Barry Saunders

Watch what you say in the yearbook – and you can quote me on that

Barry Saunders
Barry Saunders

Have you ever had one of those friends who takes forever – like two, three minutes – to get to the punchline of a joke?

Try 10 years.

That’s how long it’s going to take before the punchline is delivered on some of the senior quotation “jokes” appearing in high school yearbooks this year.

Take the kid from Richmond County who chose as her senior quotation “‘Build that wall’ - Donald Trump.”

The punchline for that will be delivered a decade hence, when she saunters in to be interviewed for a coveted job and CEO Esteban Pablo Rojas or Muriel Rodriguez whips out the student’s 2017 yearbook and asks “Are you still in favor of walls?”

I, like Tony Bennett, “wanna be around” to witness that.

Same with the kid who wrote “I like my women how I like my milk: white, rich and 2% fat.”

So does half the NBA, pal, but that doesn’t make it a wise thing to write. Wouldn’t you love to be a fly in the Oval Office when he has to explain to President Cleopatra Shaniqua Ellerbe what he meant by that or what he has against chocolate milk?

Or how about the Panther Creek High School student who had his senior picture anchored by “I don’t know what’s worse – candy corn, or women’s rights.”


That is the one I found most disheartening from a potential future leader, not just because of the punctuation error, but also because I love both of those things.

None of those kids should be vilified, pilloried or drawn-and-quartered for their intemperance. Young people require adult supervision for a reason – because doing stupid stuff when you’re young is not just expected, it’s almost a birthright, some might say a duty.

For instance, when I decided to streak through East Washington Street, it was not an impetuous act. No, it was, for me, a rational decision.

Before shedding my raiments behind Quick’s Grill and running bare past Nelson’s Funeral Home, shifting into second gear at the pool hall and King’s Grocery and kicking into third gear as I turned left at Gene’s Cleaners, I thought, “I’m 16. Any stupid thing I do now I can write off as being young and dumb.”


You know who I pity?

Any person who, as an adult, has nothing to look back on and go “Yikes! Did I (write, say, eat, do) that?” They deserve no pity, though, if they’re dumb enough to be racist, sexist or to leave video or yearbook evidence.

Fortunately for me, in our high school only the “outstanding” seniors were given a full page each and permitted to post a senior quotation.

That doesn’t mean the less-accomplished among us didn’t yearn to write a pithy epigram that would follow us into eternity, or at least as long as people take booze-fueled treks down memory lane via a musty copy of “The Treasure Chest.”

My epigram, I like to think, would have rivaled Oscar Wilde and Benjamin Disraeli for wit. “If at first you don’t succeed, find out if the loser gets anything.” Or “Squirrels are merely rats with good P.R.”

I swear, I made that one up myself and have been carrying it around in my brain for decades, waiting for the right moment to spring it on a suitably awed public. Last month, though, while listening to comedian Robert Klein, he said the exact same thing.

I’ve got one question for Mr. Klein: How did you get into my head and pilfer my bon mot?”

It was Shakespeare – or Jame Clyde Watkins, the venerated principal of Leak Street High School in Rockingham – who warned seniors “the evil that men do lives on after them; the good is oft interred with their bones. What you write in your yearbook will outlast the mighty cockroach.”

There were no cellphones with cameras to immortalize my unclad escapades – did I mention that it got so good to me that I did it twice? – so I always had a measure of deniability.

There is no deniability once you’ve posted your stupidity on Facebook or Twitter or put it in the high school yearbook.

Your only recourse is to fall back upon an excuse which, in the history of mankind has never worked: “I was hacked.”

Let’s see how that excuse works when you’re wearing a hairnet to work and asking “You want fries with that shake?” despite having a master’s degree – all because some prospective employer peered at your Facebook page or yearbook.

Barry Saunders: 919-836-2811, @BarrySaunders9