I’ve been watching a lot of Quantum Leap lately on Netflix. For those of you who weren’t born until after the Spice Girls broke up, Quantum Leap is a show about a super smart dude, Sam, played by Scott Bakula and his hair, who accidentally gets stuck ‘leaping’ into other people temporarily in order to solve problems for them. He keeps hoping that eventually he’ll get to leap back into his own body and in one episode, he kind of did; he wakes up as himself, but at sixteen.
I actually got anxiety from this episode. Sixteen was a pretty hard year for me, and by that I mean I was overweight and teased a lot, which made me angsty and every day I dressed like I was going in for a job interview to become secretary at the Future Cat Ladies of America offices. Plus, you know, I was still in high school, which can just make everything worse.
For some people, high school is The Best Time of Their Lives but for me, high school wasn’t particularly fun. Plus, at sixteen, in addition to my fashion mishaps, I was right in the middle of my most awkward stage: wearing a palate expander.
In case you don’t know, a palate expander is a nice extra that sometimes comes with braces and wearing one is a lot like walking around with marbles in your mouth. I basically talked like Marlon Brando in The Godfather for a year and a half. Nobody could understand me. Not that they would want to, I was most likely saying something self-deprecating or making fun of myself before they could do it.
That was kind of my thing. Being teased daily as a kid until I lost about a hundred pounds, you learn how to throw out a joke before someone can say something mean. It’s The Fun Defense Mechanism™! And better than bullying others simply because you feel bad about yourself, anyhow.
It’s unfair but that’s kind of how high school works for some of us. Those John Hughes movies had to be based on something, right? And while I was always wishing I was more Sloane Peterson from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, the truth is I was probably more Duckie from Pretty in Pink. I distinctly remember being a sophomore in high school and having a “friend” tell me, “You’re so lucky you’re not considered hot. Boys can be so annoying.”
Amazingly, I didn’t go crying after she said this to me, and I didn’t get mad. I just took it because this is what I’d come to expect out of life. I figured I’d use it as fuel for being funny later. I guess that kind of worked. I mean, I write for Hello Giggles now after all.
I used to think self-deprecation was a Jewish thing (I grew up on Woody Allen movies instead of going to an actual psychiatrist), but it turns out it’s just a self-confidence thing. People who kind of like themselves don’t actually put themselves down all that often- even jokingly. This was shocking to me, and something I didn’t realize until I turned twenty-four and noticed I spent half of my time wishing I was taller/thinner/blonder/smarter/younger/older/prettier/Beyoncé.
Like seriously, I sometimes wish I could quantum leap Freaky Friday style into Beyoncé so I can feel cool for one goddamn minute and she can infuse me with some of that self-confidence that I so desperately need before we switched back into our own bodies. I see her saying things like, “Girl, why are you so down on yourself? Do you know how many Orthodox Jewish women would kill for your hair?” and I’d be like, “You have a point, Beyoncé.” I would also ask that she leave ‘Run the World (Girls)’ stuck in my head for a full month to remind me that I’m actually cooler than I think I am. Because I think every now and again, we all kind of need those reminders whether we’re in high school or not.
Yes, probably even Beyoncé.
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