My friend Alex has a new book out today by that very title, go buy it on amazon! Dooo ittt. I’ll wait.
Done? Ooh, how about you buy one for your mom too! Don’t worry, I won’t start my post till you get back.
There! Now isn’t that better than that awful Jane Seymour necklace?! I thought it would be.
Anyway, so while reading Geeks, a book which follows 7 “outsiders,” through their high school experience, I seriously kept curling up in a ball of post traumatic stress disorder. I wasn’t just a geek in school, I was apparently all of these geeks. Except the popular one. I hate her so much.
All the people I’m friends with now are self proclaimed geeks/nerds/weirdos/murderers…wait… I think I promised secrecy on that last one.
Please don’t kill me. No, really. Don’t kill me.
But I’m also friends with the smartest, funniest, cleverest most talented people in the world, so, I’m pretty much all-in on the premise of the book that “geeks” are pretty awesome.
Alas, as I relived the horrors of finding a place to sit at lunch or fighting with a faculty adviser over the direction of one of my afterschool clubs, I decided the story I wanted to blog about is one that takes place long after high school.
Well, 1999, so not that long, but I was 2/3 of the way through law school, I had lost all the high school weight and I was making about $2000 a week, so it was as far away from my high school experience as you could get without a time machine.
I went to a rich prep school in the predominantly white neighborhood of Bay Ridge. I was black and dirt poor and, given that Yusef Hawkins had just been murdered for being a black boy in a white neighborhood, totally terrified. My mother, God bless her, would warn me every day to “be careful of those white folks.” Awesome. Great. Terrific. 95% of my classmates were white, 100% of my teachers were white.
I didn’t find much comfort in the black community at my high school either. They were athletes and I wheezed at the mere thought of gym. Plus, I listened to Billy Joel, not “rap music.”
So, my friends were other geeks and nerds, mostly frail white boys I would boss around and make join the clubs I founded. I won President of Debate club every year in a landslide. I founded the chess club and the golf club and the Manifest Destiny club and the German club… yes, there might have been a six step “take over the world plan” involved.
We kept to ourselves and frankly, except for when I was plucked out of my comfort zone for the annual President’s fitness test or homeroom, I had a happy high school existence.
On this particular evening, six years after my graduation, I was at a law firm sponsored event at a fancy Times Square restaurant when I spied “Becky,” at another table. Becky was my high school opposite. She was white and rich (well, probably middle class, but I was dirt poor and anyone who had a car was pretty much Bill Gates in my eyes.) and popular and, it goes without saying, a cheerleader. She had a car and probably dated. I did not speak to Becky. EVER. But, my graduating class only had 93 kids in it, so it wasn’t like we didn’t know each other.
So, there I was, I see Becky at this other table. I’ve been eating and drinking on my corporate account, and did I say drinking? God, I miss the 90s! So I’m in a great mood. I decide to send over a round of drinks to Becky’s table and say hi.
“Stephane! Oh my God. Thank you so much.”
And then she hugged me, and said “I always thought you hated me in high school! You would never speak to me or anything.”
Dude. Of course, I never spoke to you! You were a cheerleader! What on earth would I say to you? Why would you even want me to speak to you?
But she was right. I would see her and her friends in the hall and pass them by as if they didn’t exist. When one of the guys in her clique made it into AP American history, MY DOMAIN, so far as I was concerned, my friends and I totally didn’t speak to him. And we kinda laughed when he screwed up the exam. That’s what he gets for trying to be “smart.”
I didn’t hate them though, I just sorta assumed that they didn’t like me, so I wasn’t going to like them either! I saw Carrie, I know what popular kids are about! No one was pigs blooding me, I tell you whut!
I made assumptions about what they were assuming about me and acted accordingly. Read: Ignore. Who knows, maybe I could have been friends with the popular crowd. Maybe Becky would have loved the opportunity to join Model UN club. I don’t know, I didn’t ask.
So much of my high school life was about protecting myself from hurt or rejection, that I automatically eliminated even acknowledging about 85% of the people I met, and then being really really mean to the remaining 15% to see who’d stick around to be my friend anyway.
It worked for me, my people were MY PEOPLE and we had a shit ton of nerdy fun playing chess, watching Monty Python movies and ditching prom to go see Jurassic Park, but that night I discovered that maybe…with just a little bit more of an open mind, I might have been able to have an entirely different high school experience.
Or, I might have just been leaving myself vulnerable to a face full of pig’s blood.
One or the other.
Tell me your GEEK story in a comment or email to dawnsummers3000 at yahoo.com this Friday, May 6, 2011.
Best tale gets an autographed copy of Geeks will Inherit the Earth! Did I mention it’s in stores now?