I was somewhere around the age of junior high school crushes at the time. I was living through this so-called thing called teenage life while eagerly looking for experimentation. I was trying to find myself in the sense that me as I was, a young man, smaller than the rest of my class, and puny to some degree; I knew that I needed an edge. After all, everyone has an edge whether it’s a sense of humor, charm, a new toy or something bright to stand out – everyone has something about them.
I wanted to find my way across the bridges of popularity and be at least somewhat cool. I can remember looking at the others in my social surroundings. I looked at those who were seen as popular or the so-called popular. I noticed where they sat and who they sat with and I wondered what was it about them that made them different from me – or better yet, what made them different from anybody or everybody else?
Is this the case of looks? Is this about physical prowess? Was the talk about beauty only being skin deep a simple ruse? Was this what people say for someone who was less attractive? It could be, right?
Is this about the typical nature of desire or desirable attributes such as the way the body shapes or forms? If this is the case, then who was it that decided which features deliberated beauty?
Or then if this is so, who was the team of middle school associates who came together and decided what it means to be “cool” or “in,” and somehow, if there was in fact a distinction of cool or beauty, then there had to be another distinction as to who wasn’t cool or who wasn’t pretty – but this picture is drawn by who? I only ask this because I can hardly recall the chance to vote for this.
So again, who was it that had the right to decide these standards?
Was there a vote for this and it was me who missed it? If so, was this vote drawn by secret ballots or was this drawn without anonymity? I ask this because, in fairness, as pack animals, no one wants to disturb the order of the herd. No one wants to be the odd one or the antagonist or exposed (or shamed) for the truth of their attractions.
If you ask me, this is a lot for a young person to consider.
Who do I like and if so, or what if I like someone who doesn’t fit the typical profile or the commercialized version of beauty. Or what if they do not match the acceptable levels of coolness, then what?
Should anyone face the chastised nature of the mob because, to them, love comes in curves or without curves – or to someone else, perhaps their version of cool or their sights of love are that which are not typical? Then if this is so, what should they do?
Should anyone restrict their appetite for the hands they choose to hold, simply because of a pack mentality or the need to be cool or “fit” and therefore, should a person forgo their rights to be happy just because they want to fit in?
I often laugh when I hear people say they were not a part of anything like this back when they were kids. But this social nature can only vary so much because, in fact, everyone has seen the power of the mob and the attraction of different cliques.
I never spoke much about my young childhood crushes. I never said much to anyone in fear of two things; that either I am the uncool one or undesirable and the person I liked might not like me back, or that I’d find that the attraction would be returned, only to be ridiculed by the crowds as if to hear someone say, “You like that?” as an expression of shame.
Perhaps the culture has changed some. At least I hope it has but nevertheless, the pools of popularity come with their own undertow and, true to its form, the mob or the mob mentality of the pack and the variations of cliques are tough to navigate through.
I know it was for me.
I never felt cool by the way. Just saying . . .
At least, not really. There was a time that was brief, yet nonetheless, where I worked at one of the cool places to work.
My job was after school at a bagel place in town. I liked bagels. I often had the munchies so, to me, this was a good fit. I was not one of the people that stood up front by any means. Instead, I was part of the clean-up crew in the back. I cleaned the giant mixer. I cleaned the floor. I swept and mopped and if I’m not mistaken, I cleaned the bathroom a few times, which was pretty gross.
It is important to explain that my introduction to mind expanding substances began very young which meant that my eyes were often bloodshot and red. I was frequently dosed with some of the various psychedelics which I bought with the intention to sell. However, I found that I was a better customer than a dealer – hence the quandary because I’d buy my sheets and doses but, in the end, I’d only sell enough to keep me in a good supply which worked for me.
Perhaps this was not chemically helpful nor was this helpful to my functions of mental and emotional growth – but hey, this was the time back then. This was me as well – a crazy little kid, looking to score, looking to be cool and hopefully, if at all, this was me trying to get someone to turn my way for a kiss or anything I could grab.
Now, to be clear, the start of my shift was in a giant mixer. This was shaped like a large letter “C” tilted backwards, only slightly, with large arms that kneaded the dough. I could literally climb inside of this machine, which I did. I had to scrape off the excess dough from the inside of the barrel. I had to scrape the dough from the arms and clean the machine for it to be ready by morning.
By the way, the echo inside of this chamber was extremely trippy and while this was not the primary source of my teenage income, I didn’t want to lose the gig because I was on LSD or because the mescaline took me to a place where all I could do was giggle and drool. However, this was often the case and thus, this was the reason why I did not work there very long.
Meanwhile, the pretty girls from my town would work the counter. They were kind to me. At least I can say they were kind to me while I was at work.
For the most part, they smiled at me. In some cases, some of them would make me a sandwich for my break.
I never spoke much about this in any of my previous journals but in retrospect, I can say that I look back now and I consider this time with a smile. I was young and hopeful.
I was hoping for the attention of someone, but not with the intention to find love, per se. I was just hoping to find someone who’d fool around a little bit and let me go a little farther than first or second base . . .
I liked this job. To this day, I still appreciate the aroma of a good bagel store. I could inhale this scent of the baking and smell the bagels. And I smile.
I smile because there was a time where I was not ruled by the reveries of status or caught up in the different divisions of “cool” but instead, I was among the cool kids without any pushback.
I wanted to share this entry for a particular reason. I wanted to present this honestly in the sense that there will always be the dragons of status. There will always be the status whores and the so-called in-crowd. There will also come a day when people wake up and realize how completely worthless this is.
Safe to say this social truth goes beyond high school. In fact, I see this all the time; the mobs, the clique mentality, and the odd one out who chooses their own path.
It took me years to be free enough and comfortable in my own skin; to be myself, to love as I choose and who I choose- to appreciate beauty that has been defined by me, and to be me, to express myself openly and to happily detach from the crowds and the packs.
Minus the drugs and the dialogues of drug-cultures or the glorification of drug use to be seen as a vehicle of coolness, I have had the benefit of speaking in schools to teenagers who want to find their way. I have spoken with kids in small groups and large groups about the true-to-life format of their daily world and still – the fashions have changed and the music has changed. Music has changed and so has the curriculum in the schools. I can say that I see a lot more tolerance yet with all I see, I see that the more things change; the more they stay the same. I know this because as I present – I often present to classrooms of kids in a sea of nodding heads – nodding yes to the truth, nodding that at the core, we are all the same and nodding which to me is a sign.
My aim to break the codes from my past as well as support others who look to break away is clear. I love exposing this too because this reaffirms my motivation to be “ME” exactly as I am.
Among other poems and aside from the ever popular one which reminds me to always “Stay Gold,” Robert Frost wrote about The Road Not Taken, which is a poem that ends with this:
“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”
Me too, sir.
Thanks for understanding.