Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Looking for Oscar

I just finished Junot Diaz's The Brief Wonderous Life of Oscar Wao, a really good, really different book about a tragically overweight Dominican supernerd. It made me think about all sorts of things, but it really made me think about My Oscar.

Everyone went to school with an Oscar. Usually a male, a kid so geeky even the geeks think he's geeky. My Oscar (and let's just call him...My Oscar. Why not.) was a schlumpy, Dungeons & Dragons dork with lank, greasy hair and the most horrible case of cystic acne you have ever seen. It crept up out of his shirt collar, climbed his neck and exploded on his face like some sort of great zit volcano. It was red and angry, sometimes weeping or worse - scabbed over from incessant picking and scratching. I sat behind him in biology and would watch as his hand rubbed his face and neck, or slipped down the back of his shirt. I'd try to concentrate on Mendel squares or fetal pig parts or anything, anything! But I could always hear the scritch, scritch, scritch. Is it any wonder I barely passed the class?

It was then that I decided if any of my children ever had a skin problem, I would take them to a dermatologist, pawn the priceless Hummel collection, sell my organs - whatever I had to do to make sure they would never have to endure what that poor kid had to. Every time he went to school. Every time he looked in the mirror. 

He was also a really nice guy. The kind of guy who would laugh along with the kids who made fun of him. I wasn't mean enough, or popular enough, to make fun of him, but I also wasn't secure enough in my social status to say anything to the people who did. And why didn't he say anything to defend himself? Maybe he thought it was easier to laugh it off. Maybe he was scared of making it worse. Maybe he was smart enough to know that high school isn't the end of your life, it's barely even the beginning.

I was curious to know what happened to this kid - did he move on to bigger and better things? Is he still living at home playing D&D? So I thought I'd go looking for Oscar. I started where every smart cookie looking for a lost someone starts - Facebook. The search took about 2.7 seconds, and there he was.

Kind of anticlimactic.

He looks happy. His profile pic shows a smiling, confident fellow in tie. From the public information, he's both an IT guy and an ordained minister (interesting). He has...wait a second. Dude has 387 friends on his Facebook. Clearly, he's moved on. I'm almost euphorically happy at this discovery, and I start typing in more names. The paste eater.  The girl who smelled like pee. The guy who looked like he was wearing a sweater vest when he took his shirt off.

They're all okay. At least as okay as their Facebook page suggests. I didn't see anyone with a profile pic of them behind bars, or with OMG MY LIFE SUX for a status. Based on my limited sampling, it seems like everyone discovered the same truth as I did: Eventually, we stop being the breakfast club and start being just people. People who fail and succeed and live and love and lose just as much as the next person, regardless of whether our hobbies are sports or video games. Whether we went to prom or not. Whether we were the class hottie or the wallflower.

There is an awesome program called the It Gets Better Project, aimed at gay and lesbian teens. It's a great idea that should be expanded to identify with every teenager who feels isolated or hopeless, confused about who they are or where they're going. In other words, every teenager. They all need to know that being a teenager sucks, but it does get better.

Just ask My Oscar.


  1. Fantastic entry, Kelly. You perfectly summed up the angst of adolescence and what it really amounts to.

  2. Hmmmmmmm.....have you ever wondered if your old classmates have similar stories about you???
    That is frightening!

  3. I'm sure they do, lol.
    Thanks, FMT. :)