Sunday, August 18, 2013

POPULAR by SUMMER DAY (chapter one: How to be Popular / finding a match )

How to be Popular by Honey Woodhouse
Chapter One
Finding a match
My entirely wonderful matchmaking plans were born in Beverly Hills although Phoebe is sure to tell you they were born at Farmer’s markets.
    The sun shone through the stained glass windows of the Church of Beverly Hills on Phoebe’s and Mark’s wedding day, inspiring me along with their spoken vows.
    It had taken ten years but I’d made it happen. I had created plenty of ‘opportunities’ for them to date and told one how highly the other person thought of them and vice versa even when they’d told me no such thing. I’d even written a list of compliments in the form of a dialogue that Ethan observed me writing over my shoulder once, but that’s a whole other story.
    “Honey, what are you doing?” Ethan had asked.
    “Nothing you need to know about,” I replied (quite huffily, I admit). It’s rude to read over the shoulders of others.
    Ethan raised his eyebrow.
    He and Wednesday (the younger half-sister of Mouche - who was Phoebe’s best friend) often came over to swim at my place when we were little kids. Then Wednesday’s career as an actress really took off. She started by doing commercials but now she spends part of the year in Wilmington filming a teen television series. She enrolls at Sunrise when she’s back home.
    Without a doubt, the marriage between Ethan’s hot older cousin and my babysitter was my greatest matchmaking moment.   
   Phoebe and Mark were exchanging vows one week before I was due to start at Sunrise High. Wednesday was filming in Georgia so I was mentally preparing exactly how I’d establish myself in my freshman year – alone, without my best friend - and even the outfit I’d wear to my new school on my first day. I’d left The High School for Young Ladies after sixth grade. It was way snobbish there. I needed a new scene and Phoebe suggested Sunrise. Sunrise was like a breath of fresh air and I quickly became friends and part of a group of girls (generationly known as ‘the princesses’). I couldn’t wait for sophomore year to start. I had so many plans. But first of all, I had to decide what to wear.
    Hair braided at the side? Too Amish? I’m not saying that’s a bad thing but I am not Amish, obviously.
    Sailor suit top tailored over jeans? Too Glee? Too Sound of Music? Maybe. Again, not necessarily a bad thing.  
    Gloss or pale lipstick? Both make a statement. Both say, I made an effort but I don’t think looks are more important than developing a personality. Sure, I know most girls don’t get rewarded for having a personality but trust me, one day it will pay to have one.
    Now, shoes or boots? Shoes say “here I am, and I’m a conformist.” This is probably a good thing to be on your first day at a new school. Boots say, “I’m making a statement!” Especially my adorable just over the knee ones. They’re saying, “Here I am, a fashion diva, ready to friend but don’t mess with me.”
    I was very eager to consolidate my group of BFFs with a new member or two. It takes an army to make a village… or does it take a village to make an army? Whatever it is, it takes more than one person to appear popular and without popularity, you have no influence. Influence is how the world – especially my teenage world, turns.
    Now, if I can’t influence someone like Ethan – how could I possibly influence anyone else? Look at him on my group photo screensaver. Pitiful, huh? He’s cute, obviously, but he has no style. He needs my help but he won’t ask for it.
    Ethan is probably a bad example of me wielding my power, eager as he is to listen intently to everything I have to say, laugh and inevitably do the opposite. Not only does he disregard both my feelings and my opinions but he ignores almost totally my fashion sense. That flaw is the hardest to accept.
     For example, I put on a new skirt to show Maria (our housekeeper) the other day. Ethan just happened to be indulging in one of her chocolate cakes (he eats like a horse and maintains an athlete’s muscle tone) and he just ignores my style completely.
     “Was it too far above the knee?” I asked Phoebe. Phoebe smiled and shook her head.
      Ethan didn’t even glance in my direction. It’s so offensive when ignorance breeds that kind of superiority complex. Generally, if I’m being obnoxious my father sends me back to my room while Ethan just sits in the study with Daddy going over the latest stock reports or whatever, once again paying me scant attention.
