I had a strange experience happen to me at work the other day. I was standing at the cash register at the fast food place where I work. And one of my co-workers (let’s call her Jenny) walked up to me.
“Grace,” she said. “Do you smoke?”
I stared at her for a moment. Why would she ask me that? Did I smell like smoke? This wasn’t likely, no one in my family smoked so I didn’t think I smelled like smoke. I didn’t detect any motivation behind her asking, so finally I said. “No, why?”
Jenny shrugged. “Just wondering. I mean everyone else here does, so I thought you might too.”
I blinked at her for a moment. Everyone else here does…what did that mean exactly?
Jenny must have seen the question on my face because she elaborated. “Well I mean, C does and so does H and M and B and J and T and L.”
This really made me stop. I had worked with these people for five, going on six months and I had never known. Was she joking? Surely she was. I mean I had never seen any of my co-workers come in high
(for I had a feeling this wasn’t just cigarettes she was talking about). I had never smelt it on them (not that I was confident that I could identify the smell of weed even if they did). They had never given any indication. I mean, I knew C and M had a drinking habit, and I knew H went through boyfriends faster than tubes of chap stick. All of my co-workers partied hard on the weekends, and it seemed like I was the only one who stayed at home on a Saturday night and watched Disney movies and didn’t go out drinking. I knew some of them were into that, but drug users? Really?
“When you say everyone, does that mean….?”
“Yeah, I smoke too,” Jenny said. “I got high last night.”
Jenny shrugged and walked away, leaving me alone at the cash register. This really surprised me. I began to why I was the only one that wasn’t a part of the everyone that Jenny spoke of. I’ve always been different than my co-workers. I’m in honors classes in school. I use words like “copious” “superfluous” and “enthralling” in daily conversation. I don’t dye my hair or go tanning. I don’t have my own car. I don’t have a smart phone (or care that I don’t have one). I quote classic literature and Pirates of the Caribbean within the same conversation. I look forward to critique group and youth group. I wear Hogwarts T-shirt and hipster glasses.
And then I realized the one thing that separates me most from my co-workers– my firm resistance to peer pressure.
I get along with my co-workers fine. I joke around with a lot of them and am in good relations with nearly everyone on staff, though some of my co-workers view me as quiet, or weird or nerdy (none of which I deny).
And then it made sense why I wasn’t a part of the everyone that Jenny spoke of. Because I didn’t care to be. All of my co-workers wanted to be popular, well liked. They shunned the label of “nerd” and instead sought to advance their social standings. And that’s the thing about nerds, they tend to put on their geekiness like an “anti-peer-pressure” shield that keeps them from mostly not giving a care to blend in or be considered average.
That’s when it all made sense. I don’t care what people think of me. Well, I do, but not in the same way as them. Obviously I get self-
conscious sometimes and am super nervous going to school the day after I get a new haircut, but I’m not so tied up in the social aspects of high school that it affects my decisions and daily life. I’m fine with being labeled a nerd. I am one, I don’t deny it. I hang out with band kids and theatre geeks, and kids who are a part of the academic team and I don’t give a crap what cheerleaders and football players think of me. And that’s where I think bad habits and peer pressure stems from–insecurity and the need for the approval of others before one can truly begin to like themselves.
I feel bad for a lot of co-workers, the slaves of fashion and conformity. I’d seen the negative effects of a lot of their lifestyles. But as for me, perhaps the reason I’m different is because I’m a little unconventional, and I embrace that. And I think that’s the thing about nerds, they’re not all trying to be somebody, they’re just trying to be themselves.
Just some musings from a Little Lady 😉