By Richard Kwon, 17, Loyola HS
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Photo by Managing Editor Libby Hartigan

After a long night of working on an essay, I woke up late the next day and had only 30 minutes to drive through an hour-long traffic jam and get to school. Jumping out of bed, I threw on some clothes, packed my books and dashed into my car. My hair was oily and frizzy. My eyes were half-open, and I stank like hell!

My instincts directed me to run into the bathroom and clean up. But then I remembered that I’m going to my school, which is a boys school. Forget it! There’s no one there to impress!

Welcome to Loyola High School of Los Angeles, an all-boys Jesuit college preparatory school. Guys come to class looking like Neanderthals who smell like rotten fish, because there are no girls in class. There are about 1,100 students from Palisades, Chino, Tarzana, Torrance, Pasadena and elsewhere.

Years ago at my coed junior high, I easily wasted 15 minutes each morning choosing my clothes and putting gel in my hair. That’s a thing of the past. Nobody at my school now would ever mock someone else for not showering, smelling like garbage and having messy hair. Now not everyone at my school looks like the Encino Man, but many guys definitely dress less fashionably than they would in coed schools.

It’s like stepping back in time

Sometimes I look around the school halls and feel like I’ve stepped back in time. In reality I have, because my school was founded in 1865 when Abraham Lincoln was president. Back then, single-sex schools were the only options for education. But who goes to same-sex schools these days? People have different reasons, but in my case, I wanted to go to a private school for a good education. I know that there are academically good, if not better, public high schools than Loyola, but they just weren’t around my house. And Loyola was the only private school that accepted me.

Still, it’s not THAT bad. School without girls, however, means I had to join activities like choir, band, speech and debate, and plays or participate in outside activities to meet girls.

Around my sophomore year, I started volunteering at the Queen of the Valley, a local hospital. Since then, I’ve met plenty of girls, but no one I’ve ever dated seriously. It’s just fun to socialize with the opposite sex every now and then.

I’m a junior and not being around girls all day doesn’t bother me as much as it did when I was a freshman. At that time, I couldn’t talk to girls. Once when I met two girls from Marlborough, it was so hard to think of something to talk about. I wanted to be so cool and make them laugh, but instead I was bashful.

"Is this the right thing to say? What would they think if I said this?" I asked myself. Their mere presence made me timid.

Then one of them disagreed with something I said. I got so angry with myself for that. "Ah, you blew it, stupid!" I said to myself.

I found other ways to meet girls

But over time, the pressure wore off. I got involved with more extracurricular activities like the USC summer program and L.A. Youth. As I met and interacted with more girls, I got used to talking with them. Instead of trying to say something sharp and witty, I learned to listen to them. When I listened, the conversations started rolling. Words just came out, and I didn’t feel like I had to say everything right. I don’t feel like a failure with girls anymore.

But without girls around, there’s a certain air of toughness at my school. One time a student in my class blurted out that he was depressed because his dog was dying from some disease. Some guys responded mockingly, "Awww … poor baby."

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. "Man, his dog is dying. How is admitting his feelings unmanly?" I thought to myself. I wanted to say to guys who said stupid things, "Get over it! It’s not like you never cry!" Many students have to pretend to be rough or they will be ridiculed.

And it gets worse. Those with soft voices or those who act like girls are called gay in and out of the classrooms. Guys who participate in choir are called "choir fags." One time the choir director said it was nearly impossible to have guys join, because they’re so worried about being called "fags." Joining choir or theater takes courage, because it automatically means taking a big risk on your social life and friends. But I believe that guys who think fine art activities are girls’ things will have to learn the hard way after they graduate that men can be good musicians, artists, or actors. Where would we be without Mozart, Picasso or Shakespeare? What if they were intimidated to act on their talents?

After three and one-half years in an all-boys school, I’ve come to appreciate it. It’s been the experience of a lifetime, but I’m definitely ready for a coed college.