Trying to Fit In with the Cool Crowd

I was just watching the Shoutcast Family Guy station (Family Guy Episode 305 – And the Weiner Is…). In this episode, Meg finally gets her foot in the door with cool crowd. Sort of. She tries out for the cheerleading squad, but gets relegated to the flag girl team, with the rest of the mutantsnot-so-flattering girls. She thinks that now that she’s a flag girl, she’s finally in with the cool crowd. That is, until during a game, the cool kids catapult raw meat at her. She tries to be cool about it, and it eventually pays off (or so she thinks) when she gets invited to some popular brat’s birthday party, only to be embarrassed at the party during a game of “7 minutes in heaven.”

As I watched the episode, I couldn’t help but think of the first time I got to hang out with the “in” crowd.

It was the summer between my 7th and 8th grade years, and I was participating in a summer orchestra camp. Like usual, when I wasn’t playing my violin, I was hanging around the awkward kids, the ones who were so shy and insecure about themselves that the only way they could get accepted anywhere was to form their own crowd. These were the outcasts. These were the geeks and nerds, before they were considered “cool.”

And for better or for worse, I was firmly entrenched in that culture.

(FYI: These groups are the birthplace of just about every theater group, dungeons & dragons troupe, and Renaissance fair worker you’ve ever met. I should know, I’ve been all three.)

Although I was accepted in the nerd-group — what can I say, I was a natural — I always longed to be part of the cool crowd. After all, they always seemed to have more fun, were always in demand, and always seemed to have the inner track in the networking game.

Oh yeah, and they didn’t act like weirdos to attract attention, but I digress…

It was during this summer that I finally got to be part of the cool crowd. I had finally made myself known well enough throughout the camp that I at least felt somewhat comfortable hanging around the cool kids, especially this really cute girl that had just moved to town, Kim. I made sure to befriend her as quickly as I could.

To be honest, I really don’t remember Kim that much anymore, other than her hair; golden blonde. Although we had a lot of experiences together in the years following (we kept running into each other, strangely enough), if I saw her today, I probably wouldn’t recognize her. I also remember her voice; She always talked like her nose was stuffed. To me, that was just fine. She was cute, friendly (towards me, which was of utmost importance), smart, and man could she play that fiddle! That pretty much guaranteed her a seat in the pantheon of the cool, since in orchestra, how cool you are is tied in pretty closely to how well you play.

As for me, well at this time I wasn’t all that great a violinist. I wasn’t bad, at least not by those standards, but there was a lot of room for improvement, even in that crowd. Still, what I lacked in skill I made up in versatility. I was always good at picking up instruments quickly, something that came in very handy in later years. Socially speaking, I was also pretty awkward, something I made up for in the manner most befitting an outcast: through comedy. This bordered on silliness and stupidity at times, at least until I found my rhythm with that crowd.

Anyway, as I said, it was this summer that I became part of the cool crowd. How did I know I was part of the crowd? I finally attained one of the most important keys to coolness for any twelve year old: phone numbers. Lots of them, even Kim’s! (Yes!!)

Man, this was going to be so cool! That is, until I decided to use them. Again, I was a pretty awkward kid. Combine that with the fact that I’d never really gotten phone numbers, and my eagerness to become part of the cool crowd, and I had a recepie for… well, for something bad.

Thinking I was part of the crowd, I decided I should maybe call some of my cool friends. So I called…

…all the numbers…

…Over and over again.

In fact, one of the conversations, the guy (I don’t remember his name) said “Yeah, I’ve heard you’ve been calling everyone.” Uhmm, isn’t that what you’re supposed to do?

Of course, the answer was no. But I wouldn’t figure that out for at least another three years.

Anyway, eventually I was invited to go with these guys to a local water park. It was the end of the summer, and we were all there for a good-bye bash of sorts. “This is great,” I thought. “I can hang out with my friends, have a blast with the cool kids, and… look at Kim… in a swimsuit.” (The problem here was that she would also be looking at me in a swimsuit. I wasn’t exactly what you would call “in the best of shapes.” Unless round was the shape you were thinking about. Then I was in great shape.)

