Friday, October 9, 2009

Flashback Friday: Almost popular, again

Last week I flashed back to third grade, when I was left feeling as though my chance to be Popular had been whisked away because of one silly err on my part. Now I'll recount the next time my chances of joining ranks with the "in" crowd were smashed. Only this time it was all my brother's fault.

Since moving away from the elementary school where I had once been destined for Popularity, I had hovered around the middle rungs of the social ladder in upper elementary and junior high school. I wasn't the most popular girl in school, the one lusted after by boys and envied by girls. But I didn't get stuff thrown in my hair on the bus either. I played soccer with lots of Cool Kids, and was occasionally even invited to join them at birthday parties or other social events throughout middle and high school. But my closest friendships were mostly formed with the girls with whom I went to church, and we wouldn't have been considered among the top-ranking in Popularity as far as those labels go. I enjoyed my brief moments rubbing elbows with the pre-teen elite, and regrettably struggled at times with the desire to be considered "one of them," instead of being satisfied with my more meaningful friendships or the idea that I could be well-liked and even respected without being "Popular."

Certainly it's a pathetic way to view the world, in terms of Popularity--whatever definition that word might wear.

But at any rate, that's Junior High. And this is where our story begins: at the Eighth Grade graduation party. Yearbooks are being passed around for the standard "your cool" and "have a gr8 summer" sentiments. Students are shedding tears over all the special memories they have created and the fact that they might not see one another for TWO WHOLE MONTHS over the summer. !!! What a blissful life.
Polaroid photo taken at 8th Grade Celebration. Oddly enough, almost all the peers pictured were Popular Kids. How did I get in this picture? Maybe I was cooler than I thought. Or maybe I snuck in like a 13th wheel. In case it isn't obvious, I'm the ugly one with braces on the far left.

This guy who goes by Butch strikes up a conversation with me at the party. I didn't know him well enough to be considered a friend. He was just a guy I knew, one who I would look up to from my place on the middle of the proverbial popularity ladder. He was a Cool Kid, from my vantage point at least.

In my yearbook Butch writes:

Imagine being a 13-year-old girl, and see if you can identify each nuance that might be scrutinized with delight (the misspelling of "lose" not among them). Butch also asked me to go to a movie with him in the summer. Wow. I could feel it already: Ninth grade was going to be different.

We made plans to meet at the movie theatre for our date a couple of weeks later. Yes, the proposal was genuine and the plan indeed executed!

Butch said he would buy our tickets and wait for me at the front doors. Such a gentleman, considering this was a few years before he would be old enough to pick me up on my doorstep with a dozen long-stemmed roses. Give him a break, okay?

All I had to do was procure my own ride to the theatre. For some reason my parents were both not at home this day. I was left to rely on my oldest brother for this most crucial element of what might be considered my first date. I literally cannot remember the details surrounding this life-altering quarter of an hour, but I do remember distinctly pleading with Richard to hurry up and take me to the movie so that I would not be late, and him being otherwise occupied, unwilling to relent. He finally, and with a frighteningly disgruntled sigh I'm sure, gathered himself and the keys and I hopped anxiously into the passenger seat.

Since we left our house somewhere around the time (or possibly even after) the movie was scheduled to begin rolling, it was a tense three-mile drive. I was nervous, mortified, and really at a loss for what to do. In 1994, cellular phones were still quite uncommon, and certainly no one who just finished middle school had one. I kept visualizing my soon-to-be new friend sitting outside the theatre on a concrete bench, his face lighting up when we finally pulled in, and us skipping hand-in-hand down the dark hallway toward our seats just as the opening credits concluded.

Instead, we pulled alongside the curb in front of a deserted ticket booth. Butch was nowhere to be seen. I asked my brother to wait while I checked inside, and I hope that by the time I emerged from the lobby onto the pale, desolate concrete alone that he felt sorry.

I don't have the kind of relationship with my brother that would have allowed me to air my frustration and blame the way I wanted to. Which would have involved ear-splitting yells and possibly some PG-rated violence. Instead I shrunk back into the Camry seat and stared out the window while we drove home, hiding my shameful tears from Big Brother.

I spoke to Butch once more after that, attempting to explain over the phone the humiliating circumstances that forced me to stand him up unintentionally. He said he enjoyed the movie, and didn't seem interested in forgiving me and trying again.

Maybe I could have salvaged my chance at Popularity by going inside and finding the boy. But I probably would have needed a ticket to get past the teenager guarding the hallways. And I didn't have any money. And my brother sure as hell wasn't going to give me a ride AND six bucks. And then I would have felt as though Butch had wasted his money on the other ticket. Which in essence, he had already done, so why would that have mattered? I probably also wondered if perhaps Butch had even shown up in the first place, and I didn't want Richard to leave until I confirmed his presence, and then how would I come back out and tell him it was okay to leave after successfully getting in to the movie 15 minutes late? It was all so complicated and my immature self just didn't know what to do at the time.

It's probably best that I wasn't Popular anyway. Here's to my REAL friends:
Julee, Kristen, Mikael, Bridget ~ June 1993
True friendship is fun. And forgiving.
(Like each will offer me for posting this lovely picture on the internet)


Bridget said...

Wow, those are GREAT pictures. I really enjoyed this story, and its moral.

Bridget said...

And hmm, T*** failed to mention to me that he had once dated M******, at least if I'm interpreting that photo correctly.

Amber said...

I have so many potential comments for this post that I don't even know where to begin...ahh, junior high.

Kristen said...

Bridget, your interpretation doesn't shock me, so it may have in fact occurred. Or it was one of those momentary attractions so common then.

Amber, you need to share your comments! I must say it amused me greatly to flip through the yearbook and see your photo mere inches away from the one of your husband. Adorable!

The Georges said...

You are forgiven.
Butch must have really hurt you, you must have been too heart broken to tell me:)
And, yes, T and M did "go out".

Anonymous said...

good perspective before we help facilitate Zach's first date next weekend. I love your flashback stories!!!!!

YrHmblHst said...

Ok, so I'm 4 years late... just stumbled in by hitting that 'next blog' thing at the top....anyway, love this post; humourous and somewhat poignant. Great pictures too.
As was said, 'aahhh, junior high'. Indeed. Tho my time in that institution was 20 years earlier...


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