It was 6th grade when I took note of the concept of “popularity.” Some individuals were deemed cool, as if by natural selection, and others were left to fend for themselves, taking puberty head on. Hopefully, someday, we would come out the other side.
Doc Martin sandals were cool then, the chunky kind, and I could easily spot someone popular by noting who was wearing these shoes, as well as how they were wearing them. Docs were expensive, grossly so for any kid not yet familiarized with the concept of money, and by owning a pair it meant your parents were either well off or drowning in debt.
Instead of acknowledging the price tag, being a responsible tween, and caring for the status symbol on their feet, the popular kids let the back of their heels rest solidly on the backs of their shoes, thus shortening the life of their parents investment. This move cemented among their peers the aloof “I don’t give a fuck about your expensive ‘things’ and that makes me superior” status.
One of the girls who seemingly ran the 6th grade was Kayleigh, a dark haired girl who also happened to possess the necessary “cool” factor of being rail thin. She wasn’t “nice,” she wasn’t “mean,” and for the life of me I couldn’t tell if she had any qualities someone like myself could take and use to improve my own social stature. All I really knew was that she clomped along in her Doc Martins, unsteadily, day after day, dominating the attention of her peers.
My fascination with Kayleigh and those who appeared close to her became something of a low-level, adolescent obsession. And how could it not be? Her name was everywhere, “Kayleigh made first string cheerleader” “Kayleigh is dating Brock,” Kayleigh’s mom is coming to talk to us about bones in science class- and she’s hot too!”
Kaileigh even “dated” the brief child star of “Lost in Space,” a short lived television show from my parents era that someone assumed needed to be remade into a movie. Her opportunity to seduce a hollywood star occured when our class was in Space Camp for a week. “Date” was the term we used, its meaning vague coming from a bunch of 12 year olds, but we were fine with the obvious lack of details. My classmates and I did know that she had absolutely been in his presence once, and since the kid worked alongside Tom Hanks, Kayleigh became a star by default.
Shortly into my 6th grade year, after I had identified the key players in the “popular crowd,” I decided my time at home would be best utilized by writing soap operas about them. I had no way of knowing what Kayleigh and her crew did behind closed doors and it thrilled me to think that any of the situations that spontaneously jumped into my brain might be played out in real life. There was passion to the extent that my characters flirted with the idea of holding hands with each other, and betrayal inasmuch that Brock might decide to sit next to Hannah in the cafeteria, leaving Kayleigh at the end of the table next to Tyler, who was the brooding fellow secretly pining for Erin. Their lives would intertwine in dramatic ways during the school hours and, if I was feeling saucy, they might happen upon each other later, while running errands with their moms. They’d giggle, exchange a few pleasantries about school work, then clomp away on their Doc Martins, to do whatever it was that popular kids did at home.