Monday, November 28, 2005

The ‘Cool Kids’

I wasn’t a cool kid growing up.

I was too geeky, too eager, too fat, too unathletic and too poor (to wear nice clothes/concerts/toys...)

At different times in high school several of my friends were accepted/befriended by some of the cool kids. Also, since I was involved with a lot of activities, I regularly associated with some of the cool kids. I was never one of them, however. Often I was torn, because I desperately wanted to be liked by the cool kids, but at the same time I didn’t really even like them because they often seemed shallow, mean and/or dumb. Also, I didn’t trust them because much of their conversations involved speaking badly about their friends who weren’t around. Certainly, if they said bad things about their actual friends, they wouldn’t hesitate to rip to shreds a fat, geeky girl. Unfortunately, this wasn’t the last time that I sought the approval of people whom I actually didn’t respect or trust. Very odd.

Most of the cool kids who attended now live in Milwaukee or Madison, WI. They graduated from college and are beginning their climb up the corporate ladder in jobs that sounded pretty typical and not particularly interesting. Standard young, urban professional lives and jobs. Most conversations just glossed over jobs, so I very well might have missed learning that someone has a super-interesting job.

I occupied a strange social position at the reunion that rather unbalanced me – and I am quite accustomed to being an oddball in most company. According to the organizers, who learned what most people were currently doing, my life was the most interesting and exciting of the classmates who responded: I live in Chicago investigating police brutality as an attorney and live my bikey lifestyle/adventures. In a strange twist of events, I am also one of, if not the most, successful members of my class based on the attorney/Hbar gig. Plus I weigh about twenty pounds less when the trend for most people was slight weight gain. I didn’t attend the reunion with any concern of being thought a disappointment. To be honest I went back exceeding any rational expectations based on my high school record.

Given all of this, the ‘cool kids’ easily embraced me in their circle, which also made me uneasy and yet strangely pleased. While taking trips down memory lane, they erroneously inserted me into their memories. Several times their, ‘remember when we......" inquiries were answered by my, "no, I wasn’t there" and they seemed honestly perplexed. I should have just bluntly explained, "please remember, I wasn’t cool enough to be included back then."
The cool kids aged pretty well. No one was stunning, no one was hideous. Pretty much what was expected – attractive kids ten years older.

One thing that was quite apparent though, was that no one really dressed with real style. I think if I were given about 30 minutes in both Sears and any bland, trendy store (New York Company, H&M......) I could almost perfectly copy everyone’s outfit. I’m no fashionista by any stretch, but I was probably the only person whose clothes showed any sign of individuality – which is not at all what I am used to with my creative bikey friends. Seemingly without effort, my bikey friends often look great and wear clothes that aren’t common on store racks. Also, the cool girls were all wearing those obnoxious chandelier earrings that were on almost every woman who walked in fashion lockstep’s ears two years ago. I was amused that these women still seemed to think they were fashionable.

One thing that they did have in common with Chicago women, was they, too were also almost all wearing icky fashion shoes. Gaudy, horrible, impractical shoes adorned many of the female ‘cool kids’ feet. Thanksgiving day gave us weather in the teens, followed by a snowfall. The roads were slick and there was a decent amount of snow to walk through in parking lots. Therefore, I consider the following shoes inappropriate: strappy heeled sandals, open-toed heels, stiletto heels, ballet-style slippers. Also, if you wear heels, I think you damn well need to be able to walk in them. Teetering around like you have a stick up your ass isn’t attractive even while wearing the sexiest shoes ever created.

[climbing off urbaner-than-thou-horse and continuing with my more legitimate analysis/gripe]

I didn't like the way that many of the ‘cool kids’ who mocked or excluded people in high school now seemed to sweetly pretend that we were all just one big, happy family. Especially since I noticed that they still seemed to ignore the bulk of our classmates who didn’t appear to have done anything particularly interesting with their lives or looked somewhat frumpy. It was apparent that they were still very much judging and excluding people, only this time around, I made the cut and was worthy enough to be included. Or maybe that is just my warped perspective on the situation.

Still other former ‘cool kids’ continued to blatantly act as if they were superior to the majority of our classmates. They sat around making fun of other classmates who weren’t present – especially some of the developmentally disabled (retarded) kids who they taunted and teased in high school. I walked away from this conversation, but am kicking myself for being so passive in my disapproval. Instead I wished I would have loudly declared something along the lines of, "it has been ten years since graduation, I hoped that you would have done something worth talking about in the interim instead of resorting back to making fun of disadvantaged people who never did a single thing to hurt you and aren’t around to defend themselves." Alas, I didn’t though because on some level, I still wanted the ‘cool kids’ to like me.

I didn’t expect to really care what people thought – I was surprised to feel the once-familiar high school insecurity desire for approval welling up – and I didn’t know how to react to it. Maybe at our fifteen year reunion I will actually be as mature and secure as I like to imagine I am.


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