Suburbia can be a rough place to grow up for a nerdy girl who tries too hard.
I was never cool, even in my own group of nerdy smart kids. I think it’s because, in that time and place, you could only be one thing. You could be pretty or you could be smart, but not both. I was both, with a heavy does of fabulous, and it probably came off as a little weird and earnest, and most people just didn’t get me. When I got to college I was allowed to be lots of things, and nobody really knew about or cared if I was smart in class because I was also pretty and fun and I partied a lot. And if I raised the cumulative sorority GPA while I was at it, all the better. I had a lot more freedom there.
I think that my experience as a smart girl and later as a cool girl gives me a unique perspective on my mom life today, especially since my children attend such a uniquely nerdy school. They’re pretty girls who are also smart, but their world is a lot more accepting of them than mine was of me. At their school, it’s cool to be smart. Pretty is always in style. And there you can be both, and more.
And somehow I have become this mom who is super involved with planning everything fun that the school does. I never thought I would be that mom. I wasn’t that mom in preschool, because there were other moms who did the heavy lifting. I was happy to help the moms in charge. I would chaperone a field trip or show up with cupcakes or help set up for the fundraiser, but I never wanted to be in charge of anything myself. It is bizarre to me that I am that mom now.
But I do think I’m uniquely suited to it. I know how to plan a party, but I also have firsthand experience with nerds. I love socializing with almost everyone, but if I try, I can still conjure that feeling of painful adolescent awkwardness. Sometimes I do it just for fun, just to remind myself how far I’ve come from that stifling time in my life. (All it takes is a PTSD-inducing drive through Middletown).
My children attend, to quote Milt Wagner, “one of them academic schools,” [sic]. I’m so glad they do, but I also want them to have fun experiences like fall festivals and spirit week and school dances. And if no one else will push for and then plan those activities, I’m the mom who will do it. I will make fun happen for all those nerdy/cool/pretty/fabulous kids who don’t have to be limited or defined by one quality. In fact, I think that’s why I find it so important to plan fun parties for them–so that they won’t be.