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“I wanna be pop-u-lar!” goes the song from the musical “Wicked” and I know exactly what that feels like.
I was …an odd looking child. My mother is mixed and my father is white, so my sisters and I all inherited extremely curly/thick, frizzy hair. That, in itself, wasn’t a bad thing. But my mother had a very hard time growing up as a mixed child in this racist country, and she really didn’t want us to suffer the same fate so she used to straighten our hair herself with products she bought from the grocery store. These products seem to work beautifully for some black people, but they are NOT made for hair like mine (which is neither “white” hair nor “black” hair) and what we ended up with was a million times worse looking than anything we were born with. It took out the curl and left this frizzy, fly-away mess that you couldn’t do anything with and THIS is the hair I had my entire childhood.
I was also extremely short, stick thin and I had big buck teeth. Yes indeedy, I was a LOOKER. (It was to get worse in middle school when we added glasses to the mix, but I’m talking today about fifth grade–well before that nastiness…) So, anyway, in the middle of fifth grade our family moved and I decided to use this time wisely. I was going to make a run at the social ladder because heck, these people didn’t know me and therefore I had just the same chances as everyone else as being popular. All I had to do was make friends with the popular kids and, and, and… (I’m sure you can sense that this didn’t go as expected).
So the first day at my new school comes (just after Christmas break) and I get dressed in my best outfit. I did my best with my awful hair (in highschool, I stopped letting my mom straighten it and I began wearing it curly. A VAST improvement!!!) and marched into class determined to be friendly and outgoing and bubbly.
It was apparent at first glace who the popular kids were because they were dancing at the start of class and the rest of the kids were watching them with longing. Dancing? Yes. To a disco song. Strange, but true. They all had wonderful seventies winged hair (my hair wouldn’t wing. The bane of my childhood existence!) and great clothes–better clothes than my clothes.
One of the first things we did was to play a game called heads up seven up. This is where 7 people are picked as “it”. Everyone else puts their heads down on their desk with their hand out with their thumb up (like Fonzie). The “its” then go around and ”it” puts one persons thumb down. When every “it” has picked a victim, the “its” go to the front of the class and then the people with their thumbs down stand up and they have to guess which “it” picked them. If they guess correctly then they become an “it” for the next round. All of the “its” were popular kids, and being the new girl, I was picked EVERY time.
I couldn’t remember anyone’s names except for this girl named Chrissy. And so every torturous round of this game I’d stand up and say “Chrissy”. It was NEVER Chrissy who picked me and I could actually FEEL their disdain growing and my popularity dreams fading in front of my eyes. (WHY didn’t I just point at one of them? Why did I keep saying Chrissy’s name inanely? Why? Why?! WHY?!!!)
By the end of the day I had made friends, but not with the popular kids. But it was okay. A week later we got another new girl and she was just like me. Loved horses, loved to draw, socially awkward… a perfect fit! She went on to become my best friend through college. We were in each others weddings. We are still in touch. For this reason alone, I’m glad we moved.
I mention this because in today’s cartoon, a popular girl has moved in, and Ivy is making her own run at the social ladder. It seems to be going about as well as mine did. I have no idea what will happen with Lola in the future, but I enjoyed doing this cartoon a little too much. Ah, memories…