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Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Too Cool For School?...

There’s a photo of me, aged 11/12, first year senior school, in the snowy playground, sort of ‘running’ towards the camera in a pathetic attempt to make the camera operator think I was gonna get them with the snowball (flake) that’s stuck to my cheap red gloved hand.  

I would’ve definitely missed, had I had the nerve to have thrown it.  

That photo, taken by my cool, confident friend Sarah, sort of summed me up at that age. 

A bit of a prat but nice enough in an annoying, groovy way.

Some people are just cool aren’t they? Some people have a swagger, or an aura that seems to draw other lesser folk to them. Some people would never have a photo that bad in their entire back catalogue.  Thank goodness for digital cameras eh?

It’s got to be confidence that makes these people stand out from the crowd but how do they become confident? What made them so self assured?

It’s not money necessarily, as there are a lot of seemingly cock-sure people who live in poor housing estates, just as there are sappy, unconfident kids attending our private schools.

So what is it?

I’ve done ok considering I was often one of the last to be picked during PE at school.

I remember at aged 7, standing in the playground, staring nervously at the basket of big orange net balls, thinking, “surely they’re gonna pick me before her, she stinks”… I remember being shocked and feeling like I’d been prodded in the solar plexus the one time I was second to last and all the ‘boffins’ had been picked before me! 

I was never a bully and I hate all that bitchiness but there is a definite hierarchy at school and you can’t help but think like that sometimes.

Actually, I hate to admit it but there were occasions when I stood by and laughed while others were bullied.  Not physical stuff but name calling.  And I participated in name calling and poking fun at one particular girl who I am ‘Facebook friends’ with now and has done very well for herself.  Sorry K!

Oh and I also shouted out ‘Jodie’s a wanker’!  in the queue for the tuck shop, as a dare.  She wasn’t a wanker at all actually.  Well, there was never any evidence to suggest she was.

I wonder what would have happened if I had been confident enough to say something to the bullies.

Until I was 12, my Mum chose my clothes.  I wasn’t sporty either and so Mum dressing me as a nerd, (before nerds were ironically cool), with a pageboy haircut and ‘pear collars’ on my shirts was where I was at.  

I was also only allowed two pairs of Clarks, or Startrite shoes a year - navy T bar flats in the summer and brown T bar flats in the winter. 

I once spent an entire day demanding that my poor Mum, ‘get me some open toed shoes’!  It must’ve been a Friday for that afternoon, my Dad Stanley-knifed the front of my shoes off and made me wear them all weekend!  I was mortified.

I thought open toed shoes would make me cool. 

Another thing that 7 year old me thought would aid my rise to the rank of ‘trendy and popular’ was getting my ears pierced. 

I remember crying and screaming, again at my poor Mum, that, “everyone in my school had their ears pierced…at least twice”! But my Dad used to come home from work and bark, “You can do what you like when you’re 18”! And, “stop crying or I’ll give you something to cry about”!

Do-gooders be calm!  My Dad is a fantastic father and there is no cause for concern. ;)

So, it wasn’t til I was 12 years old that my Mum actually decided that a pair of ‘small gold studs’ might actually look rather sweet and I remember posing in a photo booth with her afterwards…modelling a Lady Diana flick and a denim waistcoat, beaming like a Cheshire cat.

It didn’t make me cool though.  I am just not like that.  It has to be inbuilt.

I loved watching Sandra Dee’s transformation into Sandy, in Grease.  I loved it so much I watched that film right from Betamax, through VHS and again later on DVD.

There are things that I think help you to be cool, accepted and popular.

Being good at a sport for example.  Not table tennis or chess.  These don’t become cool until you’re a parent, or an auntie/uncle and can show off exaggerated below-average skills to young relatives who have just found out about these past times.  Random memory alert - an old, eccentric Dutch guy called Herman taught me how to play chess, on his speed boat in the Canary Islands.  No… just chess!

Some kids used to just naturally make cool choices even with something as trivial as crisps.…  how they reacted when asked for one.  I remember most kids used to grimace when asked to share a ‘Ringo’ and they’d separate just half a crisp at the top of the packet and grip the bag tightly so there’d be no chance any more would be taken.  Sarah was too cool for that sort of nonsense and probably had a mountain of crisps anyway, so, as long as you had clean fingernails, she’d just casually offer them.  You could even have a second one!

Bags were another area to show how cool you were.  Which carrier bag would you be carrying your school books in?  Benetton, or Next were good.  Iceland, or Bejam were not and DEFINITELY NO ‘FASHION HOUSE’ BAGS!

A year or two after the carrier bag trend had really taken off, Sarah came in with a proper draw string bag with a clock on it! Well, you just couldn’t compete with that kind of style could you?

Although I did well by becoming friends with someone so cool, it also showed up just how un-cool I was in comparison.  Like the time we walked to her home from school and I fell over.  She laughed a lot but nowhere near as much as I’d have laughed had it been the other way around.  Anyway, I picked myself up and scurried behind her confident strides, resembling Baldrick & Black Adder.

Sarahs parents home is beautiful and was very trendy, the kitchen in particular was like something out of a magazine.  Pristine and crisp.  I walked in and politely said ‘Hello’ to her Mum and threw my bag on the white kitchen work top.

