Saturday, September 21, 2013

Things that Make Us Popular: From Jnco Jeans to Facebook

When I was entering the fourth grade, my parents moved our family to a quaint little town that was rejoicing because they were getting a Wal-Mart. 

We were Scottsdale folk, which meant we were used to simple luxuries like malls and restaurants, dance studios and batting cages, within a five mile radius of our home. While my dad was excited to not have to make the long commute to and from work each day, my mom and I mourned the loss of our lifestyle, our friends and family close by. We were only moving forty-five minutes away but, to us, it might as well have been to another state.

I remember befriending another "new girl" in the class that year because there was nothing stronger than the bond of discomfort and uneasiness to bring us together. 

It was a strange year. Whether it was the coming on of hormones, or an entirely different culture, these kids knew things I hadn't known in the third grade. And there was a clear line between the "popular" kids and the rest of us. Where I was from, the closest thing to popular was the class teacher's pet(s) but here there was a very clear line drawn between the social classes and I wasn't sure which side I belonged to.

Something happened to me that year, something I still struggle with to this day. I realized those kids- the "popular" ones- could make me feel a certain way. I got tongue tied around them. I wanted to wear what they wore, say what they said, enjoy what they enjoyed.

And that's why I wanted Jnco Jeans; in fact, that's the reason all the little caucasian girls went home to their suburban homes and begged their mommies if they would drive them to the nearest K-Momo to buy Jnco's. K-Momo, your"one stop shop for all the freshest street wear brands." 

We all had a secret desire to be 'popular' and if so-and-so was wearing them, we wanted them, too. 

Fourth grade finished up and I never got a pair of Jnco's. And the remainder of my school days, I never became
popular" in anyone's standards. I was always mediocre and sometimes, secretly, I still wish we'd never moved to the "west side" of town. I know it's silly, wishful thinking but I had a sense of belonging and acceptance in my birth town that I never really felt when we moved away. 

I'm all grown up now and I have a desire to to tell you that I'm all better now. That I stopped craving Jnco jeans and distinguishing my worth by whoever is more popular than me. But in a way, I really haven't.

Though I am mostly confident and comfortable with myself, there is still deeply seeded in me a little fourth grader who secretly checks her Facebook status sometimes to see how many 'likes' she receives on a picture, or comments on a status. 

And she always envies the hipster like, less-than-homespun mommies, she follows on Instagram that somehow find time and money to baby rear, decorate, take artsy photos, and run an Etsy shop, all the while racking up 1000's of followers. 

Before you judge me for my ridiculous behavior, admit that sometimes you, even you, my level-headed reader(s), may do the same thing yourself.

That maybe, just maybe, you are more similar to me than you want to admit to, and somehow social media has gained a power over us that we cannot fully grasp.

While it was created as a tool to bring us together, in some ways it has separated us again into those clear, blatant, ugly lines that tell us which ones of us are "popular" and which ones of us are less so. And, secretly, we sometimes feel good (or badly) about ourselves because of that tool. That stupid tool. ;)

Tonight, I find myself wanting to remind me that you have incredible self-worth. Even if no one likes the photo of your precious baby (it's because you post so many), you are just as important as the woman who had 100 likes on her's. 

You don't need Jnco jeans, people. You don't need a large Facebook following. You are important whether you have it all, or nothing at all. I am still learning that and it's ok if you are, too. 

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