Wednesday, October 20, 2010
Little Pink Houses and Living a John Hughes Movie
I grew up in a small town.
Not exactly sure what the population was when I was growing up, but I graduated high school with a class of a whopping 61 students. Yeah, THAT small. Like a Mellancamp song, without little pink houses.
It was the type of town where you knew everyone. Same kids you were in Kindergarten with all the way through your senior year. Give or take the ones who went off to the Vo-Tech or to the miscellaneous area private schools, but even then you still hung out with them on weekends, usually drunk and in the woods.
It was easy to get caught up in niches. To get labeled and cast into one group or another. I tried as I might to not get cast, as I knew my older sister before me had. She had been a "Nerd". Smart and artsy. Awkward and bespectacled in a decade that looking back was not the most idyllic fashionably for such a person.
My sister was never popular. She had her small circle of quirky close friends, but it wasn't what you would call the "In" crowd. Fellow brainiacs and artisans. Members of the AV club. She was tormented by those "In" people. Shoved in lockers, ridiculed. For her, high school was torture. That mortar board and gown couldn't come quick enough.
As the sun set on my sister's high school experience, mine was rising. The year she graduated was the year I entered that very same school. A school that harbored grades 7-12 and held roughly 500 students...total.
As I cruised through junior high and all it's necessary standards of awkwardness, I seemed to thrive. I had a large circle of friends. I was involved in sports and clubs and activities.
Soon as 9th grade hit, I tried out for cheerleading. Boom. Done.
I was little Miss High School. I was a cheerleader for football and basketball. I played soccer. I even played a season of basketball (at 5 feet tall no less). I was in music and clubs that helped run the class. I went to parties in the woods on the weekends, drinking from underground kegs and running when the cops showed up. Smoking cigarettes in the girl’s bathroom. I was in my glory.
I was everything my sister wasn't. It came easy to me. I could talk to anyone, I had no shame. I would make jokes and flirt. I had the boobs, I had the power.
I would go camping those summers with my family, and would always be allowed to take a friend. We would parade around those wooded havens like we owned the place, and in a sense we did. Scouting out the playground basketball game looking for the other "cool" kids to hang out with during our vacation. Our twosome quickly growing to at least a 15 person posse for the duration of our trip.
It was different for my brother though. Being only a year younger than me and 2 grades behind. He was shyer. He was smart and funny, but in an awkward phase. Not yet hitting his growth spurt yet so a little on the chunkier side and bifocaled. A bowl-cut and acne.
He came to the same school I did. As I had after my sister. What had been a glorious time for me, not so much for him either.
My male friends, knowing he was my little brother, would stand beside his locker and when he would open it, they would close it. Until he just got fed up and stood there until near the time the bell rang, waiting for them to tire of the game. The only reason they did it was because he was MY brother. He had no other offense other than sharing my last name.
My parents and he came to the decision to send him to the Vo-Tech. To make things better for him between the "friends" I had and the academia his supposed ADD had him struggling from at the time. (Back then his academic boredom was diagnosed as ADD, turns out he was just smart, who knew?)
Then a strange thing happened. He flourished. He was still awkward in his own right, growing a pompadour and sideburns and falling into the Punk Rock phase of the 90's, but he thrived nonetheless. Even earning the moniker Elvis. He had a circle of close friends, he was HAPPY. Working on cars and going to concerts. A different high school experience, but a better one than he would have had if he stayed at my school.
It's funny to think about how 3 kids from the same family could all be so different. How those same kids, with the same raised ideals and values could have a completely different experience in high school. That we had the Nerd, The Cheerleader and the Punk. It was like living a John Hughes movie.
And all of those experiences, good and bad, for all of us, shaped essentially who we are now.
My sister is cynical and smart. She doesn't care now what anyone thinks of her. She is set in her ways and routines and lives her life not by anyone else's expectations. She is quirky and different, and happy. She has a job she loves for an Alternative music store, her boyfriend is an artist and musician. They are perfect for each other. They live in the city and have cats. And it all makes sense.
My brother is hilarious. He ditched his Vo-Tech career in auto mechanics to follow my dad's footsteps in the carpentry trade. He is beyond talented with wood and I wish my dad was around to see just how amazing the stuff he makes is. He traded his high school pompadour for shaggy scruff and long hair. He has a garden and a big truck and has a bevy of activities he does every week with his friends. Darts, volleyball in the summer, a fire pit night. And he's the best uncle to his nephew.
And me? I may still have a bazillion acquaintances, but only a handful of what I call real friends these days. I will still talk to a lamp post and meet people almost daily. I'm a single mom, a SOCCER mom. I still try at times to be fashionable, but that takes a backseat now to clothing my son. I have been through the ringer to get where I am, but I too am happy now. I have a wonderful man and his boys, who I love, and I would oddly not change a thing.
Funny how it all started with hallways lined with lockers and miscellaneous stereotypes.