It was back when I was 8 years old, (almost 30 years ago) I was going to Sunday school class in a big mega church that my parents always said was "non-denominational."
I had noticed a group of girls who always sat together in their best looking dresses and pink colored bibles. I suddenly wanted a pink bible too and ask my mother all the time for one.
It was clear to me these girls were "cool." without anyone explaining it me.
And I wanted to be their friend so I tried to be "likable" in doing everything they asked me, like "Debby go get the glue for us." during craft time, "Debby give this note to that boy." on the playground. I brought them candy as gifts, I made note cards and gave them any little things I had like pages of stickers or new markers in hope to be their friend. They made fun of other kids, and I did too even though I felt so ashamed to do so afterwords I prayed a hundreds over for God to forgive me. Yet I had to learn young what being "cool" and "Not cool" was.....I felt so not cool because I was home-schooled and all these girls went to the same church for their school so they were a strong click.
My father was watching one Sunday as I shared how nice it was to have new friends, how I was truly so happy then they called for me and I ran off to do their bidding. He waited till we were walking alone to explain "Those little girls are very mean, they are just using you." I looked over my shoulder at them knowing they were having a slumber party I wasn't invited to and I felt hurt, left out and so not cool anymore. My father asked in his usual frowning face "Do you WANT to be a mean person too? Because they think that's what being "cool." is?" I replied "No, I don't like how I feel when we call kids fat or dumb." His eye grew wide in alarm as he demanded "Are YOU calling kids names with them!?!? You should be ashamed of yourself!" I burst into tears of course fearing his wrath in my honesty, but learning a life long lesson that I don't want to be one of the "cool kids after all.
it took many years after that to realize everyone has their own idea of what "being cool" is, My mother shared "That girl is so cool, why can't you befriends with her???" I chuckle and tilt my head listening to my mother whose constant push into the "Cool Kids" group made me the weirdest person in my protest.
When I was 10 years old I felt so lonely, maybe that first decade of my life I really was lonely, friends came and went through my parents I never had a say of who I wanted to play with.
I just had to make the best of it, my lasting friends were also my cousins. So I would ask them what does being "cool" mean to them, it was never about being mean to others.
It was a constant battle with my mother who saw outside requirements to what she thought was "cool" if I told her they were mean to me, she would say "That's because you make yourself a target. You act like you don't belong with them, or you say weird things instead of trying to fit in, it takes work to make new friends and to act like they do...then you would eventually be accepted."
I protested "They don't like to go for walks in nature, they don't play games or draw.....they mostly talk about boys or new movies and go shopping." My mother explained "They are just being girls, they don't let the boys know that they like them and they don't get dirty. They are the coolest kids I know!" I found myself in so many awkward social moments where my mother demanded me to stay with the other kids and try to be a friend. I often found my own way out of the group, took a long walk outside or colored in my coloring books. I still like to play, to go on adventures and get muddy so most of my friends ended up being much younger then me!
My mother was always pushy about who I should be friends with, as I grew older I grew bolder in telling her straight up "No. they are not my friends, they are YOUR friends."
It was also humorists to me in being a new friend home to my mother, for she tired to hide her clear cut judgement and disapproval.
I would always defend my friends and explain to her who they were and how grateful I was to have them in my life.
My mother would say "If only you were friends with "so and so" then you could get invited up to the cabin or maybe get their "hand-me-down" clothes?" I would laugh at how silly that was to me, then see how important it was to her in making friends who had some time of perk.
For me in having a friend was about kindness and trust, stability and support, I often daydreamed about having a life long friend when I was 10 years old.
I would even be sitting at a table full of kids my own age feeling completely alone. Even though my mother always kept my hair perfectly, had my clothes matching, kept my whole outward appearance clean and sharp. I still struggled with the "Cool Kids." they would make fun of me very easily, I would fight back by being very different from them which left my mother bewildered over what to do with me!
When I was 15 the whole thing about "being cool or not" click in me, like a new found faith I was no longer lonely with just myself, I had 3 strong great friends whose love and kindness was a true gift. I liked being on my own, or with them, and that growing feeling of welcoming to any new person into my life was THE best feeling of all!
I suddenly had more friends then I could ever imagine, I liked introducing myself to any new person that came to our events.
I was truly happy in finding myself, that strong sense of self and support to the new awkward person.
