I Decided, Long Ago...

Tis the season, it would appear.

A few weeks back, I sent a submission to McSweeney's Internet Tendency - it was reasonably funny, but if I'm being honest, probably not the right publication for clever penis jokes.  I received a rejection letter within a few days.  No harm, no foul.

My friend, Chuck Baudelaire, who blogs here, mentioned last week that she too had submitted to Mc Sweeney's and was rejected.

Friday, I got an idea for a submission, wrote and sent it.  Today, rejection letter.

This one, I'm going to share with you.  Because it amuses me. 

An Open Letter to the Middle School Kids Whose Bus Stops in Front of My House

Dear Kids,

Hello.  I know that with adults, sometimes it hard to imagine that we were ever young like you.  But, believe it or not, we were.  When I was in Middle School, there was a hugely popular Whitney Houston song called “The Greatest Love of All”.  There was a girl in my class who sang it at every assembly for a year.  She wasn’t a good singer, but she was loud and showed a lot of emotion. 

The first line of the song is, “I believe the children are our future.  Teach them well and let them lead the way.”

At the time, I remember thinking that was kind of a load of crap.  I actually hated the song, and not just because my classmate butchered it on a regular basis.  Learning to love myself is the greatest love of all?  Bullshit.

Now, although I’m still not a fan of the song, I do believe that you are our future.

We haven’t had much of a chance to connect, though – so the “teaching you well” hasn’t fallen to me, until now.

Mostly, I see the evidence of you.  The half-eaten fruit cups on my lawn, candy wrappers and occasional broken pencil left on my front steps.  Typically, I leave before the morning bus arrives, and get home after you’re already done with homework.

Not always, though.  There was the time in November when I had the afternoon off.  I was getting groceries out of the back of the car. The bus arrived to let a few kids off, and one of you yelled out your window at me, “Extra Large Marshmallow!”  And several others laughed.  Well played, anonymous girl on the bus.  I am a rather whiter shade of pale, and my physique does have a certain Stay-Puft quality to it. 

Several weeks ago, I was standing on my front porch waiting on the plumber who was in his truck, writing out a bill.  The bus pulled up and a young man leaned out the window and asked how much money I make.  At first, I couldn’t believe he was asking that, then he repeated the question.  Was he the IRS?  An HR Recruiter?  Those are typically the only people who want to know my salary.  Finally, he asked to borrow some money.  

Here’s the thing though – terrible timing!  Mere minutes later, I would be paying the plumber $4000 for fixing a broken waterline to our house.  Hence my unshowered and overwhelmed appearance.

In both cases, I get it – you wanted to impress your friends, you wanted to be “cool”, get a laugh.  I spent considerable time in Middle School wishing I were cool.  I realized early on that cool wasn’t my destiny.  Which is really OK.  There are only so many open slots for cool kids.  If everybody is cool, then really, nobody is cool.

I knew that I was reasonably smart.  But I wasn’t as smart as the smart kids.  I was the dumbest smart kid, actually. 

I wondered if I could be nice.  There were a lot of kids who were nice (and also typically smart).  I was a little too jaded to be nice.
I wasn’t an athletic kid.  I was kind of artsy, but not especially talented. 
Finally, I settled on funny.  I was a funny kid.  I was a little smart, and a little artsy, and that was good.  Because funny + cool sometimes means bully.  And funny + smart often equals asshole.  I didn’t want to be either of those things.

If you’re going to work on what you want to be, I’d shoot for nice.  Nice opens more doors than cool, athletic, artsy, and smart combined.
Cool and nice, while rare, is a good combo.  Smart and nice are the people who will be your bosses someday – the smart and nice kids I knew in school are now lawyers, CEOs, doctors, philanthropists, activists.

The cool athletic kids are working in sales, commercial real estate maybe.

The smart artistic kids are actually making money as artists – note: this is a very, very small percentage of people.  There are not enough singer/dancer/painter jobs out there – have a backup plan (see also: athletic).

And look, by smart, I don't mean you have to be a straight A student and president of the chess club.  I’m just saying make the most of what you’ve got, and use your available resources.  And by nice, I’m not saying be a doormat and say yes all the time.  Just be polite, have some awareness of your surroundings and try to do the right thing most of the time.

And these aren’t the only things you can be – they’re just some of the options out there.  But please, don’t make your primary goal to be beautiful, or hot, or skinny, or stacked or “swole”.  Those things are superficial.  They won’t matter or last as long as the stuff on the inside.

Now, go – lead the way!  And quit leaving your damn fruit cups on my grass.  It’s gross.

The Greatest Love of All,


P.S. – Do you still call the bus “The Cheese”?  You know, because it’s yellow and smells funky…


I'm smart and shy. Drummer Boy is cool and nice. Somehow we make it work. ;)
Christopher said…
I don't get it. I've read Chuck's submission and now yours and they read like exactly what McSweeney's publishes. And then I see that piece by Faith Salie and I think, hey, she's a regular panelist on "Wait! Wait! Don't Tell Me!" and does funny commentaries for TV. Why does she need to be published in McSweeney's?
Sure, I thought her piece was funny, but still, just in the interests of fairness, couldn't she have stepped aside and let some of the other smart, nice kids have a shot?