If you’ve seen the movie Pitch Perfect, remember the scene where all the girls are singing Miley Cyrus? And how Beca is too cool to sing along and just rolls her eyes until, finally, she gives in and starts singing?
That scene was so relatable to me. Because that was me.
Okay, I never thought I was too cool for something (let’s be honest, I never thought I was cool period), but I just didn’t want people to know I knew certain things. I didn’t want the attention.
It started in 5th grade.
For my 5th grade graduation, my parents got me a boom box. It was awesome. It had a cassette deck AND a CD player and I loved it so much. My first CD was the soundtrack to The Lion King. My second was MTV Party To Go Vol. 3. (My mom really liked MTV.) Ten-year-old me memorized every song on that album, including the first number, the ever-popular “Baby Got Back.”
Flash forward to high school. I was at a homecoming dance when the song came on. My friends cheered and screamed out the lyrics. And I…I mumbled. Yeah, I could rap along with the best of them, but I didn’t want my friends to know. I didn’t want the attention. I hated the thought of people pointing at me, and making me sing it again. I hated the idea of attention in general. So instead of showing off, I pretended to know lyrics here or there. I shrugged and mumbled and got lines wrong on purpose. And I was always excited when someone DID know all the lyrics. But I never admitted that I did, too.
Around that time I got into the pop punk scene, and relied on the lyrics of The Ataris and Alkaline Trio and Blink 182 to get me through the days. But still, my mom loved the radio (and, admittedly, so did I) so I knew all the Backstreet Boys, all the N’Sync, all the LFO songs. And when around my pop punk friends, I’d pretend I didn’t.
It wasn’t just music. In college most of my best friends were guys. I watched a lot of films with them, I read a lot of the same books. Bret Easton Ellis. Chuck Palahniuk. You name it, I read it. But I also had a weakness for Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld. The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants by Ann Brashares. But I’d never admit that to them, because I didn’t want them to know. I didn’t want them to point it out, and draw attention to it – to me. I preferred being invisible in a way, one in the crowd.
Sometime my last year in college, I started to open up. I wish I could pinpoint the exact moment, but I can’t. It was gradual, a flower opening, the soft opening of a song. But I as I realized certain things made me happier than others, I stopped caring what others thought about my tastes. I started watching When Harry Met Sally with friends. I took out my girly books when guys were over. And one night, at a party at my friend George’s house, I screamed the lyrics to “Baby Got Back.” And you know what? No one cared. They high fived me, commented, and kept going on with their night.
The thing is, I liked fitting in with my friends. I didn’t want to be the star, I didn’t want all of the attention. I liked being in the background, the sidekick. I liked to blend. But after a while, blending got old. I didn’t want to just be that girl who had no opinion, no spark. I didn’t want to be afraid that people would stop liking me because I liked something different, because I knew something different. Because I realized if someone loved me for me, they wouldn’t care what I liked. And If I loved me for me, I wouldn’t be afraid to admit it.