   Oh, there he is now. 
    Maria hands him an extra piece of cake.
    I’m reminded… of Phoebe’s wedding…
   At Phoebe’s wedding reception, I was seated alone admiring the gorgeousness of the wedding cake, the venue and the cleverness of my matchmaking handiwork – the house with the fairy lights lit up the garden as all of the guests (including Wednesday who had managed to get the day off from filming Teen Daze – the television show she’s in) were huddled together. I had encouraged my two best friends to dance with two juniors I’d invited without realizing I’d be left at the table for the first ten minutes of the evening.
    That’s when Ethan, dressed from head to toe in exactly the suit I recommended he wear, came up to say hello. His dance partner (who knew he even danced?) was hanging onto his hand like her life depended on it. I always encourage women not to appear so needy, but whatever. I’m not sure what I’d encourage Ethan’s potential girlfriends to do since they had the dubious taste to set their sights on Ethan in the first place.
     Ethan is barely twelve months older than me but he already thinks he knows everything. He’s seriously not the wisest of men where girls are concerned. I mean, I’m so much more mature. He just has no idea. For example, most women are not interested in the robotics and engineering elective he’s considering taking at UCLA alongside his political science major.
    Tonight, he seems to barely notice the girl he’s with, so I’m sure she’ll wise up soon. He’s way too busy talking to the group of little ones surrounding him. The whole room is lit up like a fairy castle (again, my influence, the real wedding planner wanted to go tribal!)
    Ethan is seated with the youngest bridesmaids who are listening rapturously to his magical story.  
    He’s hidden the final treasure hunt prize in his jacket and the whole room looks at him as if to say, “aww,” except me.  
    “Honey!” He says as he looks up.
    He was pleased to see me, I could tell, but he’s already about to give me some advice about my ‘matchmaking’ activities because he clearly disapproves of them.  I pretend to be extremely engrossed in my conversation with Phoebe’s former teacher Ms Dash (wearing a dress two seasons out of date), before he can catch my eye again.  Ms Dash could definitely use my fashion advice but she’s far too interested in encouraging me to ‘excel’ in art class, which is admirable, but she shouldn’t neglect her manicure.
    I was trapped between a rock and a hard place as Ethan introduced his new girlfriend to me.
    “Honey,” he said, “I’d like to introduce you to Gigi.”
    “Nice to meet you, Gigi,” I said and I meant it even though Gigi’s smile was unwelcoming, a few of her parts looked fake (isn’t sixteen too young for plastic surgery?) and her fashion sense was completely underwhelming.  
    Ethan whispered, ‘be nice,’ behind her shoulder.
    “How could you imagine I wouldn’t be?” I asked as he touched Gigi’s arm and she dragged his uncoordinated feet onto the dance floor.   

    At least Phoebe, Mark and Wednesday seemed to be enjoying themselves as Wednesday, Ty and Jessica (my friends) pulled me onto the dance floor and we all started to dance in a circle around the happy couple. After the song ended, Phoebe and Wednesday were talking animatedly and admiring each other’s gowns. Wednesday had brought a yummy looking dude from the film set who at one point joined the band. Wednesday told me after, like most people he wanted to be something he wasn’t. He wanted to be a guitarist not an actor. 
   “Acting’s not all I thought it would be but I’m making a great college fund. Mouche would be proud,” Wednesday added. As I mentioned earlier, Mouche, Phoebe’s best friend, was Wednesday’s half-sister.
    I agreed. I vaguely remembered Mouche – I was only tiny, like Wednesday, when Mouche was killed. I’ve seen photos of her though and her beauty is legendary around here. Phoebe once told me what a fun and talented person Mouche was and I see that in her photographs and in Wednesday’s smile.   
    As I surveyed the world, my world, I noticed in that moment, all was right with it.
    I could never have known where my next social challenge would take me.