May 23 2010

Gratitude Journal #2

I’m grateful for…

…the lessons that my middle school ultimate players teach me about character, sincerity, and laughter.

…Facebook.  No, seriously.  Living as far away as I do from many of the people I love most in the world, FB has helped keep me connected to them.

…this quiet Sunday afternoon to do with as I please.  No grading, no coaching, no talking, even.  Ah, blissful time.  Peaceful solitude.

…my fast-approaching summer break.  Sometimes being a teacher rocks.

…the dozens of gorgeous roses sitting on my counter from a group of amazing kids and parents.

…the truly wonderful friends that I’ve made in my life, scattered around the country and the world.

May 4 2010

Werewolf Boyfriends (Vampire Boyfriends, Remix)

I recently wrote about vampire boyfriends.  You know the type—brooding loners with baggage who make the good girls swoon.  The boys who are equally dashing and damaged.  They’re so bad for us, but we can’t seem to stay away.  They’re our vampires; simultaneously dangerous and irresistible.  They bleed us dry, but we keep coming back for more.

But every Dylan has his Brandon, and every Edward has his Jacob.  For every blood-sucking vampire, there’s an affectionate and snuggly werewolf.  Just as Bella is drawn to Edward’s cold, desperate, controlling nature, so is she comforted by Jacob’s warm, safe, loyalty.  She’s torn between the cat-like vampire and the puppyish werewolf.  Ah, how to choose…

I’ve had my fair share of vampires, but my first real boyfriend was definitely a werewolf.

It was the end of eighth grade.  Nick* was a year older than I was, and I’d never really noticed him despite his friendly personality and his impressive athletic ability.  He was new to my town that year, and excelled at soccer, basketball and baseball.  He was an honors student.  Smiley.  Nice to everyone.  Teachers loved him.  He was good-looking in an un-intimidating, affable kind of way.  By no means hot, but certainly attractive.  His smile was absolutely goofy, but he used it so frequently that you couldn’t help but grin along with him. 

Immediately after we started going out, Nick and I fell into a comfortable routine of talking on the phone every night, seeing each other every weekend, and spending time with each other’s families.  It was so…easy.  So uncomplicated.  Nick was every bit as kind, gentle, and dedicated as Jacob Black.  Just as hopelessly romantic, and just as endearingly protective (even to the point of being whiney). 

Perhaps the best part about werewolf boyfriends is how they make us feel.  I was never self-conscious with Nick.  He made me feel good about myself, and secure with our relationship.  He never acted “too cool” around me to his friends.  He told me I was pretty and smart.  For every game of his that I attended, he’d cheer me on at my sporting events.  In some ways, I have him to thank for the level of academic success that I experienced in high school, because he encouraged me to sign up for a notoriously-challenging advanced history class as a freshman.  I still remember his response when I asked him what he thought about the class. 

“I think you can do it,” he said, quite simply. 

And so I did.  And it quite likely changed the trajectory of my academic career.

Now, like any wolfboy, Nick had his flaws, too.  He was weepy to the point of irritating at times.  He was mildly possessive, and reluctant to take risks.  While I enjoyed the security of the relationship, it naturally grew boring and we eventually parted ways after close to a year.

My next serious boyfriend was Aaron.  A vampire, of course.

So who is the preferred choice?  The risk-taking vampire, or the reliable werewolf? 

I suppose that if you’re an adolescent girl like Bella, looking for adventure and someone who will make your heart beat wildly in your chest, it’s probably Edward the vampire.  But I think that every teenager needs a werewolf, too.  Because for every time that the vampire lets her down, she needs a werewolf to pick her back up again. 

Hmm…Calling all vampire-werewolf hybrids…

*Name has been changed

May 2 2010

My Popularity: A Brief History

I hated 7th grade.

Hated.  It.

My best friend at the time was Marie Kendricks,* and looking back I still think she was one of the best friends I’ve ever had.  She was loyal and gentle and smart.  We spent our Saturday afternoons riding our bikes around my neighborhood and writing stories about her horses.  We were friends because we genuinely liked each other.  She was there for me during the tumultuous transition between elementary and junior high school; childhood and adolescence.  A time when I was still figuring out who I was, and whether I actually liked that person at all. 

I was also tangentially friends with the “cool” clique.  But I always felt like I was friends with them only by association.  Like they never actually called me or wanted me around or really knew me the way that Marie did. 

So despite my friendship with Marie, I was unhappy.  Regardless of the fact that I had a supportive family, was voted class athlete, and went out with some of the cutest boys, I felt like a loser.  I was miserable.

By 8th grade, I’d figured things out a bit more.  I developed a circle of friends that I really felt close to.  Girls I trusted and liked.  Marie and I drifted apart as kids do, but my new friendships were based on some of the same properties.  I felt satisfied.  Comfortable. 

At the end of 9th grade, a friend commented to me that I’d been part of the “popular crowd” back in 7th grade.  I was flabbergasted. 

I realized then that while others may have seen me as an insider, I’d felt like an outcast and a wannabe.  The perception didn’t matter.  Apparent popularity sucked.  It was hollow.  Empty.  Lonely.  (If only I’d seen Heathers sooner!)

Many years later, I often find myself in the same position.  Still striving.  Still feeling hurt when I’m not invited directly to a happy hour or a party.  It doesn’t even matter if the event includes people I like or not, or if it’s something that I want to attend.  I still feel bad when I’m left out.  Granted, these emotions don’t dominate my life in the way that they did when I was in junior high, but they’re present nonetheless. 

I know, I know…It’s terribly lame and pathetic, and I should have long-since outgrown it.  One could even argue that I’m asking for too much, because I know full-well that I have more than my fair share of amazing friends.  But what can I say?  I suppose I’m still a 7th grader at heart.  I’m thirty years old, and I still want to be part of the popular crowd!  I still want everyone to like me! 

Do any of us ever really get over middle school?

*Names have been changed.

May 2 2010

Broadway Words of Wisdom

Who can name the character and Broadway show that brought us this brilliant commentary on popularity?

POPULAR! You’re gonna be popular!
I’ll teach you the proper ploys,
When you talk to boys,
Little ways to flirt and flounce, ooh!
I’ll show you what shoes to wear!
How to fix your hair!
Everything that really counts to be…

POPULAR! I’ll help you be popular!
You’ll hang with the right cohorts,
You’ll be good at sports,
Know the slang you’ve got to know.
So let’s start,
‘Cause you’ve got an awfully long way to go!