The continuing adventures of Beau Yarbrough

Fear and Loathing at South Lakes High School

Monday, August 18, 1997, 0:00
Section: Life

It began with a sense of vague unease.

It seems hard to believe I graduated high school 10 years ago. Although I no longer feel close to those days, emotionally or mentally, neither do I feel like someone old enough to be going to his 10th year reunion, as I did on August 16.

Driving to the country club it was to be held at a country club (pay attention to that, as it’s significant), I felt … not trepidation, but a certain low-level annoyance. I’d paid $45 for the privilege of seeing these people again, and I wasn’t sure why.

It wasn’t that my two years at South Lakes High School in Reston, Virginia were unpleasant — I only spent two years there because my family moved quite a bit while I was growing up — but they made little impression on me. I’m a great believer in the idea that there are certain key moments in a person’s life that transform it, and mold the person irrevocably. I can think of perhaps four such key events in my life off the top of my head — traveling, joining Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity, the time spent with my college-era girlfriend, working as a television reporter in college — but attending South Lakes is not one of them.

When I graduated back in 1987, Fairfax County, Va. was the second-richest public school district in America, and now that Orange County, Ca. has gone belly-up, it may be number one. Within the school district, South Lakes is probably the second wealthiest school, full of the children of lawyers, politicos, defense contractors and all the others that make the nation’s capital tick. There was a certain air of self-declared aristocracy amongst my classmates, a certain American classism existing independent of Ivy League schools or “old money.” Like other such groups, they felt a sense of entitlement as we graduated, as though the world was destined to give to us what we so clearly deserved.

Although I was friends with a number of such “A-list” people in high school, I was never really one of them. I had numerous friends — finding the popularity my senior year of high school that had previously escaped me — but they were scattered across grades and cliques, “cool” people, brains, artsy types and partiers.

As I pulled into the country club parking lot, Jimmy Buffett blasting from the stereo but unable to take the edge off my mood, I noticed with a sigh the convertible BMWs, Acuras and Volvos in the parking lot. My hard-working Hyundai was the only car of its brand in the lot.

The crowd was classically South Lakes, or at least the image the students had of themselves: Nearly all white, well-educated, and upper middle class sophisticated. It was essentially a really nice fraternity or sorority mixer, only without the music or the likelihood of anyone having sex with someone they didn’t come with.

I was there, hoping it’d be more fun than I feared, wanting to see about a half-dozen different people. I can only remember the names of three of my teachers. One I don’t wish to ever see again, or only to back over her with my car if I do, and the other two didn’t show. This was to set the tone for the evening.

About 568 people were in my graduating class (the figure has become hazy over the course of a decade) and 168 showed up. Alas, they were mostly the “A-List” people, and not my more interesting classmates. The classmates who showed, giving air kisses and squeezing biceps, actually kissing cheeks when they were really excited, were mostly pressed from a single mold, wearing the same few outfits — nearly all the women wore demure black cocktail dresses, except for one classmate seemingly showing off her boob job — with their hair neatly coifed the same way and telling the same stories over and over again.

Flipping through a list of classmates, as I sipped my single complimentary soda (I was not going to spend $2.75 for another), I saw that my senior prom date now lived in Las Vegas, where she’s presumably pursuing her singing career. Another high school friend of mine had moved to Phoenix. Neither were in attendance that evening.

The person I would have loved to spent the evening catching up with, telling her about all I’d done since last we talked, was absolutely not coming, as Aislinn has been dead for six years, a loss that still stings.

So I mingled, nodding and saying “hey, how ya doin’ to a succession of classmates who were, in most respects, the same as they always were. True, the women were typically a little heavier, and for all the cracks my family makes about my hairline, most of the men had lost far more of their hair than I have mine.

I ate with a friend whom I see periodically around the DC area, and ran into a few other people I was glad to see. But one encounter in particular sums up the whole of the experience, and what South Lakes means to me today.

[Old junk snipped. It’s been 10 years since I wrote this and 20 years since high school. No point in leaving this out there where it’ll cause unintended and thoughtless pain.]

I left feeling calm, untouched by anything I had seen or done that evening.

I got a diploma from South Lakes High School 10 years ago, but when I walked out its doors into the hot Washington summer, I left it behind. It recedes more and more in my rear-view mirror with each passing day. It’s where I came from, but it bears no impact on where I’m going.


  1. I graduated from South Lakes a whopping 25 years ago, same string of people there then too.
    Girls driving porches and wearing furs to school. How gross. I wonder if the subschools are still called subschools and if they are still different colors. I have yet to be invited to a class reunion there, nor would I go if I were invited. I met more people stuck on themselves there in one year, than I have met the rest of my life combined, lol!

    Comment by Withheld since I am part of the B list, lol! — March 13, 2006 @ 14:36

  2. Yea right…South lakes was off the fucking chain..
    You must have been on the outside ’cause it was the
    best time of my life…Build relatonships, follow thru.
    They maybe your daughter could drive a porsche to school..LOL

    Comment by George — April 18, 2006 @ 18:31

  3. it was the best time of my life

    Anyone who says this and is not still in high school has made a mess of their life.

