Straight Up, Now Tell Me
Straight Up… Life hasn’t changed too much since the 4th grade for me. I’m not the coolest hen in the henhouse.
I was on my way to meet some friends in “the city” (I’m using quotes because it’s still weird for me to refer to any city except NY as “the city”). A station came on the radio playing back to back “Junior High School” music and I was very pleased with myself. Suddenly, I found myself very comfortable with this music from my past. I wrapped my arm around Bea (who was cuddled in the seat next to me) pumped up the music and danced in my seat for the hour long ride. Albert looked at me with those “can I have a different mom” eyes of his that I get all too frequently. I should have paid attention.
It was back in elementary school when I first realized that perhaps, I wasn’t “in” with the cool girls. I spent my time ice skating with my sister, perfecting my flute and ballerina skills and pretty much waiting for summer to roll around. By the time I made some school friends in 4th grade (the ones where you play together outside of school and know each other’s phone numbers) my mom remarried and moved us to a town an hour and a half away. My friends and I did not stay in touch. Since they’re not on Facebook I’ve somehow convinced myself they don’t want me to find them.
5th and 6th grades in a new town weren’t much better except for the fact that I had been playing the flute a year longer then everyone else. That was awesome. I was moved to First Flute, which basically meant I rocked and all my practicing had paid off. For some stupid reason, I assumed my new rockstar flute status would give me some pull in the popularity contest. It didn’t. I was harassed by the boys for my flat chest and nicknamed “Sister Rizer”. Something about being a goody two-shoes and wearing a white headband to hold back by far too long blonde hair. I think there was also something in there about being a prude. I’m not sure, I tried to block them out.
When I moved up to Case Junior High, 7th grade felt a little less brutal. This was despite the fact that a girl with very large hair and very large boobs made out with some dude on my locker for the entire year. I think her name was Joceyln or something. She was sweet but, it horrified me. Anyway, I joined the Field Hockey team (soccer was the “cool-girl” sport) met some girls who (like me) cried over bad grades, practiced the flute a little less and really focused on making friends who did not include my Cabbage Patch Kids or relatives. By this time my older sister was in High School which meant that once in a while I hung out with High School Boys. That made me very uncomfortable but, since it was apparently very cool, I tried to do it as often as possible.
By 8th grade, I got the hint and chopped off my long hair and started actually going to the Junior High dances. With actual friends. I was the awkward girl in the room wearing the wrong outfit and counting on the rhythm I learned in band to get me through. I tried my hardest to fool everyone into thinking I might actually be “cool” but, at heart I knew it was never going to happen. I will to this day never be able to do the dance steps those cool-girls could do. Throwing their shoulders and jumping into a circle so effortlessly scared me almost as much as Jocelyn’s make-out sessions.
Back in the car the other day, I was dancing with Al and Bea, singing my heart out, “Biggy Biggy Biggy can’t you see…” , “Straight Up now tell me, do you really want to love me forever?..Uh oh oh…”, “With the lights out, it’s less dangerous, here we are now, entertain us…” I was remembering the school dances in a different light, fondly rather then with horror. Maybe I hadn’t been that awkward? Had I grown out of that or am I still the odd girl in the room with the flat chest who isn’t quite cool enough? It was then when I glanced out the window (still singing) and noticed a very cool car filled with very cool girls, staring and laughing at the very un-cool me. The answer to my question was clear. Some things just never change.
As I drove the rest of the way into “the city” in silence, it occurred to me that maybe everyone feels a bit un-cool every now and then? Even the cool girls? Probably not, I guess that wouldn’t make them very cool but, it makes me feel better thinking that way. Regardless of my social status, I feel very very lucky to have the overachieving, band playing, field hockey friends that I made those many many years ago. I’m also very thankful to have my summer friends and sister who were always far cooler then me and accepted me even with my long hair and flat chest.
I think there’s something very cool about being very un-cool. It’s much cooler. Some food for thought.