In retrospect, I don’t think I was invited so much as I invited myself and made them feel guilty for not inviting me.

I didn’t get to spend much time with the cool kids. During the day, I was walking around with them when a couple of strangers asked if one of us played volleyball. They needed an extra player for a team game, and though no one had seen my (non-existent) volleyball skills, I was put on a pedestal by my “friends”, and sent off.

Needless to say, I sucked. Big time. More importantly, like “Meg,” I had been figuratively pelted with raw meat by the cool kids. Daing.

The rest of the day was a bit of a blur. The only other thing I remember that day is meeting a cute Brazilian girl while waiting in line for a ride. She didn’t speak much English or Spanish, so if I wanted to talk to her, I had to learn Portuguese, fast. I did what I could, and even got to kiss her hand, but that was about it.

At the end of the day, I finally met up with the group. We said our goodbyes and went our own way. I never saw most of those cool kids again. (Of course.) Of the ones I did see again, only Kim lasted as a friend, and even that was only until about 10th grade, I think. (No, we never went out. I never had the guts to ask her. It’s called self confidence — lack of it.)

Looking back at it, hanging out with the cool kids that summer wasn’t really a defining moment in my life, though I thought it would be. I was still the fat, awkward nerd who was, whether by choice or fate, relegated to hanging out with the nerds, playing Dungeons & Dragons, watching Monty Python (and at least at first, pretending to like it so I’d fit in), and just waiting for the chance to dress up as a bard for my next Renaissance fair, where I chould show off my mad recorder/viola-da-gamba skillz. In other words, I was still me. I tried to hang with the cool kids, and… it didn’t work. It didn’t change me. I wasn’t suddenly breeming with social graces.

I’m tempted to say that “well, it just wasn’t me,” but I guess I really can’t say that. At that time, I really didn’t know who I was. And it would be years before I figured that part of out.

For the time being, hanging out with the dorks would have to do.

7 thoughts on “Trying to Fit In with the Cool Crowd

  1. Hey, cool story, i was just interested because i am at the moment writing an essay about trying to “fit in.” Hey, I think that being a nerd is totally fine. People should like you for who you are, not what your not. Also, ask that girl out, or the next one you find. If you get rejected… work on your skills, if not, well great for you!
    -Kevin

  2. This was a great read. Not only was I captivated by the quick witty language but I have to say that I identified with it. I think any young kid could identify with this someway or another.

    Great

  3. I try desperately hard to fit in in at my middle school. It’s becoming harder and harder, because hard as I try, I just don’t like them or attract to them that much. I’m what most people call a clique hopper. people don’t classify me because they can’t; I hang out with too many people. However, if I don’t hang around with the “cool kids” enough, people still may not be able to classify me, but they would know that I was not one of these “cool kids”

    Style is another big issue at my school. We have uniforms, but on free dress days and simply by people’s jackets is a good way to tell if they’re ‘cool’ or not. I may not wear Aeropostale, American Eagle, Abercrombie or Hollister, but I wear GAP and Old Navy, and most of the time I can get away with that. My family has enough money for these well known name brands, but I am too afraid to ask, but Christmas is coming up, and maybe i’ll work up the courage by then

    Lying is a big issue of mine. I lie about what I don’t have. Cell phone is the big one. I could probrably have one of those, too, but again, I’m just a fraidy-cat.

    So tell me what you think. Comments are welcome. Venting was fun.

  4. @GMS: You know, I wish I could tell you what I already know, but even if I did it would probably sound petty and patronizing until you’re older. I’ll say a bunch of stuff and hopefully some of this sticks:

    if I don’t hang around with the “cool kids” enough, people still may not be able to classify me, but they would know that I was not one of these “cool kids”

    OK, seriously, why are you letting others have that much power over you? How you see yourself, especially now, isn’t predicated on what you think of yourself, or what others think of you, but what you think others think of you. (Read that again. Memorize it. It’s important.) And realize that people usually think about you a whole heckuva lot less than you think. (So if you change what you think others think of you…?) They usually think far, far more about themselves, and most of the time it isn’t really all that good. Most people never think of themselves as being “the cool crowd”.

