Why You Truly Never Leave High School

New science on its corrosive, traumatizing effects.

  • Editors' Pick
  1. Throughout high school, my friend Kenji had never once spoken to the Glassmans. They were a popular, football-playing, preposterously handsome set of identical twins (every high school must have its Winklevii). Kenji was a closeted, half-Japanese orchestra nerd who kept mainly to himself and graduated first in our class. Yet last fall, as our 25th high-school reunion was winding down, Kenji grabbed Josh Glassman by his triceps—still Popeye spinach cans, and the subject of much Facebook discussion afterward—and asked where the after-party was. He was only half-joking.

    Psychologically speaking, Kenji carries a passport to pretty much anywhere now. He’s handsome, charming, a software engineer at an Amazon subsidiary; he radiates the kind of self-possession that earns instant respect. Josh seemed to intuit this. He said there was an after-party a few blocks away, at the home of another former football player. And when Kenji wavered, Josh wouldn’t take no for an answer. “I could see there was no going back,” Kenji explained the next morning, over brunch. “It was sort of like the dog who catches the car and doesn’t know what to do with it.”

    The party was fine. For a while, Kenji wondered if he’d been brought along as a stunt guest—a suspicion hardly allayed by Josh’s announcement “I brought the valedictorian!” as they were descending the stairs to their host’s living room—though Kenji’s attendance was in the same spirit, really, just in reverse. (“This is the party I never got ...

Originally published in New York, January 2013