The Rockwood Files: Rigged

Today I confess a secret I’ve kept for more than two decades. In 1991, when I was co-editor of my high school yearbook, I rigged an election – sort of.

Here’s what happened. As one of the leaders of the yearbook staff, I helped count votes for the various polling we did of the senior class – decisions like “Best Dressed,” “Most Talented,” and “Class Song.” As it was nearing time for the week of voting to close, I saw that there were two songs that had pulled way ahead in the polls. One of them was the song “Don’t You Forget About Me,” by a band called Simple Minds.

The other song was the Garth Brooks anthem “I’ve Got Friends in Low Places,” which was released right before the beginning of our senior year and played on country radio stations roughly once every five minutes for the rest of the year.

But I was a big fan of the first song – “Don’t You Forget About Me” – which was featured on the soundtrack for the movie “The Breakfast Club.” The movie had been released in 1985 when I and my classmates were beginning junior high school. It’s a quintessential teenage angst movie about coming of age, and even back then it seemed destined to become an 80s classic.

The Breakfast Club movie poster was the epitome of the high school experience. Above a brooding photo of the movie’s stars (including Molly Ringwald, Emilio Estevez, Anthony Michael Hall, Judd Nelson and Ally Sheedy), there was a line that said “They were five total strangers with nothing in common, meeting for the first time. A brain, a beauty, a jock, a rebel and a recluse.”

The second song was drastically different than the first. I liked Garth Brooks just fine, but I wasn’t sure I wanted our class song to be a celebration of “…friends in low places, where the whiskey drowns, and the beer chases my blues away.” It made it sound like we were all underage alcoholics aspiring to see each other again during a stint in rehab.

Admittedly, the lyrics to the other song weren’t exactly profound either. Here’s a sample: “Don’t you forget about me. Don’t, don’t, don’t, don’t. Don’t you forget about me. Will you stand above me? Look my way, never love me. Rain keeps falling, rain keeps falling down, down, down…” But at the time, my teenage brain thought those words were a deep and meaningful commentary on the struggle of humankind.

So I’d campaigned hard for the “Breakfast Club” song to win, telling friends it was a classic choice that would stand the test of time. But when I tallied the final votes for Class Song, it was a tie. There was no time for a run-off election because the yearbook had to go to print. So I cast an “extra” vote to break the tie in favor of my favorite of the two songs.

Do I feel a tad guilty about swinging the election? A little. Do I think the song “Don’t You Forget About Me” is a better Class Song (not to mention more appropriate) than the song about swilling whiskey and causing a scene? Definitely. (No offense, Garth. I’m sure the outcome of our little vote didn’t hurt record sales.)

But here’s the main thing I learned from my secret tie-breaking vote. The truth has a way of coming out (as it just did in my confession). Getting your way isn’t necessarily worth the price of knowing you didn’t get it the right way.

To the Class of 1991 in Stuttgart, Arkansas, I’m sorry if your favorite choice didn’t win (even though you know I’m right about the better song.) And if you want to write the words “Most Likely to Meddle” under my yearbook photo, I understand.

Gwen Rockwood is a mom to three great kids, wife to one cool guy, a newspaper columnist and co-owner of You can read more of Gwen’s work by clicking here to visit The Rockwood Files.