You’d never know it to see me today, but I wasn’t the popular type in elementary school. First, I had glasses. And braces. Secondly, I was smart (ish). Thirdly, I’m pretty sure most of my wardrobe consisted of sweatshirts with “cute animals” on them. Fourthly, my Mom was a sixth-grade teacher at the same school I attended (and a slightly infamous reputation preceded her). (Pic below is from my eighth-grade year, when I was infinitely more enviable than just three years before. Someday I need to get a scanner and deliver the proper 1983-1986 goods.)
So no, I wasn’t best buddies with the crème de la crème of the school (though I am friends with some on Facebook now so I won’t name names). But in situations where the grammar-school caste system extended down a couple of rungs, I would get invited to things. Birthday parties and such. I was quite possibly the 17th-most popular girl in the fifth grade.
And because I was a fifth-grade girl, I had one “mean girl” arch nemesis – let’s call her “Annabel.” She was the most “popular” of all, even though even her closest “friends” didn’t really like her. She ruled through fear, her iron fist clutched around a crimping iron. Whatever fashion trends she started, others followed (the whole “wearing the stretchy socks OVER your Guess? jeans?” Pretty sure that began in one fifth-grade classroom in suburban St. Louis).
But let’s back up. Even though I was only the 17th-most popular girl (and probably the 32nd cutest), I had a years-long crush on the first or second-most sought-after guy. Let’s call him “Jeff,” because that’s actually his name. Fast-Forward: same Jeff is married to one of my best friends today and I’ve spent the night in their home countless times. We were at each other’s weddings. I’ve helped him diaper his triplets, for God’s sake – I HAVE ARRIVED.
So back to fifth grade. One night in December 1984, I was dropped off fashionably late at a slumber party at my pseudo-friend Amy’s house. Telling goodbye to my Dad, lavender sleeping bag tucked under my arm, I noticed a crowd had gathered in Amy’s driveway.
“What’s going on?” I asked excitedly and with a huge smile on my face. Had the “light as a feather” game started yet? Were we waiting for the pizza delivery guy? (Were there pizza delivery guys in 1984?)
Oh no. In fact, Annabel and Jeff were (French?!) kissing, and everyone was cheering them on and counting how high they could go before coming up for air. 37 seconds. 37 seconds. And I did that thing where your physical smile stays plastered on while your inner spirit becomes sucked out of you utterly. Here they were – the love of my short life and the girl who made my life miserable on a daily basis because I didn’t have more than one Swatch (my parents were both educators, for eff’s sake!)
23, 24, 25 … ha ha ha. Fake laugh. Gulp, squirm, blink back tears.
Turns out Jeff was staying at his friend’s house – next door to Amy’s. The next part of the interminable evening involved Annabel talking to him on the phone while she mindlessly ran her fingers over her rode-hard-for-37-seconds lips.
It pretty much ruined my evening. If not the rest of my childhood.
And while I still haven’t friended Annabel on Facebook, I have spotted her in my “People You May Know” sidebar and can unequivocally state that she hasn’t aged well. Though she probably still has more Swatches than I do.
Photo courtesy of jenontheedge.com