Sunday, December 02, 2018

Dispensing Widsom

When I was in ninth grade, I suddenly felt that I had acquired the gift of foresight. I believed that my experiences on the outside looking in gave me some additional sense of what really was instead of what was supposed to be. I began matter-of-factly labeling my peers as "plastic" and "real." Having lived to the ripe old age of fourteen, I was pretty sure that I could judge someone's character by the tangential interactions I had with them. I wrote a forty-two page epistle describing these distinctions. "Plastic" people were those who lived in that bubble of the social hierarchy. They had boyfriends and girlfriends. They went to dances. They sat at the cool table. The table itself wasn't that cool, but the people at it were (or were purported to be). They were not like the "real" people with whom I chose to consort. These were the ones with real feelings and cared about the feelings of those around them. They were the ones who kept quiet in class. They were the ones who carried the whole day's books with them in their backpacks to avoid an uncomfortable interaction at their locker. They were my friends.
This was the dawning of the geeksurge that would hit its peak through the films of John Hughes. Before my eyes were opened to the potential that it really was the nerds who were running things, I thought it was simply our job to provide shoulders to punch. Whether we were flinching or not.
What I hadn't counted on, way back then, was that I was generating my own private cult. All that matter-of-factness was being spooned out in great big globs to my friends and then to their associates such that I started receiving terrified notes from girls asking, "Am I plastic?"
Only now, after all these years, does it occur to me that I might have used this moment to my social advantage. That is the kind of thing that turns a social outcast into a campus hero. And just as often, it required him or her to have some kind of comeuppance which would require the revelation that we are all "real," but we wear many masks.
That's not what happened to me. That was the John Hughes path. In the late nineteen-seventies in Boulder, Colorado the way it turned out was this: I slowly began to realize that I was putting myself further into a corner, and as an oracle of sorts I was only making myself more and more untouchable. That was not what I wanted. Thankfully, I was afforded a summer with my family at our mountain cabin which allowed me to become more of a memory to those I had so callously labeled. When I entered high school in the fall, I was just another nerdy sophomore. Surrounded by a school full of teenagers trying to find their own way.

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