Through the killing fields of middle school and the proving grounds of high school I believed I was popular. Which I was not. Eventually I realized my error, but it took a while. Along the ways, there were clues. This is the story of one.
Near the end of my junior year, I took up with a boy, to whom I am currently married. He was not popular, and he knew it. He wasn’t bullied, had sturdy friendship with a few others but was not under any circumstances a BMOC. We knew each other from the UN Club, which should have been a clue to me, but as I said… oblivious. We began dating…for a hot minute at the beginning, he thought I was popular, but he caught on relatively quickly that I was not. But what was I then? Where did I fit? In retrospect, I think this was part of him trying to figure it out.
My aunt Lily, a force of nature, was an accomplished seamstress and milliner who worked for Lord and Taylor. She was always making clothes for my sister and me, as she had three sons who weren’t as much fun to dress. One day she came up with matching garments for us, horrific in my mind. Silky and gaudy multicolored sleeveless shifts, they bore no resemblance whatsoever to the Laura Ashley prints and the wool plaid kilts favored by the actually popular girls. I was adamant that I would never wear such an abomination in public.
My newly acquired boyfriend listened for a bit and then asked with the kind of pointed quietness that cuts right to the chase:
Why not? Who do you have to impress?
This was a gauntlet. A dare. A challenge to our untested relationship. I didn’t even think — Fine. I’ll wear it tomorrow.
And I did. I put on the dress and wore it to school.
And do you know what happened? NOTHING. Nobody noticed, or if they noticed, they didn’t care. I went through the whole day expecting- I don’t know what I was expecting, but it wasn’t invisibility.
That should have been a big clue there that my popularity was figmentary, but it wasn’t. In the short term, it was one and done. I wasn‘t asked for more proof of my willingness to buck public opinion, and I continued in my oblivion for the better part of a year more.
I did eventually realize I wasn’t popular. That’s another story. In the meantime, here is the dress
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