    Speaking of which, don’t try to fit into any “crowd.” You’ll just look like a poser anyway. Seriously, just be yourself, and try to be a little better each day. It’s OK to get out of your comfort zone. Heck, it’s essential, and you should do it regularly! But don’t be afraid, especially of people. You’ll find out you end up being in a bunch of different crowds, something that can become very profitable–both personally and economically–in the future. If you have any doubt, read “How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie, and “Think and Grow Rich” by Napoleon Hill. Stupid names, I know, but easily two of the most important books I have ever read.

    And remember, everything starts with what makes you come alive. So long as you focus on being a tiny bit better tomorrow than you were today–as a person, to other people, or in whatever’s important to you (in my case it was music)–and so long as you have a passion for whatever you’re doing–a true passion, not an “I’ve got to impress this crowd” passion–then people will follow, people will remember, people will look up to you and even come to admire you. Although these feel great, none of these should ever be your primary goals: that inner flame for whatever you’re passionate about should be. When you catch on fire (figuratively speaking) people will come watch you burn, some hoping you’ll crumble into ashes, other hoping you light their way, and that they, through you, will catch fire, too.

    Don’t worry about phones or brand name jackets or all that crap. Yes, they’re nice because you get temporary attention and social recognition. Other people will make you feel special. But here’s the deal, if you make others feel special–by listening, by paying attention to the small details, by being humble–then they’ll stick with you regardless of whether you wear American Eagle or Old Navy. That right there will buy your ticket to any worthwhile crowd, so long as you’re not afraid to say “Hi”.

    And yeah, you’ll make mistakes. You’ll screw up. You’ll be an idiot at times and people will laugh at you. You will fail. So what? Name someone great who’s never had anyone laugh at them, someone who’s never failed and I’ll show you someone who isn’t great, who’s never succeeded. (Failure is not the opposite of success, it’s the path to it. Why is it that we fall? So we can learn to get back up.) Heck, the most successful people I know make it a point to look like an idiot at least 200 times a year.

    [Side story: One summer I made myself look like an idiot in front of every hot girl I could. (I don’t just mean “Pretty”, I mean “hot.” Like “cool crowd” hot, some even “model” hot.) I must’ve gotten at least 75 phone numbers (I worked at the college bookstore), and at least thrice that number of girls thinking “WTF is up with this fatass!”. But it didn’t matter because how I saw myself wasn’t based on what they thought of me, but what I thought they thought of me, and I thought they’d be willing to give me a shot. (I was 280lbs with a scrappy goatee and long, badly-cut hair.) Out of that batch I found my wife. Lesson I learned there was that anything worth doing is worth doing badly until you do it well. And trust me, hitting on girls was something I did very, very badly.]

    As for venting, vent all you want, here or elsewhere. Just don’t convince yourself that that’s your reality. Remember that venting is literally referring to letting things go. You’re not allowed to hold on to them after you vent, anymore than a steam pipe can hold on to its steam after it vents.

    Anyway, I’m writing too much. I’ll shut up now. I wish I had understood this when I was younger. I’m glad, at least, that I do now. One last thing, though: always go for what you want. Always. Because those things you don’t go for… THOSE are the one’s you’ll regret the rest of your life.

  5. It was a nice story =) I totally understand what you were going through, but once u think things through, you finally learn that being in the “cool” crowd isn’t all that matters. “It’s not about what shoes you wore or how your hair looked, it about what you learned and how you apply it.” is a phrase that I always see in my school- and its true too. Well good luck with things 😉

  6. I wish this didn’t end the way it did. Why does hanging out with the geeks have “to do?” Those people were there for you when the “cool kids” were not. But those years are all about figuring those things out, right? Be true to your friends, whatever their social standing may be.

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