Sunday, September 24, 2006

Popular?'s the million dollar question Question of the Day: Are you "popular"? And, if you are not, is it something to which you aspire?

I, for one, know that I am not popular (see sidebar description: About Me). I've never been popular. The Husband and I were discussing this earlier today, and I've come to the conclusion that the problem lies not in the fact that I am not popular, but rather in the fact that I am "Almost-Popular". In high school and university, I had friends who were popular and I often hung out with them. More often than not, that was a result of me saying something along the lines of "Ooo, that sounds like fun, can I come too?" or "Hey, wait for me!"

Don't get me wrong, I'm not totally uncool (I say, casually hiding Season 2 of Battlestar Galactica), it's just that I've never been truly a part of the In crowd . Never an "A-list" celebrity, always capping out at B-level fame. And therein lies the heart of the trouble. I think it would have been easier if I was on the other end of the spectrum - a Napoleon Dynamite goddess of the Uncool. That would be fun. That would have driven me to untold heights of infamy. It's being stuck in Popular Purgatory that makes my social position so tenous.

I am coming to a point here. And the point is that, for some reason, I desperately want The Boy to be popular. So that he could have everything that I couldn't? Maybe. But I don't really think that's it. I just really want him to have lots of friends and fun in life. I want everyone to see the wonderful little light that I see, and I want them to find the joy that I do in just being around him. And I go totally off the deep-end, overprotective Mother Bear when they don't:

"What do you mean The Boy can't take all the crayons at the colouring station? He needs a creative outlet!"

"What do you mean The Boy can't crush the (as yet unpaid for) raspberries and throw them on the store floor? He's expressing his rejection of the stifling rules society places on us!"

"What do you mean The Boy isn't the cutest baby in the whole world? Have you seen every baby??

Okay, so I don't really talk to people like I'm the Tender Sweet Young Thing from Free to be You and Me. But you can bet I'm thinking it. Crazy. Yep. That's me. A while ago, a friend of mine and I were lunching with babies at a local joint, and the waiter spent the whole time gushing over my friend's baby, and said nothing at all about The Boy other than a vague comment that he must be a "handful", or something similar. I was livid. Not that my friend's baby isn't cute - he's adorable - but to go gaga over one baby and not the other? Do you want a tip, my friend?? Needless to say, I was not my usually generous self.

So back to my point. Why, exactly, am I fighting so hard for The Boy's popularity, and is it even worth fighting for? It's one of my plethora of Theories that often people who are part of the popular crowd in high school don't reach astronomical heights in later life - most likely precisely because they had such a good time in high school. Nothing is motivating them to move beyond that fame. Just look at Bill Gates. The brains, the loners, the "freaks" - they've all got something to prove. Instant motivation. Like all Theories, there are many exceptions to the rule, but the exceptions merely provide proof the rule. And adversity builds character. To me, it's people like Charlie, who won the Golden Ticket fair and square that are infinitely more interesting than the people who bought it.

So why do I fight? Well, it's a lonely road when you're not popular, and I guess I want to spare The Boy some of what I've experienced in the world of "Almost-Popular". I want him to revel in the easy acceptance of his peers. I want to protect him from any hurt, no matter how small. I know that I can't . I know it's unreasonable. And, in the case of popularity, even unecessary. But I have to try, right?


Suzanne said...

As someone who was (and still is) far from the madding popular crowd, I can also see the desire to see your child be, if not popular, then well liked. I definitely don't want my kids to struggle with being the outcast or being teased. As you said, I want to protect them from anything that could harm them. It's too soon to tell how my kids are going to fare; I'm crossing my fingers that their social experience in childhood is better than mine.

bubandpie said...

I find this fascinating, because I am often somewhat AFRAID that my children will be popular. My husband sometimes teases me by saying that the Pie is naturally athletic - I don't want her to be the sporty, popular girl - I want her to be the bookish, smart girl. Really, I just want her to be me - or at least enough like me that she doesn't look down on her poor old mum.

And of course my job is to let her be her even if that means that she's the star of the basketball team and invited to all the parties. But if environment has anything to do with it, I can hope that she won't be the mean girl, or the girl who assumes that popularity really reflects one's worth and value.

You may notice here that I'm not especially afraid that Bub will be the popular kid. That's partly because I'm not projecting onto him any negative experiences with popular boys, and partly because it's already evident that he has an introverted, intellectual personality. And for him I hope and long for friendships, and protection from cruelty, though not necessarily for popularity or social status.

Her Bad Mother said...

I've wrestled with a variation on this issue - wanting WonderBaby to be attractive, so that life will be easier (not least of which means, no teasing). Not necessarily beautiful (tho to me she will always be that), but attactive enough to avoid certain hurts and to gain certain advantages. But then I struggle with wanting her to love herself for herself, etc, etc. and to have good character and I get all bent on the issue. It's a tough one.

Haley-O said...

I wasn't popular growing up....I know why I wasn't. I know why I'm more "popular" now -- it's partly because popularity isn't a big deal to me. I find myself now with a lot of friends, and my relationships are real. For my little monkey, popularity would be nice. I'll focus on cultivating what I think makes a person popular: self-respect, self-love, and self-confidence and compassion. I think that's what it takes to be "popular" in a good way growing up. I didn't have anything near that till I was 30ish...still working on it, of course. :) Great post.

penelopeto said...

Of course we want an easier path for our kids, regardless of what our path was.
I wasn't popular, but I was friends with everybody a little bit, if you know what I mean. I didn't always like everybody, but I couldn't understand why somebody wouldn't like me (now, that is a bit clearer, and it's fine by me).
I want bumblebee to not get teased, to not know rejection, to never have her hopes dashed. Can I have this? Probably not. Can I raise her to be able to handle this without falling apart and with my love and support - that is my goal.
But forgive me for thinking that life will go a little easier on her if only she has her father's nose.

kittenpie said...

I'm very much a middle-of-the-road girl on this myself, and know it to be a comfortable place to be. Not so popular that I suffer the slings of the mean girls, yet not so nerdy as to be picked on and ignored. I always had a few close friends and was friendly enough with others. It worked. I was happy, even as a teen, never suffered any great angst, so I would hope the same for Pumpkinpie.