I missed the memo about popularity.
If memory serves, I was not particularly popular in high school. I was one of those passably cute, but nerdy girls who mostly flew under the radar. I occasionally mixed with the beautiful people, but was not established as a member of the “in” crowd. I wasn’t prom princess or homecoming queen, but I also wasn’t bullied or tormented. I mostly just did my own thing and mercifully, my high school years weren’t too terrible. I did have an occassional pang of envy when I observed all the fun the popular people seemed to be having. But I have recently come to appreciate that being popular ain’t all that it’s cracked up to be.
Popularity has a dark side and I’m currently living it. In a development which I hope is both normal and temporary, my darling son has conferred upon me some serious most favored parent status. So as to my son, I am extremely popular. During our recent vacation, he was in full-blown daddy hating mode, so to keep the peace, I was stuck with most of the baths, bedtimes, and butt-wiping and it wore me out. By any logical calculus, my husband should be the more popular parent, as he is a lot more fun than I am. Maybe it’s Freudian, but whether it’s Oedipal or otherwise, I’m hoping this little phase is short-lived.
It’s hard to be the center of someone else’s universe, but as a parent, I suppose that’s what I signed on for, so my complaints are actually kind of petty. But when people are clamoring for your attention, it can make your head a noisy place. I suppose I’ll miss the noise when my boy is all grown up, but these days, I do sometimes miss the quiet.
And here’s another pernicious thing about popularity…when you’re admired it can mess with your head and make you think you have to be problem-less and perfect. If you’re adored, you should make yourself worthy of adoration and never complain, right?
Remember reading “Richard Cory” in high school English class? This Edwin Arlington Robinson poem always just devastates me…
Whenever Richard Cory went down town,
We people on the pavement looked at him:
He was a gentleman from sole to crown,
Clean favored, and imperially slim.
And he was always quietly arrayed,
And he was always human when he talked;
But still he fluttered pulses when he said,
“Good-morning,” and he glittered when he walked.
And he was rich – yes, richer than a king –
And admirably schooled in every grace:
In fine, we thought that he was everything
To make us wish that we were in his place.
So on we worked, and waited for the light,
And went without the meat, and cursed the bread;
And Richard Cory, one calm summer night,
Went home and put a bullet through his head.
For the record, I am not suicidal, but I totally get this poem. It’s a weird sort of irony that the people we glorify sometimes end up isolated and sad. I’m no Richard Cory, but I relate in my own small way.
I’m not sure if I’ve got this memo entirely figured out…I suppose it’s ultimately about figuring out whether the cost of popularity is worth its benefits. So while I think about it, here’s some Nada Surf. Memo received.