It’s time to Tell My F.O.C.K. to F**K Off!
Hello, my name is Lisa, and I am a F.O.C.K. survivor. Please read and pronounce that carefully, as F.O.C.K. is only a vowel switch away from taking on a totally different meaning.
F.O.C.K.- Fear of Cool Kids: A condition one may acquire during childhood when he/she feels inferior to the cool kids at school. Symptoms of F.O.C.K. generally manifest when insecure kids are in the presence of cool kids. Behavior may include; stumbling over one’s words, inability to string coherent sentences together, behaving ridiculously to compensate for one’s own coolness deficiency, and temporary loss of all communication skills. Though F.O.C.K. typically emerges during the late elementary or middle school years, it generally peaks in high school and slowly dissipates as one enters adulthood. Individuals with severe adolescent F.O.C.K. may develop chronic cases that can never be fully cured. Experts say that F.O.C.K. may lay dormant in adults for years before being triggered by events such as high school reunions.
I believe my affliction with F.O.C.K. began shortly after my scleroderma diagnosis at age 10. Growing up in the 80s, the cool crowd wasn’t interested in a disfigured girl covered in red spots. If memory serves me correctly, junior high was when I developed an intense case of F.O.C.K., but high school is when my F.O.C.K. became a major component of my identity. I won’t rehash all the details of my high school traumas. If you’re interested in the juicy details, feel free to click here, or here, or here.
Suffice to say, high school was not my finest hour.
I was constantly baffled by the cool kids. How did they walk down the hall, seemingly occupying more space than the rest of us, with such confidence? They had it all; beauty, athleticism, and the ability to perfect the tightroll on their Guess jeans. I didn’t understand how they could be having so much fun every single second of every single day. Although it was long before social media, I still knew enough to know that they were hanging out doing very, very, very cool things that I would never be able to pull off. Most of the cool kids rarely spoke to me, but on the rare occasion that we were grouped together on a class project, my F.O.C.K. would flare up and render me tongue-tied and stupid.
As high school drew to a close, so did my acute case of F.O.C.K. I’m happy to report I went on to college and became friends with people who would have been F.O.C.K.-worthy in high school. Although my F.O.C.K. would resurface occasionally, I was mostly able to shed the condition post-college.
So, in 2002, when my 10-year high school reunion came around, I decided to go. After all, I had watched The Breakfast Club enough times to know that being a cool kid in the 80s was no walk in the park. Thanks to Molly Ringwald and Emilio Estevez, I understood that the pressure of being popular was enough to make someone duct tape another kid’s buns together! Yep, I was an adult now with a deep understanding of the mystical high school social hierarchy.
I was 7 months pregnant with my first child when I attended my 10-year reunion. I thought I looked pretty good in the coolest maternity shirt I owned. One of my major issues in high school was being horribly underweight because of my scleroderma. I know, I know, you’re thinking boo hoo for you- it must’ve been so hard to go through high school skinny! Trust me, I was not the “good kind” of skinny. Being pregnant propelled me a good 40 pounds over my heaviest high school weight. That was the pro of having a baby bump. The con, of course, was being unable to consume alcohol while everyone else got wasted. Looking back, the lack of booze may have been what resurrected my full-blown case of F.O.C.K.
I don’t know if it was being stone-cold sober, or just seeing so many mean girls in one place, but the instant I walked into the private room of that downtown bar, I was catapulted back in time. As the music throbbed, so did my heart. In one corner, all the cool kids were gathered, in another was the guy who relentlessly bullied me in high school. There was nowhere to go, except the bathroom.
On the other side of the swinging bathroom door stood a few women who looked mildly familiar. I smiled, said hello and headed to pee. Sitting in that stall, I overheard their conversation. I don’t remember what they were talking about, but it had something to do with someone’s recent drug and sex-filled wild night. I recognized the speaker’s voice. It belonged to the girl in high school who made fun of me in our People and Their Cultures class freshman year. She had essentially called me a Neo-maxi-zoom-dweebie. In my mind, she was the female version of Bender (Judd Nelson’s character in The Breakfast Club). For someone with F.O.C.K, this was a double whammy both cool and legit scary!
I thought I could hide in the stall long enough to avoid this group, but it became clear they weren’t leaving any time soon. Eventually, I emerged and headed toward the bank of sinks they had congregated around. They all looked at me, knew I was clearly trying to get in to wash my hands, and continued to block all the sinks. I swear I’m not making this up! The female equivalent of Bender and her cronies intentionally blocked a pregnant lady from washing her hands. I stood there paralyzed by my F.O.C.K., unable to utter the words, excuse me. Eventually, I squeezed my way to a sink and bolted out the door.
My bathroom encounter may have been the low point of the evening. A close second was when one of the cool kids gave a welcome speech and said, “It’s so great to see everyone! The last time we were all together on a Saturday night, I think we were being chased by the cops!” The room erupted with laughter and cheers. Hmmm… a thrilling Saturday night for me in high school was when I didn’t babysit. My wild friends and I would go out for spicy Chinese food and catch a show at the $1.00 cheapie movie theatre.
My 10-year reunion was not all bad. I got to catch up with friends, laughed a lot, and enjoyed watching the social divisions from high school disintegrate before my very eyes when, late into the night, a former brainiac tore up the dance floor with a former cheerleader. Still, when my 20-year reunion came, I took a pass. There was no need to risk another F.O.C.K. episode.
The invite to my 25th high school reunion recently popped up on my FB feed.
So here I sit, a 43-year-old F.O.C.K. survivor in remission, contemplating attending my 25-year high school reunion. The baby I was pregnant with 15 years ago is now a freshman himself in high school. What example would I be setting if I allowed myself to choke on my own fear?
I think it’s time, once and for all, to tell my F.O.C.K. to F**k off! After all, in the simplest terms, in the most convenient definitions, each one of us is a brain, an athlete, a basket case, a princess, and a criminal.
- I made up the acronym F.O.C.K. (at least I think I did, since it didn’t come up when I Googled it)
- I do plan on attending my upcoming reunion in January. I’ll let you know if my F.O.C.K. resurfaces.
- In case you aren’t a member of Generation X, I stole the last line of this blog verbatim from the last line in The Breakfast Club.