Once upon a time, I was in the seventh grade. (Yes, it was long enough ago that I can say ‘once upon a time.’) Anyway, I was about 13 or so and had just discovered that I would never be cool. This discovery happened at the first boy/girl party I went to. (The kid’s mother said he couldn’t have the party if he didn’t invite the whole class, poor kid.)
There was a moment where we were all standing in the living room, awkwardly holding our plastic cups of Coke, (or in my case, 7-Up,) and wondering what you did at a party when there wasn’t a clown making balloon animals or a birthday cake involved, when the song “Jack and Diane” came on the radio. All the girls squealed, “this is my favorite!” and started singing along.
I’d never heard of it.
My reaction to this self-realization was:
1) to do everything as opposite to cool as I could manage, AND
2) to not talk to anyone.
Can you see the problem with the combination of those two ideas? I did not realize that by not speaking to anyone, no one would actually notice how ironically un-cool I was being. I invented ‘hipster’ back in the 1980s, but no one noticed.
I have many regrets about decisions I’ve made in my life, but the decision to disassociate myself from my classmates was a doozy. Because, after that moment at the party, I knew what ‘cool’ looked like, and I started seeing it everywhere. And I liked a lot of it. Pop music for instance. I was a little late to the world of 80s pop, but I quickly caught up, and I loved it. In secret. (still do.)
I was so convinced of my ‘uncoolness,’ and afraid to expose myself to the derision of my classmates, that I refused to participate.
With my hypersensitivity to ‘cool’ vs. ‘uncool,’ I also did not allow myself to talk to the two boys in the class who played D&D. (Dungeons and Dragons, the original roll playing game that spawned my favorite game, World of Warcraft.) I just want to go back in time and slap myself in the face over that one. I would have LOVED to play that game with them. (They were also the smartest kids in the class and my grades might have benefited from the association as well.)
But no, I wouldn’t talk to them, afraid to make myself even more uncool than I already was.
Jump ahead twenty-five years to my Grammar School reunion. It wasn’t just a reunion for my class, the school was small, and catholic, so everyone had siblings. You can’t have a reunion for one year without everyone’s brothers and sisters wanting to tag along.
I didn’t get an invite. My two sisters did. I went anyway.
No one remembered me.
Ok. That’s an exaggeration. Eventually they remembered. But all they could say about me was how I never talked.
After the reunion, I friended a few of them on facebook, and they seem like interesting, fun people. They occasionally reminisce with each other on facebook about things that happened back when, and I wonder, where was I?
I know, I was hiding behind a book, thinking, no one likes me, but that’s fine because I don’t like them either. It never occurred to me that the reason they ignored me was because I’d made myself invisible.