Saturday, August 6, 2011

Brown Locker People

As we drove home this evening, I remarked on some teenage skateboarder dudes, hanging out in the strip mall parking lot (which seems to be the preferred hangout for skateboarder dudes since time immemorial). I noted that skateboarding never seems to go out of vogue, and I remember the group of them in our high school.

The Husband, who graduated from the same school several years ahead of me, says - "Ah, yes. Brown Locker People."

In our hippy-dippy, built in the 60s, Northern Californian high school, there were groups of lockers, arranged by color: Orange, Blue, and Brown. Regardless of your assigned locker color, you tended to migrate to where 'your people' hung out. Blue - freshmen, sophomores and nerds. Orange - jocks, princesses and upperclassmen. Brown - mods, artsy people, anyone engaging 'alternative' pursuits (including, apparently, skateboarding). People with asymmetrical haircuts.

"You were a brown locker person." he says to me.
"I most certainly was NOT! I had an orange locker." I replied
"Maybe. But you are a totally a brown locker person."


Then I started thinking about all the qualities I try to instill in my kids, all the things that I tell Katie about peer pressure, and fitting in, and self confidence. Be your own person, don't let anyone tell you what to like, or who to like. Don't be afraid to be smart. Stick up for what you believe in.

If I think back to high school, and beyond, it's those Brown Locker People who seemed to understand those lessons better than anyone. They thumbed their noses at convention, and did things because they loved doing them, and hung out with people who's company they genuinely enjoyed. What a concept! And what a display of courage from kids at a time in their life when conformity is king, and the wrong shoe can be social suicide.

While I was friends with many of those people, I wasn't entirely one of them. Because I was too scared to be - too frightened of being myself at all costs.

It's a fear that follows most of us into adulthood. It propels us through job interviews, keeps us company during endless cocktail hours, and dictates conversation with coworkers, clients and now - as a stay at home mom - other parents. I find myself gauging the sustainability of my friendships by what I can get away with saying. When I lamented my lack of ethnic friends to my Hispanic friend Y-, and said I should put a personal ad in the paper (MWF seeks Non-White Person for token friendship), she nodded with understanding instead of looking at me like I was insane. That is a good friend. When I casually mentioned boob sweat to a newish friend today, she didn't act disgusted, she talked about her own sweat. There is definite potential there.

It's only now, at nearly 40, that I realize most of us are brown locker people. We're just too timid to say what's on our minds, for fear of what someone else will think of us. I mean, who's going to throw boob sweat out as a conversation starter, when 'what I did on my summer vacation' is so much safer?

Let your freak flag fly, friends.


  1. When we moved from our rented house into our brand new purchased house in a new, upper middle class neighborhood I was in the fifth grade. I learned in that year that I would always be a brown locker person (even though we didn't have lockers until 7th grade). I rode a motorcycle to school starting in 8th grade, spent almost every 7th period in the VP's office cause my skirt was too short or my "drop" was outside my blouse, had a different color hair every year beginning with 8th grade, and made my friends based on their personality instead of their popularity. I took up for the "nerds" and ditched school on a frequent basis.
    I'm going to my 40th High School Reunion in 3 weeks and hope to see some brown locker buddies from the past!!

  2. Right on, Christy!

    And whatever, MOM. You just liked them because they had the best weed. You are not fooling anyone.

  3. Kelly, all the rest of us were beige locker people compared to your ultra-BROWN Mother! As a Mom myself, I had little trouble giving my now-grown daughter independent thinking--we went from Goth, gymnastics, varsity cheerleading, FFA to Environmental Marine Manatee Dolphin Researcher with a ballsy attitude to go it alone and look for the adventure. Give me Brown Locker Ladies any day. Orange Lockers are boring and pretentious. Hoping our reunion has faded the Orange to Brown.

  4. I love this post. And I'll let you in on a little secret...most of us brown locker people were faking it at least 40% of the time. ;)

  5. I was an orange locker person!! I had a couple of crushes on some "waver dudes" though and they were in the brown lockers. I think if I went back now I'd be a blue... you have to try to hard in the orange. =) Debby... you are so cool!!