Too Cool For School

Last weekend while Deb and I were out for dinner with my sister and brother-in-law, I ran into an old friend from high school and it got me thinking …

Remember high school? Of course you do! Most of us spent 4 years there. And some of us seem to have spent the rest of our lives attempting to re-live it or desperately trying to forget it. Either way, it seems that our experiences in high school leave an indelible mark on our psyche. Some would say an emotional scar.

I went to high school in the ’70′s and we had all the usual cliques: the popular kids, the jocks, the brainiacs, the goody-goodies, the freaks, and the geeks. I fell somewhere between the freak-geek categories. I really wanted to be a jock or brainiac but I didn’t really have the goods. And because I knew I wouldn’t (or couldn’t) be popular, I rejected all the normal ‘rights of passage’ in high school. I was a “Rebel Without A Clue”! It was easier to mock the popular kids than to try to fit in. It took less effort to ridicule the smart kids than to study hard and become one myself. I took the easy way out. When you’re a gawky, pimply-faced dork with no athletic ability you are certain to be relegated to one of the bottom tiers of the high school pyramid. So with the inverted logic: “if you can’t join ’em, beat ’em” I spent the next four years working very hard to try to be “too cool for school”.

Looking back after 40 nearly years I now realize that I wasn’t cool at all but my friends accepted me for who I was. And they carried me through some rough years. What’s truly ironic is that my best friend was a jock (and we’re still friends) and the smart kids let me hang out with them, too. No one in my high school was really a badass even though some kids tried to pretend like they were. And those guys accepted me (even if I was a wimp). There were even popular kids that were sincerely nice to me for no apparent reason – I had nothing to offer them. I’m still thankful for their kindness after all these years – thanks Jan, Trish, Alan, Keith, and others…

I met my wife after we graduated from different high schools. I was the hipster-dufus at my school; she was the popular girl at hers. I married a POPULAR GIRL who had been on the Homecoming Court! That changed everything. I realized then that being popular or a nerd only mattered in high school (or at high school reunions). And I became (sort of) popular with her friends, too. Mainly I became confident in who I was and stopped comparing myself to other kids. If someone as beautiful and remarkable as Deb could love me, then I must be truly worthy or just incredibly lucky. Either way – my self esteem took an upsurge. I grew up and I learned to like myself.

Today I’m Facebook friends with some of my former high school classmates and many of us have grown children and grandchildren now. We’ve all had many years to “get over” high school but somehow at times I’m drawn back to those days. I suppose there’s something comforting about that shared experience. It’s kind of fun (in a weird way) to reminisce about what once was. Be it geek or homecoming queen; jock or freak, I guess we just all needed to belong. And I for one am glad that I did.

In a couple of years we’ll be having our 4oth high school class reunion. I’m sure that I’ll be way cooler than most of the “kids” that are there but I’m too mature now to tell them so. They’re just going to have to figure it out for themselves. I hear that some of the members of the football team are fat and bald now. And I suppose the homecoming queen’s tiara might be a little tarnished, too.

Me? Well I’m still working on my “cool”.



P.S. Keike it was great to see you!

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