In high school, I had the privilege of being one of the cool kids.
At least, I think I did. How did I know I was cool? Well, the kids that were mean to everybody else were my friends. I guess in high school, everybody is mean to somebody. So really it’s probably more accurate to say that I was friends with the kids that were the meanest to everybody else. The ones that showed no fear.
Or maybe cool just meant going to the parties and not being thrown out.
What it didn’t mean, for sure, was being one of those kids that was, you know, invested in something productive. Like academic studies, or the yearbook, or music.
Definitely not music. Unless it was a punk band. That was different.
Maybe I’m being unfair. My point, really, is that, looking back, cool was never defined in the way I feel it should be. Because coolness is power, and power, in high school anyway, boils down to popularity. You need people to like you, or to fear you, to be in control. And to get people to like you, you have to a) follow the crowd and/or b) exhibit enough apathy in order to convince people you don’t care about your own popularity.
I guess maybe there were those kids that were just, you know, happy with themselves. That didn’t have to feign disinterest in the judgments of others.
We called them drama nerds, I think. Or band geeks. Or something like that.
I hated the whole thing. In fact, I was ostracized in my own group because every once in awhile I would let this slip, that I wasn’t into the whole ridiculous thing. Secretively, my favorite people were always the misfits. And to this day, a lot of my friendships outside of my social circle (ie. “the uncool”) are the ones that have endured – not for any other reason than that these eccentric people were, in fact, the ones I had the most in common with. The ones that really, truly got me.
This is why, I think: because those eccentric people had passion. They had authenticity. And back then, they were braver than me. They weren’t afraid to do whatever it was that made them happy, even if it meant torture any time they got near the smoking doors (that, of course, is where the cool kids monopolize high school turf).
When you’re a grown up, you get to see how asinine it all is. Sure, there are different levels of it in every stage of life. Office politics. Mommy snobbery. Probably a little snootiness at the retirement center here and there (can you believe she’s wearing that floral print again?) But it never packs the same punch as it does when you’re 16.
Again, being a mother has changed my perspective. I am already nervous about Violet’s teenage years. I know how hard it is. I was there. And I barely made it out alive. But, at almost 33, I think I finally have some things figured out, one of them being that finding who you are and owning it is one of the most difficult and important tasks in life. And I hope more than anything that Violet gets there, or as close to “there” as we can, sooner than later. I hope she hits the hallways of high school fearlessly, with her head high, in whatever ridiculous outfit she decides is comfortable that day. For her, not for anybody else.
Maybe the truth is, I hope that she is a geek. A nerd. Whatever, as long as it’s a passionate whatever.
I think even in high school, these are the people we secretly think are cool anyway.