One time when I was pushing the stroller of my baby brother up to my mother during our roller skating monthly event, where other home schooled families came together. I saw a new family checking in and I exclaimed to my mother "Oh look new people! I'm going over to say HI!" She grabbed my arm in true horror whispering to me "No, don't do that! They look dirty and out of place. Do not go over there!" She glanced all around as if embarrassed by me, and I stood frozen in alarm by her outburst, I stood quiet and stunned suddenly realizing that she lived in a completely different world then I did. She had a different set of her own friends that she had to worry about, she wanted to always be seen as if she had it all together perfectly.
I will always remember looking back at that new family and noticing that they were poorly dressed it was rather a surprise to me, for some reason I had not noticed that about them at all.
So I left my mother and didn't go see the new people right away, I found my beloved friend Tiffany and asked her what I should do because my mother was very upset at me. Tiffany laughed when I told her the whole story, I always like how smart she was in understanding my mother better for me, she explained "Your mother is afraid you'll invite them to sit with her or come to lunch afterwords like you always do with new people, putting her in an awkward situation. Whenever you meet and greet people you burst out with sharing to much information so maybe she just wants to be left alone. It's not your fault but you are an energy entirely of your own so you don't see all these levels in how our society works, in your mind we are all equal, it's sweet but not true."
I sat dumbfounded and embarrassed in that moment, I suddenly realized that my mother had grown up in public school and had to work hard to be "cool" by her standards.
Tiffany got me back to roller skating leaning into me saying "There are lots of ways to say hi or introduce yourself with out putting your mom into a bad situation. Just look at our group of misfit kids, You are our cheer leader and devoted friend, they like giving you high fives and knowing you are there for them. So don't take it personal that your mother is so different from you. I am sure she is proud of you even if she doesn't know how to say it right now."
I will always remember that moment, the joy I felt in realizing my group of friends were so "cool" to me.
Then the month I was about to turn 16 years old, I discovered my outgoing friendliness got me into a bind. For I was helping a guy 12 years older then me, I didn't think anything of it as being odd or more then just being friends. But it was Tiffany who said "Oh Your Mother is so excited that you "met someone" with lots of money, who can provide for you and help raise your kids."
I choked and coughed in alarm and in pure panic. I exclaimed "WHAT!?!?" Oh NO! No, no, no, no, THAT is NOT what is going here! I just don't like to see anyone abandon or left to struggle socially! I am not in-love or even wanting to get married!?!?! Wait, so what did you hear my mom say???...Good grief, Is she finally getting to do her "arrange marriage" idea after all??? She's always talking about it, because she thinks that since her and God are so close, he would guide her steps in finding my sister and I perfect husbands. My father wouldn't allow it thank goodness,and every time she tries to explain all the benefits of this system, my sister and I look at each other in the corner of our eyes in pure annoyance." Tiffany nodded and laughed even more as she explained "Your Mother could be wishing that her parents had setup an arranged marriage for her so now she wants that for you." I fell forward into my lap groaning my helplessness next to my very wise friend. I dramatically asked her "How did this ALL happened???"
Tiff smiled and patted my head "Because you are way to nice to everyone, so they misunderstand your intentions."
Shortly after that chat with Tiffany I found myself in a family dinner that my mother had setup with his mother, I sat there answering such questions like "How many kids do you want?", "Are you happy at church?", "Do you think you will still want to work after you are married?", "What does the ideal life look like for you?", "What does God's will mean to you?" as these questions all came at me, I felt like this was a great opportunity to share my almost 16 year old self to everyone without being rude, without being rebellious. (My mother despised rebelliousness) and so I didn't want to embarrass her that night with our 2 families facing each other across the table.
My honest direct confident replies to every question and my clever way in being friendly and confident helped me face everyone in a charming way while I still stood up for myself without causing problems.
My father who sat far away watching with his arms folded the whole time turned from frowning into a big smile as he quietly listened to me, this is why I remember this event so well because after we left he said that he was proud of me, that I handle myself very nicely.
I look back realizing that was a turning point for me, I was so happy over how my father was proud! It gave me a new strength in myself, and while my mother would say "That could of been you..." I would say back in clear understanding "Nope. Not at all."
Sometimes being "cool" has nothing do with what other people think, and there is always going to be someone cooler then you so why not just be?