This week’s League of Extraordinary Bloggers post invites us to jump in the proverbial Wayback Machine and head to that awkward time in life when we were between childhood and adolescence, when we were 12. I will probably stray a bit from pop culture, but I promise I’ll rein it back in by the end.
Grab Rufus and head to the phone booth, because this week, we’re going back in time! Dial up the year you turned 12, and revisit the last official year of your “childhood.”
I turned 12 in September 1990, when I had just started the 7th grade. Prior to attending this school (beginning with 5th grade), I had been in five different schools in as many years due to my dad’s job with a grocery chain. I was used to always being the new kid, getting to start over every year. I can’t lie, there were years I was grateful that we were moving over the summer. Once we moved to Gray, however, my dad assured us that we wouldn’t be moving again. No longer having to worry about being the new kid, I had a whole other litany of anxieties about going into 7th grade. Being 12 was rough, especially for a slightly chubby A-student whose claim to fame was winning the county spelling bee. I loved Batman because of the 1989 movie (and made some poor fashion choices as a result, including a sweatshirt that my mom ironed a Batman decal on for me). I didn’t know how to dress or how to act around boys, though I’d had a couple of boyfriends up to that point. At school I had to navigate the world of boy-girl parties and school dances, the world of finding your place in the hierarchy and trying to be popular. Truth be told, my first boy-girl party was yet to come, but all I remember was the strains of Nirvana in a darkened basement and being glad my parents came to pick me up early. (I felt, at the time, like I was living Three Dog Night’s “Mama Told Me Not To Come”.)
So what did I like when I was 12? That’s a complex question. I still liked playing with toys at that age and reading comics. I liked boys and going to dances, too, sure, but I was much more likely to stay home watching TGIF than going to a sleepover or a party. I listened to a lot of terrible music, like Debbie Gibson and New Kids on the Block, and bought those inane teen magazines with pinups in them.
I was confused a lot, because I didn’t quite grasp what I know now, that you can do girly things like wear dresses and polish your fingernails and still like “boy” things like comics and action figures. I was afraid if people (read: girls in my class) found out I still played with my Princess of Power figures or read Batman and the Outsiders comics, they would make fun of me more than they already did for the goofy clothes I sometimes wore or for not being able to go to the mall with a boy. So what did I do? I boxed all my Batman and Archie comics up and shoved them under my bed. I slowly boxed up all my She-Ra figures and Barbie dolls, eventually donating them to Goodwill. I gave away most of my children’s books and toys. I decided it was time to let go of that part of me. “Popular girls don’t like Batman,” I told myself, even though on bad days or days I was bored, I still pulled out those comics and reread them. I still kept them; I just kept them hidden.
That hiatus from comics would last until 2001. Through the remainder of junior high and high school, and into college, I never once let on that I liked comic books, other than to say I used to read them as a kid. I started working at Books-A-Million, and I rediscovered my love for the art in each panel. I bought Ghost World and stayed up into the wee hours reading it. I bought a couple of Wonder Woman comics. It wasn’t until 2002, when I met my now husband, that I truly jumped back into the geek world. I mentioned Batman and the Outsiders to him the first time we met, and he started taking me to comic shops because he collected action figures. I started buying back issues, then moved on to subscribing to a few titles (which led him to start reading comics). That led to going to shows and conventions, blogging about popular culture, and eventually leading me to becoming a blogger for Pendragon’s Post and taking my place in the geekosphere.
If I could say anything to my 12-year-old self, it would be to stand up for myself more, to own those things that others ridiculed, like Batman and having a superhero-like spelling ability. I’d advise her to hang in there with the Batman thing; it proves to be a pretty cool part of life in the future.