Tuesday, July 6, 2010

I was a geek, pretending to be a freak

On the Fourth, my family and I were flipping through the channels and came upon the pilot of "Freaks and Geeks" that was just about to begin. So, of course, we watched the whole thing and remembered what a truly great show that was, albeit short lived.

I was also reminded how much like Lindsay I was in high school. She's the main character of the show who, like many teenage kids, is trying to figure out where she fits in.

After a few years distance from high school, you finally start to be honest with yourself about what group you fit into. No more posturing. Just the cold, hard truth: Were you a jock, a geek, a freak or one of the popular elite?

I've decided, after careful consideration, I was a geek pretending to be a freak. I got good grades. As and Bs. I defintely was not part of the popular group or the jocks. In Fairmont, that tended to be blond skinny girls with money and the boys who followed them around. Early on, 7th and 8th grade, I joined the choir and started doing behind-the-scenes work on school plays. Holding the spotlight and coordinating costuming.

But, right around the age of 14, I got the itch to "be cool" in some way. The catalyst? A boy, of course.

He was a naughty kid. Smoked. Drank. Etc. So in high school, I joined the "freak" crowd. The naughty kids who cut class and partied. As I was watching "Freaks and Geeks" and how awkward Lindsay was with that group, I realized I must have looked the same way. My friends were nice kids. But they had no direction. There was no question that they wouldn't be going to college. I knew most of them would probably live their lives in Fairmont, which, at the time, seemed like the worst fate imaginable for a teenage kid in a small town. And, at the same time, even while I was surrounding myself with this crowd, I knew there was no question that I would be going to college. Never once did I question the importance of getting good grades and staying out of trouble, despite the fact that most of the people whose opinions I seemed to value most were dropping out of school left and right.

That draw to be accepted and to find somewhere you feel "cool" is pretty much all-consuming in high school. If only we could all enjoy the comfort of self-acceptance as kids that arrives like a gift one day in adulthood. Suddenly, who you are is just fine. We'd all save ourselves pain and worry that ends up not amounting to much later on, except arguably the character that comes from growing pains.

If you haven't seen "Freaks and Geeks," you should definitely watch it. It lasted less than a season in the '90s, but there's no better show that illustrates the awkward dance of teenage politics. It will definitely have you examining what group you fit into and realizing that, whichever it was, you came out just fine.

Oh, and P.S., Judd Apatow was the executive producer and wrote six of the episodes. I had no idea!

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