So, I’ve seen a lot of this story across the internet, and I can’t help but remember the time when I was a joke nominee in my high school Homecoming. For those unfamiliar with the current story, here’s a snippet:
High school student Whitney Kropp was shocked earlier this month when she was named to the homecoming court.
Her happy surprise turned to humiliation when she learned the reason. The students thought it would be funny if the popularity contest was won by someone who was unpopular.
From The Detroit News: http://www.detroitnews.com/article/20120924/METRO/209240341#ixzz27gT0w1qo
The story goes on to say that the town is rallying around Whitney, offering her services and products so that she might be the belle of the ball.
The town of Middleville didn’t exactly rally around me in this way.
Here’s my story.
It started, I think, in marching band practice. The teacher was giving out instructions for the upcoming Homecoming game. When he started handing out the assignments for the low brass section (I played trombone), I raised my hand and said, “Mr. Rickert, I won’t be able to march at the game since I’ll be the Homecoming King.” The whole band had a good chuckle. I meant it as a joke after all.
It isn’t that I was an outcast, but I definitely wasn’t the most popular kid in school either. My clique was the brainy, sarcastic crowd. If there were jocks among us, they were soccer players, which aren’t really in the same category of jocks as footballers, basketballers, or wrestlers. We were the kids who aced tests and talked about Monty Python, ever ready with a quippy jibe at another’s expense.
It was a fun little clique to be in.
So when the announcements for the Homecoming Court came out with my name on the list, I was surprised. Was I really popular enough to be on this list? Maybe, I thought.
And then I thought back to my marching band announcement and realized that I was probably being the butt of my own joke (this was not the first, nor last, time this has happened to me). I believe I was nominated to the Homecoming Court as a joke. But rather than feel the affront that some teenagers are wont to do, I played it cool. After all, even though I was probably there as a humorous offset to the other options, I was still going to be paraded about in a Corvette, I still got out of marching that night with the band, and I got to escort one of the pretty girls in my class around. All good things.
Now, when the night of the Homecoming game arrived, did I expect to be crowned king? No. Not really. But did I think that I had a chance? That my classmates would look past the obvious choices (a football jock and a party-hardened slacker) and choose the best choice (the brains with a sense of humor (me))? I hoped so.
Alas, I was not crowned king (the slacker was). But nor was I laughed out of the stadium.
What was my point in saying all this?
I remember at the time all of the emotions, feeling triumphant, then slighted, accepting myself as a joke, and secretly hoping that I was popular after all. I remember how I was in high school, how desperate I was to be cool, how important it was to be liked, how sharp everything felt. Perhaps time and maturity have dulled my sensitivity to such ups and downs, or perhaps my younger self was making mountains out of mole hills. I think it was the latter.
Anyway, I hope that Whitney learns to take things in stride, that her town’s rallying around her doesn’t reinforce an unhealthy perspective that the opinions of other people are still the most important thing in the world. Because at the moment, I’m sure that she is feeling super loved, and that is great. But I hope she is learning to love who she is in spite of all of this attention.