November 06, 2015

Nice Girls Sometimes Finish Last...

...if they finish at all.

A couple of weeks ago, I was in Missouri, taking care of my granddaughters while their mother (my daughter) went to Texas for a friend's wedding. While there, I got to deal with a lot of stuff that happens in the life of a growing child, disappointments over perceived failures and the angst that comes from trying to make friends in a new school being chief among them.

At some point, I found myself sharing a story from my own youth in an effort to convince my oldest granddaughter (known as "The Princess") that I understood what she was going through. She had recently run for student council and lost the election, and now every time she walked past the annoying poster in the school hallway (right by the cafeteria, of all things!) sporting the cheerful faces of the winners, her little heart broke.

She told me that she hated that poster, and she wanted to sneak into the school and tear it down. Oh babycakes, I hear ya! I really do!

Years ago, as I was heading into my junior year of high school, I decided to try out for Pep Club. Being a member of the Pep Club was a huge deal for juniors of the female persuasion in those days. You got a pricey outfit. You got to sit with all the other Pep Club members at the games and walk around looking unbelievably cool on game days. If you were a member of Pep Club, you were ... well, cool.

Everyone who was anyone was in the Pep Club. In fact, just about the only girls who weren't were the unmentionable ones--the parking lot girls, if you know what I mean, and those who were simply too geeky for words. But, really, even the geekiest got in.

Even so, we still had to try out. It's how the game was played.

To try out, we had to come up with a concept for a Spirit Week and present it to the selection committee. I don't remember anything much about my spirit week presentation except that I worked very hard on it. I had a theme. I made posters. I made up new cheers and whatever else was required.

About that time, a new girl moved into our neighborhood. We'll call her Ann. Ann was nice, and new, and trying hard to make new friends in her new school. I was one of them. Ann moved in too close to the tryouts to put together a spirit week presentation, and the realization that she would have to spend her entire junior year at a new school not one of the ultra-cool kids made her sad.

In a burst of friendship and empathy, I gave Ann my presentation. She probably demurred. No doubt, I insisted. I do remember that part of my argument was that I could always just put together a new one. Mostly, the idea of being so magnanimous made me feel good about myself. Not exactly the best reason for doing something, but what can I say? I was young.

And I did put together another spirit week presentation...at least, I tried. I did my best, anyway. But, alas, when the results of the tryouts were posted, Ann was part of the Pep Club and I was not. I spent the rest of my high school experience hurt and bruised and resentful and bitter. Every game was exquisite pain for me. Every day the members of the club got to wear their uniforms to school was torture.

It hurt. A lot. And the worst thing was, I knew that I had nobody to blame but myself. Oh, sure, it's possible that Ann might have been accepted if she'd thrown together her own campaign based on luck or a better personality, a cuter face, or just plain old sympathy. It's possible that I might not have made the squad, even if I'd used my original presentation. We'll never know.

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My story wasn't one of those feel-good stories with a great moral that would leave The Princess with renewed faith in life. It was just a story with feeling. Lots of feeling, designed to let her know that I understand how she feels every time she has to walk past that irritating poster celebrating the kids that won.

Hopefully, it will be enough for her to know that as painful as this might be for her right now, life does go on and things do eventually get better, and one lost election or not being selected for Pep Club won't ruin your life if you don't let it.

Even rejected girls can grow up to do cool things and have happy times. I'm living proof.

On a side note -- look at this cool cake made for my alma mater by Salt Cake City. I wonder if they could make one for me to look like the Pep Club uniform I never got.
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