Every generation thinks they’re the baddest ever; more feisty, outspoken and untamed than their parents and grandparents.
But guess what, little miss Titagurl808 posting snarky comments on your rival’s MySpace page: You think you’re pretty rough, but back in the day, we had "slam books," and those bloodfests were worse than anything online because you could hold them in your hand and C.S.I. the handwriting. Ay, ka dramas.
The notebooks (usually the black hardcover composition books, but spiral notebooks covered with stickers worked, too) were circulated so kids could pass judgment on each classmate listed. If you said the most popular girl in class was pretty, somehow a bit of her popularity might rub off on you. But mostly it was a chance to write negative things about everyone who couldn’t get you back.
There are online slam books, from the squeaky clean (where they explain that the term "slam" is derived from what you’ll have to do to close the book quickly if the teacher catches you reading during class — so don’t bring it to school! Yeah, right.) to the sadistic; but it isn’t the same without passing a folder around, clicking the red ink in your multicolored Bic and writing "weirdo" with a circle dotting the i.
Modern versions of slam books are craft class projects, with cute felt covers and suggestions for the kinds of questions you could ask on each page like:
What kind of pets do you have?
What did you eat for breakfast?
That stuff is boilerplate in the old slam books, and covered maybe the first five pages. The rest quickly devolved into slamming half the seventh grade.
Some Hawaii kids called them "slang" books, maybe because so many of the comments involved the kidspeak of the era: "trippy," "lame," "ete," or maybe it was in that way that local kids try incorrectly to un-pidginize certain words, like "spark you later" for "spock you later."
As bad as those peer evaluations could be, the worst thing of all was to be left out of the pages altogether. What a crushing blow to get your hands on a slam book belonging to one of the popular kids, to anxiously rifle through the pages to see what horrible things have been written about your various perceived flaws and insecurities only to realize … oh no! Your name isn’t even in there. You weren’t even important enough to slam. Being left out of the slam book was the worst slam of all.
Strange how you can miss something so traumatic, but ask people if they remember slam books and they smile and go, "Oh yeah! Those were terrible! We loved them!"
Lee Cataluna can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.