memories, mental health, true crime

I wouldn’t want to go back to high school… would you?

Yesterday, I was binge watching the third season of Cobra Kai. It was a YouTube Premium show, but now it’s on Netflix, which makes it nice for me. Now, I don’t have to wait for it to show up on iTunes. Watching the third season of Cobra Kai led to my having some rather vivid dreams this morning, but happily, they weren’t nightmares. I was actually kind of afraid I would have bad dreams, because the last episode had many snakes in it. I don’t hate snakes… I think they’re misunderstood. But I would not want to fall into a snake pit, either. Yikes!

Anyway, as I was watching Cobra Kai, I noticed an article that was being re-shared by The Atlantic magazine. It was originally posted July 6, 2016 by Jeff Maysh, and it was titled “Why One Woman Pretended to Be a High-School Cheerleader“. I was intrigued, especially since in 2016, we neither had Donald Trump as president nor any worries about COVID-19. I figured it was the perfect thing to read as the headlines grow more alarming.

Maysh’s story was about a woman named Wendy Brown, who in 2008, decided to pose as a high school student at Ashwaubenon High School in Green Bay, Wisconsin. Although many of us would like to forget our high school years, Wendy Brown had wanted a do-over ever since she’d quit school in the early 1990s.

Wendy had two children, Joey and Jaimi. At the time of Wendy’s strange trip back to high school in Wisconsin, her children were enrolled in a high school in Nevada, where they were being cared for by Brown’s parents, Joe and Judith. Joey, named after Wendy’s dad, was conceived when Wendy Brown was a high school student at Harold L. Richards High School in Illinois, where she was on the track team. When Wendy started throwing up after races, her mother suspected she was pregnant. Sure enough, she was, and she delivered her son on her 17th birthday. Her son’s father abandoned them both, and Wendy’s school career abruptly stalled.

Three months later, Wendy got pregnant again, this time by another boy. Her daughter, Jaimi, was born nine months later. High school had been a misery for Wendy, and she’d never managed to finish. Besides being pregnant when she was a teen, Wendy also had a speech impediment that caused her to mispronounce words her r’s. Instead of saying “rabbit”, she’d say “wabbit”. Other kids made fun of her.

Making matters worse was the fact that Wendy had siblings who did comparatively well in school. She had a younger sister named Jennifer, who was a social butterfly and a cheerleader. She had an older brother who was a football player. Both got through high school unscathed, while Wendy floundered. She was very jealous of Jennifer, who got to wear the school’s black and gold colors on her cheerleading uniform and seemed to have a great life.

Throughout her 20s, Wendy drifted through dead end jobs at discount stores like Walmart and K-Mart. She waited tables and worked in fast food places. She’d even worked as a stripper as she migrated from state to state. Stripping turned out to be her longest lasting paying gig.

Freshly married in June 2006, Wendy and her new husband went six months before domestic violence became a problem. In Cass County, Illinois, where Wendy was living when she was first married, the police were frequently called to their home to break up their fights. Wendy’s husband would lose his temper and knock out all of the windows in the home.

In 2008, the pair moved to Green Bay, Wisconsin, while Wendy’s kids moved to Nevada. Wendy had an old friend who lived there and she thought maybe she and her husband could make a fresh start. They rented a small apartment near Ashwaubenon High School. Wendy could hear the football team practice. She was sad that her children weren’t living with her anymore, and was feeling hopeless. That’s when she got the idea to go back to high school, posing as a fifteen year old kid and prospective cheerleader.

Wendy was a very petite woman who could pass for fifteen. She weighed just 103 pounds and easily fit into junior sized clothes. She put on a girlish speaking voice, styled her hair the way kids in 2008 did, and bought herself a new bookbag. She enrolled in school by herself, telling the guidance counselor that her name was Jaimi and her mom was “hard to reach” when she was at work. The counselor apparently took Wendy (posing as Jaimi) at her word, and for a several weeks, Wendy went to classes and even tried out for the cheerleading team, which she made. She also got into a choral group, in which the teacher noted her unusually “mature” singing voice. It was hard for Wendy to get used to being called by her daughter’s name, Jaimi. One time, a teacher called on Wendy three times before she realized she was being addressed. The teacher chalked it up to Wendy “daydreaming” because she was new.

Wendy Brown’s ruse was destined to fail. She got busted for truancy when she didn’t return to school after her first day. One of the principals called the school where Wendy had noted she had studied previously– the school in Nevada where her daughter, Jaimi, was a student. The staff there informed Ashwaubenon High School’s associate principal that Jaimi was in school in Nevada. The principal called the real Jaimi’s grandmother, who explained that her daughter, Wendy, had a history of committing identity thefts. Meanwhile, Wendy had posed as the manager at her apartment building and ripped off a security deposit from a prospective renter.

In the end, Wendy wound up being found not guilty “by reason of mental disease or defect” to a charge of identity theft. She was subsequently committed to the Winnebago mental health facility in Wisconsin for three years, having been diagnosed with bi-polar II disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and two personality disorders. While she was locked up, Wendy was diagnosed with breast cancer, and underwent chemotherapy and two surgeries, all alone. She also divorced her husband and earned her G.E.D., but was not able to get her certificate until after she was released from the psychiatric hospital where she was incarcerated.

Apparently, all she’d really wanted was a “do-over” of her high school years. And although this case was very embarrassing to the staff at Ashwaubenon High School, no real harm had been done. No one at the school wanted to speak to Jeff Maysh about this case, though. Sadly, Wendy’s children were also estranged from her, as of 2016, and Wendy had yet to meet her grandchild.

There’s more to this story, of course, and you can read it for yourself. I was left kind of flabbergasted when I read it. I suppose there are times when I kind of miss high school a little. Those were simpler days, and I spent a lot of them hanging out with my horse. On the other hand, they weren’t the happiest of times for me, and I didn’t have a particularly enjoyable experience in high school. I mean, on one hand, it’s kind of exciting because that’s when you start making plans for your future. You have your whole life ahead of you. On the other hand, it’s also when a lot of youngsters are insecure and immature, and if you’re not “popular”, it can be a lonely time.

Me in high school, aged 17… That hair is killer.

I also would not want to go back to living with my parents. Wendy Brown didn’t do that, of course. She would fake being a teen by day, then go home to her depressing apartment and be a wife to her abusive husband. But the idea of going back to high school, even if I could do it as an actual teen, doesn’t really appeal to me much. The only thing I might have done differently was take some different courses and study music. But if I had done that, I wouldn’t be where I am today. Things might have turned out very differently. Maybe they would have been better. Maybe they would have been worse.

Anyway… I don’t know why The Atlantic is currently sharing these old stories on Facebook. I’m glad they did share that one, though, because it was a nice distraction from politics yesterday, and I’ve only been a subscriber for about a year. And it gave me a reminder that I’d rather be 48 than 15 again, even though it doesn’t seem like it was that long ago that I was in high school. I think today’s students have it a hell of a lot worse than I did. For one thing, we didn’t have school shootings. For another, COVID-19 wasn’t a thing, either. Neither was social media, for that matter. I think Facebook probably makes high school much worse.

Standard

8 thoughts on “I wouldn’t want to go back to high school… would you?

  1. Clare Palmatier says:

    I wouldn’t want to return to those days over, though the high school featured in Cobra Kai is hopefully not a sign of what they’re going through today! I have a feeling Kreese is going to end with a Darth Vader type partial redemption; probably not any time soon though.

Comments are closed.