I've been trying to come to terms with the Suzy Lee Weiss phenomenon that's crept into every college discussion I've had in the last two weeks. Fortunately, my quick-thinking colleague, Carl Ahlgren, is ahead of me on this issue, and offers this response. Carl is Director of College Counseling at The Gilman School, and offers this reflection, subtitled "If only I was more popular or better looking."
Like me, millions of 40-something men, with prom season approaching, are looking back at our high school years, and asking themselves how they failed to get the most attractive, witty, and charming girls to date us. It's simple: For years, they -- we -- were lied to.
Our mothers told us that we were really special, handsome and smart. They told us to "Just be yourself." That is great advice, as long as you are tall, confident, play three varsity sports and possess good hair and clear skin. Then by all means, be yourself! If you work at a funeral home part-time, and are fond of wearing ACDC concert t-shirts with powder blue Lee corduroys, consider taking your business elsewhere.
What could I have done differently those years?
For starters, had I known what I know now, I would have gladly been less callously self-absorbed, and worn something more stylish than a 'Frankie Says RELAX' t-shirt. I might have "combed my hair," "showered more often," or made better use of Clearasil products.
Show me any dance floor and I would have happily joined in, rather than pose diffidently in the corner with other shlumps.
"Sincerity!" "Thoughtfulness!?" I was about as thoughtful as Scott Baio. If it were up to me, I would've embraced any of the cool celebrity categories: David Bowie, Michael Stipe, Steve Guttenberg, L.L. Cool J, the guy from A Flock of Seagulls, Bo, or even, Luke Duke. William Shatner, I salute you and your Canadian heritage, though I see now that emulating you cost me significant social capital.
I also probably should have avoided spending my time smoking Marlboros and listening to Blue Oyster Cult. Many of my classmates volunteered at hospitals, had interesting hobbies they pursued, and often read for the joy of it. They were chumps, and I knew it, but they also seemed pretty happy, then and now.
Having a cool older brother helps, too. As the oldest of two, with no one to guide me, I realized too late that I was an insufferable goofball. It has been great in certain ways: Instead of "Hey, let's go for a run and then lift some weights in the basement," I was able consume a great many double Whoppers and milk shakes at the local Burger King. But my lack of a cool older brother also left me with a dearth of qualities that make attractive girls salivate. Why couldn't Billy Idol, Rob Lowe, or even Lee Majors and Farah Fawcett-Majors have adopted me as one of their cubs?
I should've done what I knew was best -- dye my hair, pierce my ear and wear a Members Only jacket on all occasions. Because everyone knows that if you don't have some sort of edge, something beyond the normal, no attractive girl will talk to you.
To those kids who by age 14 found their confidence, success and a sense of personal value, my parents made me listen to your NPR segments, and they've clipped your newspaper articles for me to read before bed. You make us dweebs look bad.
To those claiming that I am bitter -- you bet I am! A grown man, remembering an underachieving selfish teenager, and making excuses for his own ineptitude? That too! To those of you disgusted by this, shocked that I take for granted the wonderful gifts I have been afforded, I say shhhh -- Hogan's Heroes is on.