A few seconds passed and Sarah’s mum sniffed and turned her nose up, “ooh yuk can you smell something girls”?  We all sniffed the air and agreed there was a nasty pooey pong.  “Oh what’s that!?!!” cried her Mum, looking at my bag.  Sure enough, when I’d fallen, my bag had landed in dog shit, which I’d then flung over my shoulder and up my coat and then all over their lovely clean surfaces.

It wasn’t long after that episode that their pet Doberman attacked me, ripping my one pair of royal blue, Benetton cords.  Maybe she could still smell the shit and thought I was trying to mark her territory!

Anyway, I think I got on alright coz I wasn’t particularly nasty.  I was clean, (B.O is definite bully bait) and I read quite a bit so I was fairly articulate which helped when I was trying to make the cooler kids laugh.  Laughter is a passport to anywhere.

Aww, I will chat more on school days as there’s such a lot to be said about them.  I hope yours weren’t too uncomfortable and I hope they make you smile when you think back to them.



  1. I remember you at school lady (Cough cough - I wont keep bring up the fact that you do not remember me!!). You were funny and cool compared to me!! I felt very dowdy and uncomfortable around Sarah, you and Char. That is, however, until I took a class with Char (Science)and found that she was the most down to earth, funny, friendly person I had had the fortune to talk to! That was a real eye opener to me. The pre conceived ideas about people completely vanished and I began to operate the (still very much used) "take as you find" approach to new people. It is great. No-one gets under the radar!! black, white, fat, thin, smelly or clean! Everyone gets a fair crack of the whip (and possibly a tactful bottle of deodorant!) I have found that this open-mindedness that I have has helped me accept everyone.

    I hasten to add though, how I still have no radar for bitches and users! I have had my heart broken by people who have treated me badly. I am soft and generous - I admit that. I love to make people happy - sometimes to my detriment and unhappiness. These unfortunate beatings to my heart have made me a wee bit cynical these days. I find it much harder to trust people but still - as always - wear my heart on my sleeve!

    In short, Sarah was the girl we all wanted to be at school but for her popularity, confidence and must have wardrobe, she has stayed a down to earth and lovely person. That, in itself, is the best thing about confidence, the ability to be a true mate and confidante. How wonderful is it to know that you make a friend happy? whether you make them physically laugh, or do something nice for them or just let them know you are there for them?! It's the best thing in life for me.... :)

    PS - Love reading about your school experiences which were, quite obviously, SOOOOOOOOOOO different to mine!!!!!!

  2. Aww How cool is this? I had Sarah on the phone then as her internet's down so I was reading her this post and we were laughin A LOT at just how divvy i was...
    then I went "ooh someone's commented"! and it was you aww
    I read your comments to her and we got all sentimental and ooh'd and aah'd.
    Char is NOT down to earth!!! hahaha She makes awful comments about peoples hygiene and eating habits on public transport! She is very very funny though, agreed! You're BLOODY COOL NOW THOUGH AINTCHYA? x x x

  3. Oi, Oi...I'm not down to earth because I'm vocal about people stinking up the place? I'm going to borrow a Sarah C and say exsqueeze me Invisible Woman...I beg to differ! Might not be the full ticket about how upset it makes me but I could be soo far up my asrse that you'd not even know I was there if I wasn't "down to earth" in the job I do!!! I just voice what I see...or smell!

  4. Anyways, Sphillips, thank you for the lovely compliments. x

  5. Well, I didn't know you at school, but I would have guessed that you were one of the cool kids! I laughed a lot at the dog shit story, as I remember walking teracotta mousse (the dog that laid it must have been ill!) into my friends house, all over their new carpet.

    I didn't have a very good time at secondary school. I was painfully shy and really didn't know how to stick up for myself. I have certainly made up for it since though! Now, I'm in danger for not keeping my mouth shut half the time...

  6. Anonymous - ok point taken. You are down to earth...even if you don't tend to get on easily with the public! ;)

  7. Saraphic - It's funny when you see how people change for the better outside of their school years. It all amounts to shit really but at the time it's so important.

  8. My background is European and when I went to school every kid was fifth generation Australian. I was a wog and a lumpy one at that with stinky food in my bag. School was shite. I went to six primary schools. Thankfully only one high school. I was a socially inept kid.

    Not popular at all. Not confident at all. But that is okay because it could be worse. I know people who were so popular and confident at school and never had the desire to grow and improve as individuals. And that is a sad state of affairs when people just never move out of that teenage headspace.

    And sometimes people you think were cool were full of the same angst as yourself. They just hid it.

  9. HAhaha considering at the time, it's so awkward and painful but describing our poor selves now is so funny, (i do hope you're laughing at the lumpy wog with stinky food Linda!?) - I cried laughing as i was typing about me, desperately aware of what was deemed'cool' but just unable to emulate it.

    Real bullying is different and unacceptable. I'd like to stamp out all bullies but there are levels of bullying and the very minor, gentler bullying can be very funny. As long as you can take it in later life when the worm turns and you're suddenly not cool anymore!