Wednesday, November 23, 2011

To Be A Nerd

I went to JCPenney tonight, and as I was walking toward the check out, a tall, thin, red headed, glasses wearing young man motioned to me that he would help me over at his counter. Cool by me. My arms were tired from holding my stuff, so I was happy to have a place to lay it down. On the way to meet me at his counter, he tripped. His coworkers teased him a bit, which wasn't surprising. I asked him how he was tonight, and his response was a very mortified "clumsy". I kind of brushed it off and said "Nah, it happens to the best of us". He said that for some reason the statistics don't seem to lean in his favor very often.

He couldn't have been much older than sixteen, and flashes of being that young girl with the kinky frizzy hair, the buck teeth tightly wound in their braces, my chunky bum, which was covered by the same pair of jeans most days because we weren't a wealthy family, and then throw in freckles for good measure, and the fact that I was a smart girl, and I was really feeling bad for this boy. I felt like we were soul mates on a certain level. In chatting with him, I basically told him as much. He asked me how I managed to survive it and turn out OK.

I don't know if my response to him was appropriate, but here is what I told him. I got the hell out of town and away from everybody at the very first opportunity that I could. I told him that when you can get away from the people that have formed opinions about you and actually figure out and be who you really are, your life will finally be your own. I behaved inappropriately a LOT to try to be liked and fit in. I regret it.  I also told him that my family is proof that great things can happen to nerds. I always encouraged my kids to NOT be popular. I feel like in retrospect I probably missed out on some really great friendships by always thinking that I needed to be friends with the popular group. There were probably some really amazing kids that I could have had so much fun with that would have been kind and non-judgmental. I will never know, but I did learn from it, and taught my kids to always give everyone a chance. Being a nerd is cool. Being smart is awesome, and curling up with a great book is so much more fun than being berated by a competetive pushy coach. Being kind beats everything.  All three of my kids were given a choice on what they wanted to do, although I will admit that I pushed Ashley to stay in dance a couple years longer than she would have wanted to. I thought it was so good for her, and it was time that we "had" to be together, and I wasn't ready to give it up. I finally caved in and let her have her way. She did do some kick boxing after that, but I feel that because I pushed her, it was tough for her to want to get into another activity that involved me being around. I was so bummed. She was my Rory Gilmore.

Anyway, short story long, In the three or four minutes that I spent with this red headed, bespeckled kid, I basically tried to convey to him that he's going to be perfectly fine just the way he is, and to not let anyone tell him differently. I hope he was able to catch that message in our quick conversation. He was actually a really neat kid. I probably should have reminded him to never go to the bathroom at school, but most kids know that by elementary school now, so he was probably aware. 

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