When does being cool and popular start to become more important than having fun? For me, this idea kicked in around the time my pre-teen boobs did. When I was in elementary school, I spent more time pretending I was Harry Potter than you would believe. I liked fantasy, The Lord of the Rings, and Tamara Pierce books. I used to pretend to fight ogres and trolls, and have a daemon like Laura in His Dark Materials.
I had one very close female friend who was always down to pretend and be silly with me. We spent a year sending each other letters from Hogwarts in the mail and pretending pick-up sticks were wands. We had stuffed owls, and her real cat, and our parents never let us drink soda after 5 p.m. when we had sleepovers because we’d get sugar high and pretend to apparate from different pieces of their furniture. If you asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, without question it would have been a Wizard.
At school, I wasn’t cool, but I wasn’t exactly uncool either. I definitely wasn’t the most popular, and I didn’t get invited to that many birthday parties. I also didn’t care. Having my one weirdo Harry Potter-obsessed friend and maybe one or two other friends was good enough for me. I read a lot, and I was pretty happy.
There’s an age most girls turn when they suddenly start to panic about being social lepers. For me, that was 12. Something clicked into my brain and told me that I had to stop being a hyperactive funny weirdo who loved burping and thought she was Hermione Granger, because otherwise boys would never like me. Being a weirdo meant I would never have that big group of girlfriends and be as cool as the girls in most movies. This was pre-“Mean Girls,” which parodies the kind of thoughts that I was thinking (thank you Tina Fey). I knew that if I ever wanted to get my life together like all of those girls with long, flowing hair, (and boyfriends) on the WB, I needed to stop having fun and get with it.
I don’t think anyone specifically told me that this was a life requirement to stop having fun and liking the things that I liked. I don’t know why I thought that it was more “grown up” to be serious and cool. If I could go back and tell my 12-year-old self one thing, it would be that boys are still not as much fun as pretending to be a wizard.
In high school, for my first two years I managed to have a pretty large-ish group of girl friends. I thought it was the best. Sometimes we went shopping together and talked about boys, and I thought that I was finally living it up like a real 15-year-old girl. We all liked theatre and artsy things, and we hung out a lot. During my junior year, I got kicked out of this gang of girls. Literally kicked out overnight. I was simply told that I was a “bad friend” and everyone pretty much stopped talking to me. This is a lot more common among teenage girls than you would think, and this kind of bullshit behavior that teen girls display towards one another is a form of bullying that is often ignored. It hurt a lot. It’s definitely not the worst thing in the world that could possibly happen, but I remember being 15 and feeling like it was. I started to really think that I was shitty and that I had to be something else in order to be accepted. I remember convincing myself in a way that only a dramatic teenager can, that my life was over and I’d probably never have friends again. When I went to college I thought I’d have a clean slate, and a clean identity. I tried to hide the dorkiness again, and wanted to be a super cool party girl. I was set on wearing this skin. It didn’t work. I’m a terrible drunk, I don’t like putting on makeup, and I think parties are boring because most of the time people just stand in corners trying to look cool. I couldn’t be the super cool chick convincingly, because I can’t stand “chilling” in a corner for more than one minute. And more than that, it wasn’t fun.
Every time I’ve tried to have a big group of girlfriends, that group has always eventually fallen apart because eventually we figure out we have nothing in common except for the fact that we’re running around trying to force friendship on one another. The older I get, the more I realize that I don’t have to like every single person I meet, and even more importantly, they don’t have to like me. Forcing friendship or big group interactions just because I feel like I should have to isn’t fun anymore. It’s so much more rewarding to have one good girlfriend to call on the phone and be silly with than to try to be in some sort of cool girl gang that I’m stressed out about pleasing all of the time. Maybe you’re in a cool girl gang, and you have the best time, and that’s great for you. But whenever I make an attempt at having a big group of girlfriends, I find myself not being myself. I’m too worried about group dynamics and what I look like to other people all of the time. The fact is, in most group dynamics, people will always find something wrong with you, because they’re bored. Someone will always think that you’re “too” something, or not enough of something else, and to be afraid of these things, and hiding yourself in a giant group or in a corner “chilling out” doesn’t make sense to me anymore. I mean what is “cool,” really? I don’t know, but I don’t think me trying to be it has ever made me have fun. Even though I may only have a handful of friends, at least I know that they’re really good friends. The more I stick to who I actually am, and don’t stress so much about what I look like, or what people think of me, the happier I am and the more real connections with people I start to make.
I’ve finally realized that it’s OK not to be cool. I have a lot more fun pretending I’m a wizard anyway.
Photo from Instagram @taylorswift
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