Tonight, I’m sitting in my apartment as the people I’ve met in DC (not so much the woman who asked me to put money in her shoe) go out for something called “Restaurant Week.” For those of you unfamiliar to what “Restaurant Week” is (because I was), it’s this thing when overly priced food is sold for a cheaper, but still overly priced, rate. So if you are one to drop ninety dollars on a meal (which is approximately seventeen five dollar footlongs from Subway), you can have that same meal for a discounted forty. Sadly, I’ve never been one to drop more than twenty-five dollars for a single dinner outing, and that meal better sing the praises of Jesus Christ and be dusted with tiny gold flakes. Instead, I’ve opted for what is sure to be a delivery from Dominos and whatever is coming on television tonight. Sigh.
And to be honest, I would love to say that I’m just some middle class kid that’s griping about not being able to spring for goat cheese salad with Serena and all the other Gossip Girls, but this could possibly be the most destitute point in my life. I’ve spent the last week refreshing the “Free Stuff” on DC’s Craig’s List page hoping to happen upon a bed frame or something else of use for my apartment. It’s the first time in my life that I’ve ever sincerely asked myself the question Are you just a trashy bitch? It’s a difficult time because you don’t ever want to be perceived as the guy who would rather spend more money of Natty Light than you would on furniture, and I never would have thought that had I not been mocked for my motley collection of furniture. It’s hard feeling like you’re a bum, and it’s hard feeling like you can prove yourself otherwise.
|“After all that we’ve been through, I know we’re cool.”|
But the whole situation helps me reflect on my life; the many times that I’ve been the poor girl in a rich girl’s world. Gwen Stefani said it best, If I were rich girl… na na na na na na na na na na na na na… Okay, so maybe Gwen didn’t say it best, but I’m sure you get the point. My life has been plagued by rich girl moments; times when people were going to places or doing things that were simply out of my price range. It’s unfair, but that’s life (or the Republican party) for you. But of all the rich girl moments that I’ve ever experienced (including, but not limited to, anything that involved the planning of one Brad Finney), none have been as deviant or complex as the seventh grade love triangle that love and money thrust me into.
Middle school is scandalous. If you were caught making out with someone in any location on the face of the planet, you could be deemed hero or whore in a matter of three text messages. There was a hierarchy, and that pyramid was not one to be tampered with. I’ve never personally believed in a glass ceiling, but I also knew what my place was in the grand scheme of middle school politics. I would go to class and do my business, make as many A’s as possible, and go home. Never did I believe that it would be so easy to find myself wrapped up in the middle of the drama of South-Doyle’s [arguably] richest student.
Mr. Ambrose invited any member of the seventh grade chorus to audition for the winter concert solo for “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” Considering that such an invaluable Judy Garland classic was up for grabs, there was no question; I was going for it. Sure, I understood that kids like me who were chided by his classmates for his tie that “looked like a sock” were not supposed to attain such prestigious honors, but I mean… seriously–nothing could stand between Judy and me. After a preliminary audition in front of the audience, most of the auditions were met with obligatory claps and an occasional yay! or way to go!, but as I lit into what was later compared to “just like Justin Timberlake from N’Sync” (which in case you didn’t know, is the equivalent to being knighted by the Queen as a thirteen year old), the chorus erupted in a thunderous roar. I. Had. Arrived. The only true competition I had was Sarah Campbell, a seventh grade songbird in her own right. I knew that to beat Justin Guarini… I mean, Sarah Campbell… I would have to really bust out something spectacular on our second audition. There was no room for pitch issues; there was no place for error. I had to really make these people believe that I wanted them to have a merry little Christmas.
|This is a picture of me getting the solo. To quote Kelly,
I can’t believe it’s happening to me.
As we approached the front of the room, Mr. Ambrose’s wife Linda (who never admitted it, but was totally rooting for me the entire time) accompanied me. Crescendo after decrescendo, countless trills and vibratos… I had done it again. It was my “A Moment Like This.” And with all her might, there was nothing that Sarah could do to change the outcome. I had won. When Mr. Ambrose made the official announcement, I made my fatal error. Like all the seasons of American Idol I had watched, none of the winners turned around and said Suck on that! They made their way over to the runner up and gave a meaningful, heartfelt hug. I was only following protocol, so as I made my way over to the front row to give my condolences and respect, I broke one of the biggest rules of middle school: You never hug another man’s girlfriend.
Sarah, at the time, was dating Brian Daley. Earlier that month, Brian had been dating Sarah’s friend, Emily, and without being able to remember the specifics, let’s just go ahead and say that Brian dated a lot of people in middle school. The engagements never lasted too long, but it was something to be revered if you had a little bit of time dating Brian. And I don’t want this to seem like I was the complete victim of this story; if I’m being honest, I had had a crush on Sarah on and off for years. She, at one point, was my dream girl. My Kelly Kapowski. But in the world of middle school dating, the odds were not in my favor. His dad owned a Party City; my dad owned two deer heads and the VHS boxset of Lonesome Dove. I mean, there’s really no comparison. But in essence, I really didn’t think there was anything too heinous to my actions. All I wanted to do was offer some competitor love, even if there was some hormonal drive in doing so.
I wasn’t prepared for how quickly the news would spread. The next day, I was greeted in homerooms with ambiguous threats from people about how Brian Daley was going to kick my ass. I wasn’t sure how to respond because I sure wasn’t going to say ass. I mean, I had only been saying “stupid” for two years… I wasn’t prepared for this kind of coarse language, let alone the actions that these statements yielded. All I wanted was to make Judy Garland proud, and look where that had gotten me: on the chopping block of the heir of two Party Citys, and let me tell you, that’s not the place where you want to be. In essence, we had a West Side Story situation on our hands; I was just a lonely Jet meandering through the hallways waiting for a Shark to come behind and stab me when I wasn’t looking. What I remember most from the whole situation was the fear, less about the outcome… even though, if memory serves me correctly, I’m pretty sure that the whole thing coming to a head when Sarah’s friends felt like Sarah was being objectified by not being able to hug other boys, then Emily Golden slapped Brian Daley in the breezeway outside the lunchroom. Oh, Emily, always tried and true to take the heat off of someone else and direct it on herself, but I suppose her efforts were made in good conscious. All the women, who independent, throw your hands up at me.
I suppose that you become more comfortable with the socioeconomic divide as you get older. I still don’t believe in those glass ceilings, and that’s probably the reason I’m in the mess I’m in right now… sitting in a Target butterfly chair with my feet propped up on a coffee table that was in someone else’s house about two days ago. And though I still have a budget that does not allow me to currently attend “Restaurant Week” and a father who does not own two Party Citys, I don’t think that should disqualify someone from getting the solo or the life they want. Being a successful adult, I’m learning, is something that cannot be put in a bottle or on a list. It’s not about how you look or what you own, or who in Brian’s case, but rather it’s about knowing what your budget is and using the proper grammar to elucidate exactly why it is you hug people. And as you climb that ladder, someone might jab at you or bring your down or worse, they may just offer to kick your… butt… and that’s just a risk you have to be willing to take.