My memories of elementary school are not fond ones.
For a few reasons, I had trouble relating to other kids my age. I still remember a comment from one of my report cards which read “Gets along well with adults, but does not get along with other children.”
After a particularly unpleasant semester, a semester that saw my grades and attendance compete with each other for atrocity, the principal of my school thought it might be helpful for me to take an IQ test. I can’t say for sure, but I think the expectation was that the results would provide the basis to put me in a “mentally challenged” program.
Imagine everyone’s complete shock when the results came back, and it was found that not only was I not stupid, but my score placed me in the top 1 percentile of all human beings. While this probably seems like a great thing, the reality wasn’t nearly as glamorous. To the contrary, it was pretty lame. Debating the existence of God or the practical necessity of saying the Pledge of Allegiance with a room full of 9 year-olds is not the path to popularity. In fact, I learned that it makes you a weirdo. Adults, aware that you are a child, have no desire to discuss these things with you either.
The net result is that you spend a lot of time with your own thoughts, and in doing so, you develop a certain amount of contempt for a society that seems to discourage intelligence and celebrate stupidity.
Somewhere along the line, in order to vent your frustrations, you buy a server, start a blog, and … eh it looks as though I’ve gotten way off-topic.
My point is that, I would have gladly traded a few IQ points for a little less social awkwardness when I was in elementary school. Years later, I narrowed the intellectual gap significantly through loud amplifiers and a healthy drug habit, but those tender, formative years were quite depressing, and you can’t get them back.
Fast forward a couple of decades …
For the past two years, my daughter has taken standardized tests at school, and for two years in a row, her scores have placed her in the top 1 percentile of all students her age in the Seattle School System.
Not only that, but she also finds it very hard to relate to her peers. Especially her female peers.
Ain’t genetics a bitch?
Justin Bieber? No interest at all (thank God).
The latest blockbuster Disney movie? Could not care less.
Fashion? You’ve got to be kidding.
Makeup? Never tried it, doesn’t want to.
She cares little about the things other girls her age care about.
She can’t name a single movie that’s been released in the last 5 years, but if you mention … simply mention World of Warcraft, you are in for a two hour dissertation about the relative merits of Death Knights versus Warlocks and the easiest way to obtain the Scepter of Ghandolf with a shorthanded dungeon made up of three Mages and a Night-Elf Hunter.
The other girls in her class, well, they know nothing of these things, she tells me. Furthermore, when she brings the topics up, her classmates are not interested. Needless to say, making friends is not easy, and she doesn’t get a ton of birthday invitations. A few months ago, she was the only girl in her class not to get an invite to a classmate’s party.
Of course, that hurt. She’s very sensitive, and the fact that she’s not “normal” causes her a great deal of anxiety. It’s painful at times to watch her go through some of the same things that I did. Fortunately, I know exactly how she feels, and I set aside time each day to talk about all of the things that kids her age don’t want to talk about.
This past Sunday, I decided to take her for a walk, just she and I. We went to the Seattle Central Library to return a book, and on the way back, we cut through Freeway Park.
As we exited the sidewalk maze which runs behind the Convention Center, and rounded the corner, her eyes suddenly lit up.
We walked up to the circle, stood about 10′ outside of it, and my daughter began identifying each costume.
“There’s blah blah blah (insert real name for blah blah blah)”, she would say when a character she recognized joined the circle, “and there’s Big Bam Zoom (or whatever)”. She knew an awful lot of them.
She stood there for about 20 minutes, watching intently, until she asked “Those girls … do you think they really like video games?”
“Sure they do!”, I replied, and for the first time all day, she cracked a smile. She seemed … relieved. Almost as if the future held some promise that she wouldn’t always be peerless.
I tried to leave at one point, but my daughter asked me if we could stay “just a few more minutes”. I agreed, and we did.
Finally, I asked her if she wanted to join in and play. As soon as I suggested it, an expression of fear came across her face, and who could blame her? After all, at this point, she was by far the youngest person there, and this “glomping” thing got kind of rough at times.
Physical injury wasn’t her concern, though.
“Oh, no, I don’t think they want me to play with them, I don’t have one of those badges”, she said, referring to the admission badges that were pinned to all of the attendees.
Just then, almost as if on queue, a bizarrely-dressed girl ran up to my daughter, picked her up, spun her around, then pointed to the middle of the circle and yelled “go!”
And, much to my amazement, she did. She ran to the middle of the circle, threw a bottle in the air, then ran and hugged a complete stranger. A complete stranger three times her size.
For the next two hours, yes … two hours … I stood and watched while my daughter “glomped” with these people. Her people. The misfits, outcasts, freaks, and geeks of Sakura-Con.
The whole time, as I watched, I couldn’t get a particular thought out of my head. It was Bee Girl. I couldn’t stop thinking of Bee Girl.
You remember Bee Girl?
As Blind Melon plays their most accessible song, No Rain, Bee Girl gets laughed off the stage before roaming the streets of the city looking for a single kindred spirit until finally … finally … she finds not just one, but an entire field full of her people.
That is exactly what happened on this day. After a year of getting laughed off the stage, my daughter roamed the streets of Seattle, from Pike Street to Madison, Seneca to University, 4th to Union, until, by complete accident, she found her people … in the middle of a concrete clearing, dressed in elaborate costumes and dancing joyously. She found her people, she breathed a sigh of relief, and she joined in. She danced er “glomped” until the sun began to disappear behind the nearby skyscrapers. She smiled, she laughed, and she’s already made plans to attend next year, only this time, she’ll have a badge too.
Sure, it’s corny, but life really does imitate art at times, and this experience is about as metaphorically close to that video as you can get.
She wants to go as one of her favorite characters, but I’m trying my best to convince my daughter to attend the convention as Bee Girl next April. I’ve played the video for her a dozen times on YouTube, and she likes the song, but she’s not completely sold on the idea. At least not yet.
If next year, while attending Sakura-Con, you see a girl dressed as a giant bumble bee, then, well, you’ll know that I succeeded.
Fly, Bee Girl, fly.