Off the Line: Life’s lessons continue with age

It’s funny how the years can change a person.

 

Karen Haviland

 

It’s funny how the years can change a person.

When I was a kid there was nothing I wanted more than to blend in, to be part of a group and be just like them whether being “just like them” was nice or not.

I had little, if no, self esteem preferring to hide in the gray shadows during a sock hop. Wait. Hold on. I guess some of you aren’t sure what a sock hop is. If you don’t know I’d venture to say that you are the generation after mine.

When I was growing up sock hops were the carrots dangling in front of our collective eyes. The student body knew that if the school performed well as a whole during the week, then we would be treated to a sock hop.

Of course it was the principal who would decide if we merited that longed-for sock hop. You see, teachers and parents were smart back then. They knew that we bowed to peer pressure. In fact, when you are a teenager (for most part) it is all about fitting into the group and not sticking out like a sore thumb. Our teachers made sure that they could wipe their hands of the blood of student’s disappointment by making the offender the villain, when in fact that teacher was the villain.

Let me explain. During home room at the beginning of the week it was announced over the loudspeaker that if the students behaved then we would be rewarded with a sock hop during lunch hour on Friday complete with scratchy, skipping records blasted from a cheap record player.

Sock hops were the things that all young girls’ romantic fantasies were made of. Everyone wore socks because the sock hop was held in the gymnasium and shoes would surely scuff the floors. Thus the term sock hop was coined.

During those sock hops the girls’ hearts would swoon when we heard Bobby Vinton singing Blue Velvet or Roy Orbison crooning Pretty Woman. It was at those sock hops that our tender dreams were finally realized or smashed to the ground.

Life back then was all about the sock hops.

All the week students scurried back and forth making sure their homework was done, the school yard was clear of litter and that the classrooms sparkled from top to bottom. We knew that one slip up would mean the sock hop would be cancelled.

It was bad enough that the sock hop would be cancelled, but if you just happened to be the one who caused that to happen, you could be assured that your peers would make you pay for it a million different ways until someone else came on their radar and their attentions would turn to that poor soul.

It could be a locker check with a sharp right elbow, a snubbing in the lunch line as you waited for that cardboard tasting piece of pizza handed out by a surly lunch lady, or it could be that nasty note about you that was covertly passed around the classroom.

Let’s put it this way: It was best to fade into the woodwork and never stick out. Our educators knew that and our parents knew that and man oh man they never missed an opportunity to use that ploy when they wanted something.

For my parents it was something like: If you all can make sure to have your rooms cleaned this week then you all can go to the movie this weekend. In fact, if your rooms are super clean we might even spring for soda and popcorn for you all.

Well, that got our attention! You see, my parents were sneaky (as were all parents). They knew they didn’t have to exert one iota of pressure to get us to perform like trained little monkeys. The siblings would gladly do their work. The parents would throw that little bomb out in the midst of the siblings and then run for cover. After that the parents didn’t have to police us at all – we had our own police among us. In fact, each of us was our own little police force spying upon the others to ensure that no one messed up.

Yessirree, peer pressure was alive and well back then. Come to think of it, I think it’s doing quite nicely now even.

Anyway, back then I wanted to blend in. Be quiet. Slip by in the shadows. Things just seemed to work out for me back then when I played my invisible act.

Now I know that while being invisible was a great defensive tool for a pubescent girl bursting with hormones and romantic ideologies it isn’t what a mature human being needs to get by.

Isn’t it funny that as we get older more and more people expect transparency of others?

It never ceases to amaze me that the older I get the more I realize that I have lots to learn, including how to be transparent even if the honesty leaves me feeling vulnerable.