So, while executing my daily blog trawl yesterday, I read a great post on one of my favorite blogs. I’ve yet to put her in my blogroll because, well, I’ve wanted to keep her all for myself. But I suppose that is no longer possible. So visit her site and read that post here. The post was a plea to her young son, who has been going through some troubles at his school, with bullying and having difficulty finding friends. It’s really beautiful. She relays the story of her hardships growing up as a gawky kid, and how she also had trouble making new friends. She just wanted to tell him how great he is and that, eventually, things will come together and he will find that he has more friends than he ever could have imagined.
It was very touching. She’s a very good writer, smart, clever, UPROARIOUSLY funny, and bawdy, and crass, all things I find exceedingly fantastic. However this post is not meant to simply extol the virtues of Loralee Choate. OK. One more time. Visit her here.
Her post got me thinking about my experiences as a youngster, being socially awkward, and not having as happy a childhood as I would have wished. But as much as I like to see it that way, looking back, I am wholly mistaken. Certainly, as many of you have guessed I am and always have been, a dork. And I have always embraced my dorkiness. I wear it as a badge of honor. Even when I was in school, and being a dork was frowned upon, I was never ashamed of it. And eventually, by the fact that I was comfortable with who I was, I was accepted and appreciated by a lot of people I would never consider my friends.
In grade school I was smart. That alone is enough to inflict enough trauma on a kid to last a lifetime. But, I was also good at sports, funny, and quick witted. I guess you could say I was a class clown. The teachers certainly would have another expression. Pain in the ass comes to mind. But I was still smart. And being the smart kid carries with it a stigma that is not easy to shake. You have the reputation of being a nerd and a bookworm and a brown-noser simply by answering a few questions in class. And the playground is where kids would take it out on you. They were ruthless. They would find something about you that was a little off normal, and relentlessly beat you with it. I, for instance, had big ears. So the moniker of “Dumbo” was one I am very used to.
I had to fight very hard to get people to see me for who I really am. Not just the kid with the inordinately large ears. I found the best way to defeat childhood cruelty was self deprecation. Beat them to the punch, and then they have nothing to ridicule. I would joke that I couldn’t run as fast as the other kids because of the drag my enormous ears created. By the time I was in Junior High, Dumbo was dead. And Floppy was born. I coined it myself. My theme song was “Do Your Ears Hang Low?” You would often find me singing it as I merrily made my way through the halls.
And soon enough, no one was making fun of me. I had ostensibly become the de facto King Of All Dorks! I was accepted into groups of kids who were, admittedly, way cooler than me. Now, I hated cliques. And I hated how kids can be pigeon-holed into one clique, and never, ever get the chance to intermingle. The jocks, the dorks, the preppies, the nerds, the computer geeks, the goths, the drama wonks. I hated them all. What they stood for. Not them. So I made it my personal goal to integrate all of these groups into one homogenous clique, where everyone was welcomed into it, and no one was made the subject of ridicule just because they were a little different.
By the time I was a sophomore, I was, for all intents and purposes, the most popular kid in school. I despised it. But it was fact. I had the love and admiration of every group. Because I would talk to them. It’s as simple as that. I hung out with the drama and band kids in the morning before school. They were odd, but the were also well meaning and easy to get along with. At lunch, I usually ate with the less... popular kids. I would shun the cool table, and go and eat with the kids who would, for as long as I can remember, stare longingly at the cool table. Wishing that just once, they would be invited to sit there. I didn’t care. I enjoyed them. They were funny and off beat, and surprisingly dark in their humor. And me being the sardonic wunderkind that I am, I loved it.
It all boiled down to acceptance. I accepted these kids based on nothing. They were there, and they deserved to be treated like humans. Not like lesser people who only needed your attention when you needed to copy their homework (Arthur Murphy, I’m looking at you.)
By the time we were seniors, there were no cliques. We were just people. The cheerleaders hung out with the computer geeks. (And some of them even lost our virginity to them. Huzzah!) The jocks ate joyfully next to the goths. The drama and band kids were actively corrupting all of the preppies. (Let me tell you, I discovered how great pot was from the band kids. They are some wild ones.)
I guess reading Loralee’s story made me think about those days. And although I may have become one of the “cool kids”, I managed to do it while never selling my soul. I always kept in touch with my dorkish… leanings.
Because no mater how cool I got, I was always that nine year old kid in his ALF underoos, with the big ears and freckle covered face, who never forgot what it was like to be made fun of. And I have made it my mission in life to be accepting of everyone I meet. No matter what they may outwardly appear to be, inside, we are all just scared little nine year olds, begging to sit at the cool table. As far as I’m concerned, whatever table you sit at, if you have friends who love you and treat you with respect, you’ll always be at the cool table.