Over and over, people press me about how Dahmer got away with the things he did, especially the drinking. How, they ask, astonished, could he stumble through the halls of the high school drunk? How could the adults be so oblivious? Why didn't any of us kids speak up?
The events in this book take place 35-40 years ago. Many of the themes in My Friend Dahmer resonate with readers who grew up in subsequent decades, but the Seventies were a very different time than any that followed. Dazed and Confused, (above) Richard Linklater's chilling and hilarious film about this era, is spot on in its portrayal of the Seventies.
It's not that there was an acceptance of stoner behavior by the adults. It's simply that many didn't understand this behavior at all. This might have been the last era when a true generation gap was in play. Most of our teachers in 1978 came of age in the Forties or Fifties. Recreational drugs, outside of booze, weren't part of their experience. Veteran teachers at Revere High told me it was the Class of 1969, a decade before my class, that changed everything. And you can see that in the old yearbooks I used as reference. The 1968 yearbook is full of cleancut kids in suits and ties, with neatly trimmed hair and big poofy bouffants. In the 1969 yearbook, it looks like a spaceship from San Francisco dropped into the center of town and passed out goodies and love beads to town youth! These same veteran teachers state that year was when they stopped enjoying the job. They didn't understand the kids, their attitudes, or their views. It was all alien to them. This generation gap was in place throughout the decade, into my era. There were some younger teachers by the time I reached high school, fresh out of college, who had been hippies themselves. They were clued in and weren't facing this generational chasm. Five years later, they took over schools completely, and that's when the "fun" stopped. Or, at least, when it stopped being so open and casual.