Do you remember the Breakfast Club? It was everyone’s favorite movie in the 80’s. You wanted to be the super popular Molly Ringwald with her rider boots and aloof attitude but felt a little more like Ally Sheedy. You obviously wanted to date Emilio Estevez but deep down, didn’t you secretly really want to date Judd Nelson? How cute was Anthony Michael Hall?
Now let’s think about the cool kids at your high school. Trust me, it’s ok, we all do, everyone does it. I accidentally married one of those cool kids without even knowing, but present company excluded-I have been thinking about the “Popular Kids” that I graduated with. The class of 1989. I’m wondering what they’ve been up to. Are they still as glittery and glossy as they were back in school?
OK, so let me take a step back at this point. I must insert my disclaimer here. Going into the 11th grade, I rode a skateboard. I wore at least 6 safety pins in my ear and I wore one of two jackets daily: a jean jacket that I bleached and decorated with more safety pins and studs. The other jacket was a Calvin Klein baseball jacket that read…”Too Young To Tell” I have never seen one before or since. I wore shredded denim jeans with fishnets underneath and ostrich combat boots…..It was glorious. I guess I was Judd Nelson, huh? I attended Private school but after my parents divorced, I was forced to attend….. (insert drum roll here) Public School. Luckily we lived in Silver Spring, Maryland and the kids were actually good kids for the most part. No matter which suburb you move to, kids will be kids and inevitably you will find your “group”. As the school year crawled along, I felt most comfortable with boys that showed up with skateboards and wore vans and chewed tobacco in the breezeway at lunch. Eventually, I met friends from here and there but never really wanted to be a part of any particular group.
I was approached in homeroom by two “popular” guys. ‘So’, they started, ….’we’ve been thinking that you are pretty cute but you just don’t dress right. So take this cassette tape (Don’t judge, this was a LONG time ago and cassettes were still a thing) and we are going to help you. We need to make you more ‘Black’, they continued.
A huge new school, newly divorced parents, new house…maybe I had this all wrong. So, I put away my Def Leppard tapes and now tried to understand what ‘making me black’ would entail. The music was pretty fun, so I went along for the ride. It wasn’t so bad hanging up my combat boots, and I was welcomed with open arms.
Luckily that same summer was the Gamma Phi Delta debutante ball in Orlando, Florida with guys and gals from all across the country, and since they didn’t know me prior to this event, I could be anybody that I wanted to be. And I did. They had no idea that I was a skateboarding headbanger-and all was well.
So, here we are starting my last year of high school and I was ready. Designer haircut, designer shoes, designer friends. I had successfully assimilated. There were a few people that really stood out once the class of 1989 started their final school year. People changed dramatically that summer, they grew up.
Back at school, there stood Tracey & Loraine, and they looked like they were being cast for a Bon Jovi video, they were flawless in their execution. White lace gloves, black granny boots, lace socks, blue eyeliner and super teased hair. Esprit, Outback Red, Benetton- nobody could top them. Well, I could be wrong. Here come Tyra and Michelle. They had matching Gucci carry-on luggage that they used as their school bag-GENIUS. The story was that their godparents showered them with gifts every weekend, and boy it showed. Sneakers that repelled dirt, salon fresh hair weekly and all the girls wanted to be them for just ONE DAY. They weren’t beautiful, nor were they very smart-but what all four of these girls had in common was that they were popular. Time moved on and we forgot about our classmates, for better or for worse.
One rainy afternoon, I met my cousin for lunch. As I sat in the car, a girl about my age walked across the street. I paused, it was TYRA! 15 years later, she looked exactly the same. Something was off, her hairstyle was the same and I’m also a little puzzled because she wore a long fitted denim skirt, slouch socks and high top sneakers……then it hit me like a ton if bricks, SHE WAS STUCK IN THE 80’S! I wasn’t sure whether that made me happy or sad. Right at that moment, I wondered how the others were all doing. Could it be that the popular kids had a hard time letting their popular days go in exchange for the real world?
I immediately checked our alumni website. I saw Attorneys, Doctors, and even a rocket scientist…I mean really, a rocket scientist! What I saw was the regular kids, the students that were not invited to the parties on Friday nights, the ones that weren’t always invited to the best tables in the cafeteria, they weren’t stars of the cheering squad or the football team for that matter. What I didn’t see was those popular faces. What was I missing here?
Now I am not saying that they are all somewhere begging for money on street corners, but what I have noticed is that if you were popular in school, there is a false impression that the world will also look up to you because you were popular 30 years ago. There is a greater confidence and calm from those of us that were "regular students" We aren't trying to prove anything, we are just enjoying the process. Popular kids think that everyone looks up to them and somehow the world owes them something. It's an intriguing concept that's for sure.
As the mother of a 5 year old, I can see this little personality forming. I can see the girls looking each other up and down when one is more dressed up than another. For goodness sake, Mom! I CANNOT wear this dress without my Cinderella slippers! I adore dressing up my little baby doll, but is it that I am creating a "popular girl"? That's not my intention, she's my only child so she gets a lot more than she probably should. Is that what happened with Tracy and Tyra? I don't want to recreate or contribute to these behaviors, I talk to my daughter about being loyal, about being a friend to everyone, about sharing, caring and most importantly learning. I do want her to get along with other children, but not to the point that friendship outweighs everything else. I also want her to know that she has parents that love her and that will make sure that if she listens and does her best in school that we don't mind showering her with goodies.
In this Kardashian era of entitlement, I think it's important to stress the importance of giving as well as receiving. Keep things balanced- museums, piano lessons, horseback riding, tea parties....and just enjoying life!
As I think of all those faces that I walked the halls with, I now think about their parents. I think of the parents of the unpopular kids-assuring their sweet children that everything will be ok. Well, it does turn out ok for everyone. If you keep your focus on achieving success-you will get there. If your only goals are partying and designer clothes-and nothing beyond that.....then I guess you can achieve that too.
Life is short, enjoy it. Love your friends and your family. Travel often, do the things that you enjoy. Step outside of your everyday circle and actually experience life. That will broaden your horizons. Maybe then you will be remembered at your class reunion for who you were and not just what you wore.
Published by Tanika Belis