A little story I wrote thinking back to the painful junior high years…
“Let’s do ‘Girls Just Want To Have Fun’!” Kiana squealed.
No other suggestions needed to be voiced. It was already decided; after all, it was the 80’s. Our school’s talent show wasn’t so much about talent as it was about choosing the perfect song to lip-sync. And this was it.
Toni flipped her hair and looked at the four of us. “Ok, we’ll get matching outfits and we already know the words to the whole song—duh!” We all jumped in glee, only my jumping was forced because I already knew how this story was going to play out. Still, I chose to act the part anyway.
I’m not sure why I even bothered asking my dad if I could participate in something involving secular music. I already knew how he felt. Any song without Jesus or God in it was no good; an abomination. I’m guessing Cyndi Lauper’s hit song wasn’t talking about girls just wanting to have fun with Jesus.
“Dad, please, just this once?” I pleaded. “The song’s just talking about having fun. What’s so bad about that?” “Absolutely not,” he repeated. “You know the rules we have about music.” I don’t know where in the world he got the we since I never remember being a part of the rule-making process. If I knew one thing about my dad, it was that he didn’t bend on the rules. Ever.
The next day, I showed up at Kiana’s house for our first practice, dreading what I had to do. Up until then, I had managed to fit in at junior high school pretty well, despite my parents’ rules, but I knew this would ruin me. There’s simply no cool way to say, “I can’t participate in your awesome lip-sync performance because “Girls Just Want To Have Fun” doesn’t glorify Jesus Christ.” Talk about a downer.
I finally told them the truth. “So, looks like you girls are going to have to have fun without me because my dad is super lame and won’t let me fake-sing a song that isn’t Christian. It’s just one of his stupid rules. I hate my life.” I lied about that last part, but thought it would be good to throw it in there anyway. I couldn’t escape the drama of it all.
“That sucks,” Toni said, rolling her eyes and flipping her hair, her trademark.
Kiana, the leader of the group, said the best thing her 6th-grade brain could think up. “Well then, you could be our manager?”
I don’t blame her now, but back then, I did. She tried to make it better, but only kind of. She said it as a question, making me look even more pathetic than I already felt. I agreed to play the manager role because I wasn’t ready to let go of it yet. And so I sat and watched the rehearsals, as if I were looking into a storefront window at a pair of amazing blue high top Reeboks that I knew I’d never wear.
The girls practiced in their ripped-up jeans and sweatshirts cut at the neck so they hung off one shoulder—a style my dad, most definitely, frowned upon. I made stupid suggestions as if they actually needed guidance while they pretended to sing.
One day I was finally done being patronized. “Listen, this is lame. You guys don’t need a manager. You aren’t even singing for real,” I said, stating the obvious. “I’ll just watch you at the talent show.” And out the door I went.
The next two weeks were brutal listening to my friends firm up plans for outfits, speaking in hushed voices when I approached. I spent any free time I had sulking in my bedroom. Life was so unfair. I soon wondered, What’s the point of showing up at the talent show at all? I figured my friends wouldn’t care and probably wouldn’t even notice I was missing. If there’s one thing I learned from hanging with the popular crowd, it was “out of sight, out of mind.” I was now the lame one in the cool crowd.
At the last minute, I changed my mind and decided to show up at the talent show to support my friends. This took every ounce of courage in me because I was still stuck on my embarrassment about not being allowed to participate, and I let my dad know every chance I got.
On the night of the show, I watched the acts leading up to the big one, dreading the song to come. The music started, the lights came up and my totally awesome looking friends took the stage and lip-synced the heck out of that song. They danced around with their fake microphones, with their teased and sprayed hair bouncing about. I sat in the audience, arms folded and angry.
After the show, I mustered up every bit of strength and approached my friends. “You guys were great. You remembered all the words and your dance moves were perfect. Good job.”
“Thanks!” Toni said. “We couldn’t have done it without you.” She was a liar and we both knew it. She didn’t care about me missing out on this moment, which was confirmed the following year when she ditched me for a new girl at school.
Junior high is awkward at best, filled with a few moments of feeling okay, but mostly moments of wishing the earth would open up and swallow you whole. I somehow survived the rest of my junior high years after living that nightmare. Moving to a different state definitely helped.
Looking back, I know my dad did what he felt was best. He had strong convictions and stuck with them. I don’t fault him for that, but thirty years later, every time “Girls Just Want To Have Fun” comes on the radio, without hesitation, I crank it up and sing my heart out.