugh testified that if he had done what another woman accused him of doing at Yale, it would have been the  talk of the campus. Maybe. Maybe not.

Also during my senior year there was a big fuss involving the baseball team. Many of the players were at a party in a clubhouse of sorts. There was some sex of the consensual nature and lots of drinking and somehow the coaches found out about it. About half the team was suspended. The junior varsity guys moved up to varsity. It made the radio news. I’m not sure it made the newspaper but it was a big deal that everyone talked about.

The pig dance was a much worse thing but the whole concept had to have been hugely embarrassing, even traumatizing, to the victims. I think there was a collective decision to keep it quiet so as not to make it worse. Everyone talked about the baseball scandal endlessly. Almost no one talked about the dance.

The boys should have been kicked out of school or prosecuted for being assholes, but they weren’t. I don’t know how many were involved but I do know that nothing happened to them. I would have heard about that.

Because of that incident some 50 years ago, I don’t have a hard time believing that there likely were kids at that suburban party 36 years ago who had an idea of what went on upstairs but who didn’t pry, who didn’t really want to know. They didn’t ask questions later because they didn’t want to know how horrible a couple of their schoolmates were and they didn’t want to know exactly what had happened to the young girl because then they might have had to do something about it.

From where I sit today, I regret that I didn’t ask questions back then. I regret that I didn’t find out exactly who was responsible and push for punishment. I likely would have gotten a black eye or worse, but who cares? Something should have happened to those boys.

Earlier this week I asked a couple of my classmates what they recalled. One fellow, a good friend who was in with the popular crowd, said he remembered it but barely.

“I’m proud to say I was repulsed about it,” he said.

Another classmate said she had heard about it the Monday after the dance and was upset.

“I kept waiting to hear more but never did,” she said. “After a while, I mainly tried to put it out of my mind. “

Brett Kavanaugh told the world over and over on Thursday that Dr. Ford’s account doesn’t hold up because some of her friends don’t remember the party. That, he said, is compelling evidence. I, for one, am not convinced.

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Royal Calkins

About Royal Calkins

Contributing writer Royal Calkins has worked for newspapers in Santa Cruz, Monterey and Fresno. For the past couple of years, he has produced a local news and commentary blog, the Monterey Bay Partisan. He can be reached at calkinsroyal@gmail.com.

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