Better Late.....Or Never
Updated: Dec 30, 2020
At a party this weekend, I joined a conversation with friends that covered everything from summer plans to schoolyard stories about our kids. I have always loved sharing stories and I love the shared laughter. An ordinary day under the perfect California sun with friends I enjoy and a drink in hand. What could possibly go wrong? I'll tell you what can go wrong. The conversation can glide into territory unknown. While not inappropriate, I'd still rather discuss medical procedures than delve into - yeah, you guessed it - Game of Thrones! Scary. It is not GOT specifically that is the problem. The problem is just about anything current, other than politics, that leaves me often with nothing to contribute. There are few times in my life when I have been able to carry my own when those around me are discussing the latest movie, the best pair of jeans, the cutest television star, the current bestseller or the Hollywood gossip that has everyone talking. I am just not that girl.
I tried to be that girl years ago. Each summer, my family, along with my closest cousins and their parents, would pack up for a few weeks and head to Ocean City, Maryland. Cars packed to the brim with food and beach gear, in our own little caravan of minivans and station wagons, we traveled the 3 hour ride ready for our annual vacation together. My cousin Kea and I would beg to ride together. Though two years younger, Kea was my idol. She lived in D.C., which made her super streetwise and saavy. The suburbs always seemed even less cool after walking around her neighborhood. She went to a big city public high school with a tremendous amount of diversity in color and wealth. She did cool things each summer, like acting camp at the Kennedy Center and volleyball. She played piano like me but never seemed to stress about practice. She could do a back flip, thanks to gymnastics, and tried her hardest to teach me how to accomplish a round-off but I just couldn't gather the courage to lift that arm off the ground.
But what really made me admire Kea and long for our time together was the fact that she knew everything about everyone. She could name every song on the Prince album. She knew all the words to television theme songs. Though she did not come from a family that valued brand names, she would dig around thrift stores and flaunt the latest styles that she saw in magazines for next to nothing. And when I would spend time with her, I would soak up her "coolness". In the car ride to the beach alone, we would flip through a backpack full of teen magazines, Kea pointing out that Tom Cruise was gorgeous but short and Kirk Cameron had a sister who was also an actress. She was a one-girl celebrity, fashion, current events knowledge machine, with all of the substance and humor, kindness and heart that other people like that never find the time for because they are too busy being hip. I would basically spend our summer vacation studying. Asking. Replaying songs. Watching videos (since our home television did not include MTV but the beach house did). At 16, learning from my 14-year-old cousin was not something I would ever brag about but I happily proceeded into the coming school year all the better. I could relate. If only for a few months, until life changed again and someone new popped on the scene and I was left wearing only one Swatch when others had two. Two watches? Now that's just ridiculous, isn't it?
Those moments of being hip felt good. I wanted so badly to fit in without making it seem like I was trying. But I was. It was so much work being hip! I just didn't have the time, or the energy. I still don't know how Kea did it, and still managed to nail her SATs and earn a big scholarship to UNC! After I left for college, I just stopped trying. I couldn't possibly compete with the college crowd that had money to spare and shopped between class. I no longer even had access to a television. Any time I had was spent reading or writing for class. I gave up and withdrew, becoming someone who just stopped caring about what others were wearing or singing or doing. I still had some regrets. I mean, what if I was missing out on something I would really enjoy? And what if being more trendy and "with it" would open doors to other relationships and I was now completely missing out?
So here I am, a well-read, well-traveled adult, who still couldn't tell you the name of the artist or the song that is playing on Spotify. (I don't even have Spotify, but I know it plays music....) Let me say, I do have my hip moments. I can name lots of NHL players (thanks to our time following the best hockey team ever the Washington Caps). I am a wicked source for political information of the day. When I stroll through a book store I am very aware of the latest bestsellers, though I probably haven't read them yet because they haven't trickled down to the used book sale yet. And once, a few years ago, I had a Diane von Furstenberg blouse that was all the rage. It was a gift. And guess what? I'm not missing out on one damn thing. I have learned, maybe the hard way, that living under my rock with an address has its benefits. I have been able to love and learn about and enjoy all of the things that I naturally find enriching instead of chasing the joy of others. And I have found kindred spirits who also live happily on the fringe of current events right along with me. Once people recover from the shock of learning that I did not watch Game of Thrones, they see that while they were watching that, I was busy doing something else. Cool.
I should probably thank my cousin for getting me through the most awkward years with some street credibility. I had to grow up a bit to learn for myself that being late to the party is actually not a sign of failure, just difference. Or maybe indifference. Either way, its totally ok. I will always admire the fashionistas and hipsters. I would never look down on them because I know how much work it takes to look good and keep up at the same time! I have learned that if they look down on me for my lack of - well - everything - I'm ok with that, too. I know the truth: it can't last forever. Even Kea gave up her "hip" banner a few years back - she went and had kids. Oh how the mighty have fallen!