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Our Worst Moments by Tim Christian

"There's something about life." Like there isn't something about everybody's occasionally pathetic lives. I guess we're all thinking so these days. For me, though, it's more painfully true than for the rest of you because one of those sad moments came flooding back to me like mud on PCH. One of those (and there are many) when I'm not exactly the nicest person in the Western World. Luckily it wasn't all my fault (that time, anyway). There were circumstances beyond my control. Like high school.

Let's say that I used to be a fourteen year old boy, victim of all the usual adolescent crap. Too tall, too thin, too smart; not athletic, even a bit of a sissy in that '50s way--either you were or were not masculine. All of the teen-angst terror you could imagine hanging over me like a dark cloud all the time. If there was a silver lining to my sad cloud it was that I actually looked good in my clothes (as dorky as they were, chosen by Dad), I ate whatever I wanted (except then it made us all break out), I didn't have to study at all to maintain a B average and had plenty of free time after school for hanging around, watching TV, basically doing nothing at all. The thing that made it truly sad was that I desperately needed to be cool, liked, accepted, popular even. Not to be deprived of anything.

There's this kid on TV who has this same sort of existence. Krakow is everyone's favorite geek. He's too smart (legitimately, unlike me), has bad skin (covered very nicely for the small screen), truly unattractive clothes (I wonder if he looks better without them?) and manages to have all sorts of things to do with his time. Including staring into Angela's bedroom through a camera lens. What a life. In fact he wishes he had a life, kinda like the one I wish I had. To be accepted instead of laughed at. To walk proud instead of just tall. To say "hey" to the cool guys around campus because they said so first instead of out of self-preservation. And to have the girl next door. Not just some random girl who no one else wanted. He wanted Angela, the enigmatic Angela, the ingenue, the girl who has eyes only for the best looking adolescent on Prime Time.

Considering these and a host of other less interesting issues, getting through high school without exploding was a real accomplishment. In fact getting off the bus on that first day, schlepped out of town to a school on the wrong side of the tracks, was a genuine miracle in itself. And then to establish a presence, or at least maintain some upright space, proved to be an uphill battle at best. And to do it with some grace and dignity a virtual impossibility. I needed the strength of your traditional high school clique, somewhere to belong, something to hold on to. Someplace to hide and not attract too much attention to my tall, thin self. Another geek (only way more of a geek than me) and two unpopular girls provided the perfect cover. Although we were all equally dense and socially inept, I looked really fabulous next to them (a condition I try to maintain if I can in life today). For a while it was great, the answer to all of my lesser prayers. But I selfishly, yet understandably, wanted so much more. Beauty, popularity, acceptance, license to speak out loud in class--what I thought (wrongly) was normalcy. I wanted what I just could not have had. Brian twisted and turned through a similar if not modified plot once that just about tore my heart out (if I had one). The Dance for World Peace (yeah, right) was the one thing he wanted to do with all the depth and breadth his soul could reach. These TV kids managed to make the biggest brouhaha out of a dance. But they were all gonna go, damn it, no matter what. Even the great looking ones who never actually enjoyed anything just for the sake of maintaining that airof bored-stiff-because-I'm-too-attractive-to-care thing. So Brian lets himself be charmed by this fat girl who is actually his perfect mate by virtue of the fact that they are both geeks in the same ways (although she's cute). His desperation gets the better of him so that he doesn't end up being left out. After all, even the cool kids (in one representation or another) were gonna be there. And there's a lot to be said for school spirit when you haven't got any other qualities that people would want to be near.

So there we are, Krakow and I, poised on the brink of absolute disaster and misery. My solution came to me in a flash of sorts. Like the three witches in Mac Beth, myself and the two unpopular girls plotted and schemed behind the back of the unsuspecting geek. Stalling led to hemming and hawing, the tension building slowly to a rush and a rumble. The air became thick with it. Maybe I should remind you here of what Brian's fall from grace was. Angela decides that she doesn't want to even enter the building alone, and asks Brian if she can tag along with him and Delia. Brian, like a slime, takes this opportunity to dump Delia right to her face and tell her that he got a better offer and that she wasn't good enough for him after all. What he meant to say to her was that he was too self-absorbed and too much the ass-hole to be a man about the whole thing and exercise some dignity and loyalty. Such is life. So I, with the aid of my trusty unpopular-vixens took the moment by the balls (and I think the geek boy, too) and tell him right to his broken-out face that he wasn't cool enough for us to hang around with any more, that we had potential rep's to protect and nurture (yeah, right), and that we were really sorry but he would have to go it alone! Damn, kids can be cruel.

"Somewhere far away was a car alarm." And the sound of it was eerily clear despite the ringing in my ears. You see, Krakow didn't get Angela after all. And I didn't get to be any more cool than I was before. In fact, a lot of the middle-of-the-road kids thought I was horrible (which I still am sometimes). Of course for a while I wasn't the victim any more. I was suddenly on the inside, for that fleeting moment when I thrust someone else to the outside. Interesting concept, but deplorable reality. I'm glad though, that I was faced with it again. If someone else had reminded me of it I may have felt sorry for being such an asshole. For now I'm just glad that I wasn't the only one.

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“School is a battlefield for your heart.”

Angela Chase, Episode 1: "My So-Called Life (Pilot)"