    Comment by Beau — April 18, 2006 @ 20:00

  4. South Lakes was a Horrible Preppy White Republican school!

    Comment by Doyle Mcsorley — April 30, 2006 @ 23:31

  5. I went to school with Doyle at SL and I hated it too!
    I was high most of my senior year and nobody cared.
    I walked around with a Boom Box blasting Hip-Hop Music!
    The School was so Country the urban music was Go-Go which Sucks!
    Everyone use to ask me “Are you going to listen to Rap in 20’s?
    They meant this sarcastic all of those Wigger Bastards!
    Well guess What I moved to New York had my own indie label
    that Sony bought from me and my Partner for over 20 million.
    Now I’m rich and still listening to Rap Music, you FOOLS!
    Oh and none of those Rich Crackers who were born into Money
    can see me today!!!I’m 33 and living in a huge Mansion on
    Long Island with my fine ass Dominican Wife whose 22!
    Oh and I have White People mowing MY Lawn!!!

    Comment by Ray-Ray — April 30, 2006 @ 23:44

  6. I’m at South Lakes right now. It’s not all white, there’s a fair distribution of races, political ideologies and people. Not everyone drives a porsche, actually I don’t think anyone does. I drive a beat up pick-up truck.

    And the subschools are still there, albeit with cubicle dividers so it’s basically classrooms.

    Oh, and it’s actually pretty tight.

    Comment by Evan — March 6, 2007 @ 19:49

  7. I went to the 10 year reunion too…man it was hot as shit that day…104 if i recall. Why not come to the 20th year reunion…how gives an F what you drive and what anyone drives…and if they do F them. Just come out to have fun and drink some beers.

    Btw, who was the chick you were head over heels with?

    Comment by Turk — April 3, 2007 @ 7:02

  8. I had posted a comment a couple of weeks ago, but I am not sure if it went through.
    So, are you coming to the 20 year reunion?
    I agree with Turk’s comments, by the way. And, your post saddened me. For reasons you will never understand.

    All the best with the baby-wishing a good sleeper, an easy labor and nothing but joy.

    Lee Hylton-Slivka

    Comment by Lee Hylton-Slivka — May 4, 2007 @ 21:24

  9. It was 10 years ago that I wrote this and I wrote it after a few drinks on my old GeoCities site. Frankly, it was a silly thing to have moved over when I created this new one. I drive a Honda with a dented bumper, and I don’t care who knows it. 😉

    Too far away and too many expenses this year to go to the reunion. Maybe in five years.

    Comment by Beau — May 4, 2007 @ 23:16

  10. SL is lame. Sike, I love Ms. Porter :).

    Comment by Jennifer — June 8, 2007 @ 10:46

  11. Ray-Ray,
    Next time, ask the white people who are mowing your lawn, to edit your material for spelling, grammar, and content. Wow, you didn’t need to add that you spend your days stoned, I can tell that you were imbibed with the fruit of the cannabis in English class. Somehow, I don’t think you were being completely honest about the ol’ company and the millions…..C’mon, now, let’s be honest….

    Comment by Matt — June 11, 2007 @ 13:34

  12. Beau, I was in the class of ’87, too. Your name sounds very familiar, but I don’t think our paths ever crossed. Your description of the SL crowd is perfect (but you didn’t mention that shitty blue Ford Fury in the parking lot–that was mine). I remember Aislinn–my dad was friends with her parents but she and I were never friends for no particular reason. Anyway, the 10 year reunion sounds like it was what I imagined it would be. I’m not sad that I missed it, and I’m not sad that I’ll miss the 20 year.

    Comment by Liz — August 22, 2007 @ 21:25

  13. Apparently I can neither read very well nor edit my comment to hide the fact that I can’t read very well. The shitty blue car of mine was in the SLHS parking lot, not the country club parking lot.

    Comment by Liz — August 22, 2007 @ 22:31

  14. South lakes high school fucking sucks

    Comment by Xicerro — November 29, 2007 @ 5:31

  15. I’m a freshmen at South Lakes now and it isn’t as bad as people make it out to be. Like last year I didn’t want to go because of all the rumors, but I actually met alot of really nice people this year. And it’s not a ghetto school nor is it a preppy school with stuck up people driving porsches. Everyone is down to earth and chill. It’s a really diverse school with people with alot of different beliefs. All the things that happened 10 and 25 years ago are nothing but urban legends now.

    Comment by Julia — December 26, 2007 @ 19:23

  16. I too graduated in 1987 from south lakes. I too only attended for 2 years. It was not the best of times. it was not the worst of times. The school was very clickish. It was very much like the John Hughes film The Breakfast Club. Which is one of my favorite films to watch but definitely not to live. I remember Aislinn. Sad that she passed away. I have never gone to a class reunion and never will. Lol

    I wonder if anyone has a video of the 87 talent show. I was in it. We were a go go band. Sumthin Difrunt. Alphie Williams was our lead singer.

    Comment by Robin S — December 27, 2016 @ 6:12

  17. Ok, the girl from “Mayberry” in Heavy Metal Parking Lot. Did she graduate with your class back in ’87? Her name is Michelle.

    Comment by Jack Just — June 3, 2024 @ 0:52

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