People are always saying that various experiences are “better than sex.” This never really means much to me; some sex is easily bested by a good “CSI” re-run. The gold standard of intensely pleasurable experiences for me is not sex, chocolate, or even the elation of falling in love. It is skipping.
Skipping, (a word that feels, in my brain, like the bursting of fresh, warm raspberries and baby puppies and bargain shoes) means not being where one is meant to be. In my freshman year of high school, at the end of the permissive 70s, we were allowed ten unexcused absences in each class. I never skipped Orchestra or English, because I loved them, but on the back of my notebooks for Algebra I, CP Science and Geography I drew 10 dashes with a skull and crossbones hovering over the tenth. I didn’t need a notebook for Phys. Ed.; the patented Ann Graham Skip Tracker for that class was also on the Geography notebook.
Sometimes I spent my skipping time in the library reading books I actually wanted to read, and other times I went for a walk. As soon as I made older friends who could drive, I was whisked off “campus” for McDonalds lunches, or to hang out at someone’s house listening to Jethro Tull and pondering the meaning of life. Along with the sacredness of Orchestra and English, my standards included not smoking pot, drinking, smoking or otherwise debauching , no matter what anyone else did. The thrill of going AWOL was plenty for me.
After freshman year, we went from ten to three unexcused absences per class. I had enjoyed the pleasant sensation of getting away with something, making statements like “I’m getting more out of reading Hoffer in the library than I’d be getting out of Geography class,” but when the stakes were raised, the jolt of pleasure associated with skipping became more intense. It wasn’t easy; it involved strategy, cunning and cool. Getting a fourth unexcused absence without The Letter in your home mailbox was an accomplishment on par with bank robbery. By the time we had figured out that Mr. Thomas never actually took attendance, left for lunch and failed to return…we were Master Criminals.
I continued to love The Skip long after high school; I skipped my way through college and law school, savoring the mornings that I did not get up and take the one-hour bus and subway journey to the law school for my 8:00AM Federal Taxation class. Sometimes I was snagged; in college I frequently skipped dissection lab because the fetal pig disturbed me so much. I remember taking the final exam, wandering from station to station looking at labeled pig parts and writing down things like “Islands of Lingerhands” and “Anterior Inferior Descendant.”
As an adult, I do not want my child to skip. If we were paying for a very expensive college I would be very unhappy to learn that he had signed up for a class and then amused himself by avoiding it. That being said, I still do it, I still love it, and I still get the same zing when I fully sink into the luxury of not being wherever I am supposed to be. Although I am gradually divesting myself of affiliations requiring meetings (which I hate with a passion rivaled only by my feelings about root canals) there was a time when I had PTA meetings, Community Relations meetings, Neighborhood Presidents Association meetings, City Council meetings and various other regularly scheduled opportunities to sit in a plastic chair drinking bad coffee and listening to orations about TIF credits and sinking funds. Every now and then I would fake an illness, blame my elderly parents or my small child, and stay home, reveling in my freedom to do as I pleased. I never skipped if it put anyone else out and left them holding the bag, bringing the bagels or making the presentation; I still have standards.
It has been suggested, not unkindly, that if I really don’t want to do things, I am now in a position to say so – to refrain from signing up, saying “yes,” and adding to the schedule. I am not a legal prisoner as I was in public school, or obligated to make good use of tuition as I was in college and law school. I could just…stay home. The thing is, I’d miss that rush, that moment of knowing that I was scoring on life. Until they hold the intervention, you’ll find me skipping whenever I can, with a book in my hand and “Thick as a Brick” on the iPod……..