Picture this: A rivalry football game, four girls, one shirtless, body-painted boy, and a clichéd attempt at creating senior year memories. This was exactly what I had in mind when I put purple and gold school-spirit ribbons in my hair (borrowed), tied up a Lakewood High t-shirt so that it would look cute (also borrowed), and took my seat on the bleachers for the last Lakewood/St. Ed’s showdown of my high school career. I sucked up three years of rolling my eyes at such events and pretended I cared or had a clue what was happening on the field in front of me.
See, I had started to get a little nostalgic about moving away from my hometown in Ohio, and by extension started to regret not joining in as much. But I had one year to fix that, and during the season of change, that’s exactly what I decided to do. I was going to go to football games and parties. Maybe join a sports team, if I was feeling so daring.
So I found myself at the big game along with a few friends. While some of my friends were less foreign to the concept of a Friday night football game than I was (I had been to a few, but can’t remember actually watching the game at any of them), overall this wasn’t something we typically did. But we did what we were supposed to do. We cheered for our friends, probably gossiped about our enemies. We flirted with the boys around us, particularly one of my friends and the shirtless, body-painted boy mentioned above, an alumni who was not nearly as sober as us pre-graduates.
I’d like to say that this was as transformative of a night as I intended it to be. That I loved the energy of the game so much I went the whole rest of the season. That I got invited to parties and made new friends with some of the 300+ students in my class I had never spoken to before. That I discovered one of them was my true love. That we went on double-dates with my friend and body-paint boy, and toasted each other at our weddings. But none of that happened.
Maybe it could have if I wasn’t sitting at that game thinking how much I didn’t fit in, even as I was plastering a smile on my face. If I’d let myself, I probably would have had a nice time. The friends I went to the game with that night had all been on the swim team together since middle school (yep, still never joined) and after the game they headed off to a swimmer party. They invited me, but I politely, and lamely, declined. I didn’t need part two of an evening of not fitting in.
What I ended up doing was going home and changing out of all the purple and gold I was wearing and into something gray (my favorite color at the time). It was then that I got a call from one of my closest friends. We usually had movie nights on Fridays, but he too had traded in our routine to go to the big game with his marching band friends. He hadn’t declined an invite to a party, but hated it once he went, and called me instead. I picked him up from the party and we went out to grab greasy food at a late-night diner to console our failed attempts at being normal.
It wasn’t actually a big moment in my life, but it’s one I still think about. I never tried to break out of my shell again senior year. What if I hadn’t given up? What if I didn’t settle for the status quo? But at the same time, years later, the only place I want to be is eating mozzarella sticks with my best friend, talking about the memories we were too self-aware we were making to enjoy. Maybe just like my friend flirting with her body-painted boy, I ended up just where I was supposed to that night.
No, seriously. My friend dated him from that day forward, and now they’re happily married. Although, he doesn’t wear body paint anymore. As far as I know.Thank you so much, Emilia! It's really no surprise that Emilia was the right editor for FML. Throughout the story runs my own personal philosophy that we all end up at the places we're supposed to be. Some of us just take longer, bumpier roads there.
Today we're giving away an ARC of How to Love by Katie Cotugno. It is the first book released from Alloy Entertainment's Collaborative program which accepts submissions from authors. It's a pretty innovative and exciting program that you can read more about right here.
Tomorrow we'll be hearing from Trish Doller, author of one of my personal favorites, Something Like Normal, and the forthcoming Where the Stars Still Shine.
Emilia Rhodes is an editor at Alloy Entertainment, the home of Gossip Girl, Pretty Little Liars, and Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, where she develops and edits young adult and middle grade fiction. She was previously at Simon Pulse, the teen fiction imprint at Simon & Schuster.
Her list includes New York Times bestselling series The Vampire Diaries by L.J. Smith, Thirst by Christopher Pike, and Kissed by an Angel by Elizabeth Chandler, as well as National Book Award finalist Out of Reach by Carrie Arcos. You can find her on Twitter @emiliarhodes.