I was the dumb [non] blonde in high school. However, despite the preconceived notion that I had been lacking the adequate number of braincells throughout my life, I can assure you they were always there. Perhaps it wasn’t my braincell count lacking as much as it was my confidence and motivation to put in the extra effort to successfully stand out.
When I was in 3rd grade, my sister and I were given an opportunity, along with other classmates, to partake in a separate form of graded, scholastic testing to determine our mental strengths. The said test, called the “GATE“, would help teachers, as well as parents, adequately gauge how much knowledge a child retained, ultimately allowing for an excelling child to take more challenging courses for his or her benefit. With my parents being the education Nazis they were (God bless them!), my sister and I were signed up and, on a gloomy Wednesday, we took this test with various other students.
Now, for those of you who aren’t aware, I have ADD. Plot twist, I know! So, being an already unruly child with an incredible amount of energy and the
desire need to talk, I was already deemed restless the second they placed my twitching self into that cold, off-blue chair. However, I continued to tell myself, “Do it for Mom. Maybe there’s a popsicle in it for you.”
And I did. I sat for days (Okay, maybe only 2 hours…), and I kicked the mathematical ass of the test that stood between me and the “smart kid classes”. While this test was not graded directly by our school, we were required to wait a good chunk of time before receiving our life-altering (not really) results. Finally, many Sauerkraut and Schnitzel dinners later, they arrived.
My mother opened our envelopes, slowly deciphering the results for herself before speaking. I kid you not, my sister and I looked as if our mother were Ryan Seacrest and we had rigorously been competing on American Idol, holding each other in support, yet damn well knowing we would instantly drop the other for the first place title. My mother read,
“Jac, you did it! You scored above the requirement!”
My sister let out a quick “Yes!” as she quickly transitioned back to her bologna sandwich. My heart dropped.
“Did I make it, Mom?” I asked, half heartbroken.
“No, Ness. But you only missed it by a couple points! You were so close!” Her reassurance for my almost intelligence soothed me. After all, if my mom wasn’t worried, why should I be?
So, my sister went on to take excelled courses, as she continued to do so throughout high school. However, I remained in the average courses, which has no shame in the concept whatsoever. Regardless of what class I was placed in, I always heard my mother telling me “You were so close, Ness,” reassuring me that I wasn’t far behind everyone else. And as I got older, that phrase continuously picked me up when I was certain I had hit the lowest of low. However, that was until the truth came out…
My mother had been at a barbecue that our neighbors had been hosting and, like any attention craving child, I forced her to take me. There we sat, surrounded by great company and delicious, homemade burgers. Well, in addition to being an attention craving child, I was also that obnoxious juvenile that required she sit with the big dogs: the adults.
Sidenote: We all know this kid, and nobody likes this kid. Heres why: When you’re in a heated conversation with another mature individual and you’re about ready to drop that explosive “F-bomb”, you catch glimpse of those innocent eyes and know that what you are about to do will not only ruin that child’s mind, but you will have created a massive target on your back from the parents who are going to hear the relentless “fuck” from this once hopeful child. As I said, this child is a buzzkill. I, Vanessa Kash, was that buzzkill. (They get better. I promise.)
There I sat, pestering the adults, when I heard my mother’s familiar voice say, “Yes! The girls took the GATE. Jac did awesome, but she’s always been good with school. Vanessa had a little more difficulty. She didn’t even quite score, actually. But she was always a late bloomer.”
My heart dropped. My mother, the women God had entrusted to carry me in her already crammed body due to my life-sucking partner in crime, was a liar.
That was not only a pivoting moment in my life, but in my relationship with my mother. However, I don’t say that negatively. See, my mother had assured me that I was trailing my sister in intelligence, not only boosting my confidence while enduring a rigorous test, but my confidence to raise my hand in the classroom. And, while I felt slightly betrayed seeing that her lie was so significant in that she claimed I did well when in reality I scored so low there wasn’t even a number for me, I couldn’t help but love my mother even more for telling me the lie I needed to hear. Even though her “You were so close, Ness,” was complete bullshit, it instilled the confidence that I had religiously searched for in my times of heartbreak and frustration.
Fast forward to high school. Although I had my fair share of idiotic comments, I was all around a pretty sharp young woman that prided herself on her ability to go the course and never give up. Now, although I was social butterfly, I was never one to approach a boy, especially one I was smitten on. My freshman year of high school was bombarded with fresh faces, cute ones at that, giving me the mentality that this was a fresh slate and I could be anything here. Of course, being the boy crazy girl I was, I fell for a cute boy who essentially knew very little of my existence. As I discreetly (yeah right) attempted to make myself known in time for the homecoming dance, I was told something by a friend that seared itself into my brain.
“He thinks you’re cute, but you’re too smart.”
When did smart become a bad thing? However, instead of holding to the intelligent girl I had fought so hard to become, I threw those relentless hours of effort away and reverted to my new persona: the dumb [non] blonde.
I kept up this “Elle Woods” image for quite some time, long after I had lost interest in the one-of-a-kind man that I had intimidated with my “smart”. I had become so terrified of scaring off any potential suitors that I believed playing the helpless and incredibly daft girl was my ticket to my first kiss. [FunFact: Did not get that until I was 17. But that’s a story for another post and a few bottles of wine.]
I eventually moved my sights to another handsome classmate who was incredibly smart, a trait I admired. My best friend in the class became aware of my newfound crush, and, like any friend, approached him without my permission and professed my undying (not really) love for him.
“He said you’re cute. But you’re too dumb, Ness.” This friend clearly wasn’t a fan of the “sugar coating” method. I was floored. Was this a sick joke? And, although my heartbroken self didn’t know it then, that backhanded compliment was the hard truth I needed. What I had forgotten when I took on the “Elle Woods” image was that Elle Woods went to fucking Harvard. Yes, she was blonde and perky and believed whoever said orange was the new pink was seriously disturbed (which they were), but she also became an incredible lawyer. I had completely neglected the key message in the forever classic movie and chosen to channel strictly my inner sorority girl, no disrespect, and not the groundbreaking bombshell that pioneered law school.
And now I sit, years out of high school, in the deepest of gratitude to this individual who put my intelligence into perspective for me. My mother was right; I was never far behind. I had only allowed myself to believe that.
So, go spend hours in a library and read every book that screams your name (50 Shades of Gray is a great place to start, ladies…) I strongly urge you to use your phone for reasons other than texting and social media; read a number of articles a day and recap on everything you’ve learned that had been completely new knowledge to you. Ladies and gentleman, I can promise you this: A date with someone who can effortlessly carry a conversation on something other than today’s current pop culture and washed up celebrities is much more interesting and attractive!
Did you know turtle breathe out of their butts? I sure as hell didn’t! For those of you who didn’t know that, you are one fact smarter than you were before reading this post. And for those of you who did, quit being creepy on the internet. Now, that’s definitely not a fact I suggest bringing up on a date, especially not one in which you want to snag that future spouse or hookup (I won’t judge).
I’ll end this with my favorite, and surprisingly appropriate, quote.
“Live every day like Elle Woods after Warner told her she wasn’t good enough for law school.” That was the message I was missing.