Boys, I saw something funny earlier this week. It was this meme:
I can't begin to tell you how true this will prove to be in your life. Sadly though, for me, it's not entirely accurate. If this was a true representation of my life and search for adolescent interestingness (yes, I know that's not a word), it would state the following:
"I used to strain and yearn to figure out how to be 'with it'. Most of the time I looked like so many pubescent fools before me. Now that I don't care anymore, I can truly see how there really was no 'it,' other than tucked away in the unreachable recesses of 'coolness.'"
A little wordy, for sure, but all too accurate. The information flows at mind-blowing speeds these days. I'm going to tell you something that will probably freak you out a little, but when I was a teenager, the internet was a brand new, sparsely inhabited wasteland of slow dial-up (look it up) speeds and AOL chat rooms. It certainly could not be relied upon to keep one up to date with the current status of hip, when one was trapped in a small backwards Southern town.
So, I searched. I tried things out. Surely at some point I'd strike it hipness rich by donning the appropriate look, attitude, or music scene. What I'd never considered was the fact that those in my peer groups were just as hip ignorant as me. Here are some of the highlights of my unrealized quest:
In the sixth grade we took a field trip to the Mississippi Agriculture and Forestry Museum. It's ok, take a breath. I know that sounds a little too exciting to imagine. In reality, it was INCREDIBLY boring. *Funny side note: While wondering through the museum I would've never guessed that among the exhibits and photos on the walls was the cutest picture of my future wife, and your mother. She's going to kill me for this, but here's the photo)
Your Pop used to run a dairy farm when your mother was a child, and to think that I probably saw this photo that day, thinking nothing of it, is still a pretty neat thought.
Anyway, the one hope to salvage any fun out of this incredibly boring day was left up to the ability to use the little spending money I was given by mom and dad to purchase just the right item from the General Store. Now, like you're probably imagining, the General Store at the Ag museum was not filled to the brim with the coolest of items. There was pralines, beef jerky, polished stones, fake arrowheads, etc. Just your usual crap. Certainly nothing worth spending, nay investing, my precious $10.
That's when I saw it. It was if a light from God, himself, shone through the window at the preordained time and angle to reveal to me his wish for my investment. There, gently hanging from a swiveling rack near the register hung a simple, yet elegant cross. But, this was no ordinary cross like those the wealthier kids would wear gaudily strung up by a blasphemous gold nugget necklace. No, this cross was classy and subtle. It was a beautiful statement of commitment to God and fashion. It spoke to me. Hell, it spoke WITH me.
Oh, it seems that I may have forgotten to mention that the cross was to be worn in the form of a magnetic earring.
Give that a moment to sink in. I'll wait.
Surely by now you understand why I was unable live without that cross delicately clinging, with what little magnetism it held, to my ear. I was able to ensure it's stability if I held my head at just the right angle. Sure, my neck got a little sore at first, but it was a small price to pay for individuality and religious freedom. My mom said very little about it when she picked me up from the bus. It was as if she knew what was coming next.
I remember, in stark detail, the look of surprise on my dad's face as his 12 year old son be-bopped through the front door, with an apparent neck injury, and a shining beacon for Christ dangling from his ear. While I'm sure his inner emotions consisted wholly of glad tiding of great joy, his outward expression of that joy consisted of instantaneous rage as he leaped from his chair and was across the living room in a split second. Before I could even mutter the word "magnet," he'd ripped it from my ear in one swift motion. I'm lucky, really. He was so overcome with jealous envy of my new prize, that had it been a real earring, I could've been really quite injured.
It didn't take long for it to sink in that mine and my dad's ideas on individuality were quite different.
This was only one of a handful of missteps towards cool. Here are some bullet points of the highlights from the next few years:
Bell-bottoms were not designed for 5'3" teenage boys
My hair was far too doo-doo brown for the red hair dye to really set up
Platform combat boots look awfully similar to high heels
A boy flipping his long hair out his eyes really does look like he has a tick in his ear (who knew)
No matter what Eddie Vedder says, flannel just makes you look like a bum
I did it. You'll do it too. It's just part of the journey. For goodness' sake, it's the only thing that can explain leisure suits, big 80's hair, and emo culture.
You'll do it. But, it damn well better be a magnet too.