Have you ever woken up from a dream and thought, “Man, I’m glad that was a dream. That would be a horribly painful, post-apocalyptic reality.” Then you realize you weren’t asleep, but in the middle of your junior high English class, and it was only first period?
School is starting, friends, and my son, Garren, begins 8th grade this year. It has caused me to reflect on some of the magnificent anxieties that I think traditionally come with surviving Junior High. In California, where I grew up got taller and older, junior high meant 7th and 8th grade. And you honestly couldn’t pay me enough money to do those two years over. (But you could sure try! Let’s start the bidding!)
I remember feeling like I was treading water in a sea of awkwardness. (Sea of Awkwardness, located just off the coast of Crazy Town.) Nobody seemed emotionally or mentally stable in junior high. It was as if all my classmates were distracted by something else. And it was my observation that it was one of two things: costly fads or raging hormones. Our family didn’t have the money to indulge in fads, and the LDS Church (of which I am a card carrying member) had spoken on the hormone situation, so I spent a great deal of time wondering where I could fit in, and feeling out of place in the interim.
It didn’t help that it was 1983. Do you know what was popular in 1983? (If you guessed “Ken Craig,” you can just guess again.) For the love of muscle t-shirts, it was horrid. Toto’s Rosanna was the Record of the Year, people. RECORD. OF. THE. YEAR. It’s just amazing that we all made it out alive, that’s all I’m saying. No wonder there was the threat of nuclear war in the air. We must have looked so inferior to the Soviets. Anything from the Toto or Little River Band library had to suggest we were weak and ripe for conquering.
In the vein of Mr. Robert Fulghum’s cutesy, banal, new age philosophy book All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten, (wherein Mr. Fulgham lists such astute musings as Share Everything, Play Fair, Don’t Eat Paste) I would now like to introduce you to my new book, If All I Really Need to Know Was Learned in Junior High, Then We’re All Doomed.
Here are a few of the gems I picked up on whilst treading through that emotional soup bowl that is junior high:
- Sadly, break dancing is not for everyone.
- When you change clothes in the locker room after P.E., make conversation. Don’t make conversation about how you are all in your underwear.
- If you let out a nervous toot during one of your classes, the entire student body will know about it by the next class period. (This did not happen to me directly, but I saw it occur more than once. And I pitied that young man. I pitied him even while I mocked him.)
- When your history teacher decides to show you Gone With the Wind during class, it will take almost two weeks to view it – longer than the actual Civil War.
- It is imperative that you watch Miami Vice or lie about doing so.
- By the time you actually wear down your parents to buy you something that everybody else has, it will no longer be in style. (Parachute Pants, I’m looking in your direction.)
- No matter how musically gifted you are, your band abilities will be straight up disrespected.
- The more Swatch Watches you wear at one time, the higher your cool-credibility.
- It’s never too early to start smoking!
- At a standard junior high dance, in the contest between the overpowering funk of body odor and the not-to-be-underestimated toxic, non-FDA approved scent of Brute cologne (by Faberge), there are no winners. And the gym should be quarantined.
- No matter how tranquil you look on the outside, if a pretty girl comes up and asks you to hold her books while she opens her locker, your body will recognize the signs, rev up, and your voice will crack and somehow waver through three different octaves as you simply say, “Sure.” And then somehow your whole body sweats at once, including the area behind your knees.
- Every single soul who looks overly confident…isn’t.
Somehow Garren seems immune to these things. As if he is in the suburbs, subletting a nice little place just outside of Crazy Town. I like to think I've inspired in him the quiet confidence of who he is and why he is wonderful; that I've provided opportunities for him to lead, befriend, and communicate with his peers. Plus, I really think those break dancing lessons are going to come in handy.