Here’s my popularity story.
It all started, and not well, in Kindergarten. I didn’t know the songs that all my tiny classmates had learned in the nursery school I did not attend. The humiliation! Drat my mother and her crazy ideas about four year-olds being too young for school
Not in elementary school. I was happy, so happy, to have ONE best friend.
Not in Middle School. Though this was the beginning of many years of popularity with teachers. Mrs. Wilson gave me the lead in our fourth grade modern dance rendition of Shaft. You laugh. As well you might.
Not in High School. I simply could not bring myself to dare to cross the threshold of the “Butt Room” where all my compatriots smoked cigarettes and talked about whatever popular and brave unpopular girls discussed.
Not for the first two years of college. I was too busy partying with other unpopular people.
But then, at the beginning of Junior year, I decided that enough was, seriously, enough. I wasn’t going to go through life without ever knowing what it felt like to be endlessly waylaid at tables in the Student Union, hailed on the way to class, greeted raucously at a party. And so I worked like a dog at it for about six months. I forced myself to learn the social skills that had never come easily to me. How to walk into a party alone. How to strike up a conversation. How to engage. Engage. Engage.
So it took me about five months worth of work to get popular. And another month to realize how tedious it was.
Even so, I never really tasted the mother of all popularities. You can only get that in high school.
If I only I had read this, I would have known that what I really wanted was not to be popular, but to likeable.
Six months of college down the drain.
In carpool on the way to school, when I would hear yet another tale about some very popular child, my mantra was…”I know it looks appealing right now, but you gotta trust me when I tell you that you don’t want to peak too early in the popularity department.”
It’s true, isn’t it? Those who are popular in Elementary School find their shine tarnished by Middle School. Those that rule the roost in Middle School seem wan by 9th grade. And heaven help the popular High Schooler. Because it’s all downhill from that peak.
Each of our boys had a different relationship with the fool’s gold of popularity. Oldest dreamt of being popular all through elementary and middle school and, chip off the old block that he is, worked the problem diligently until he he was all social life, all the time by his Senior year of high school. Luckily for him, he seems to have figured a way to morph the popular into a very relaxed chill. Middle was never popular, and never cared. He was always content with his few close friends and still is. Youngest, stealthy fellow that he is, has never wasted much time wanting popularity but spent his days quietly cornering the market on likeablity.