IN FIFTH GRADE, my friends Laura, Rachel, and I were upper echelon nerds. We went to a school where the “cool kids” had a dress code of their own: Tretorns, Liz Claiborne purses, clothes from The Limited. The boys wore skate clothes and Izod shirts. We tried to follow suit, but were always a little too late. We never looked as good as the other kids, weren’t as full of swagger and self assurance. We stuck together. We were goofballs with bodies that were a little strangely shaped.
That year, I’d gotten Licensed to Ill. This was the same year Matt stole a button off my jean jacket and called me a poser. Then he asked me if I knew what a poser was. I told him that I did, but I was thinking it meant someone who posed for pictures, probably dirty ones. When I told him this, he, Ben, and Rafe all laughed at me. I don’t think Matt ever gave me my button back. I sure hounded him for it.
One day, after class, there was an announcement that the buses would be delayed.
Someone started it, I don’t know who.
Now, here’s a little story I got to tell about three bad brothers you know so well…
Everyone joined in. Ms. Fried’s powder white face flashed anger. “Class. Stop it!”
It started way back in history with AD Rock, MCA and me, Mike D.
It seemed like everyone was in on it. It must have been that the super nerds — the boy who smelled like cat pee, the girl who walked like an old lady — didn’t know the words. The noise was outrageous. A wall of fifth grade voices shouted out every word of every verse. The beats we handled by slamming our desks, then clapping.
My smile was out of control. It was exhilarating. It was the single moment in elementary school that I felt I belonged. I was high on that for a long time.
Later, in sixth grade, I started listening to The Cure and The Violent Femmes and Siousxie and the Banshees and The Smiths and INXS and David Bowie and the Dogs in Space Soundtrack and I felt bigger than who I was back then that day in fifth grade. I felt I understood things and felt things. I decided in a vehement way that the Beastie Boys were uncool.
I took my cassette out on the back deck of the house with a hammer. I smashed that tape to smithereens. I felt a release doing it. It would be years before my brother and I put firecrackers on Glamor Gals and G.I. Joes. It’s the first willful destruction of property that I ever remember. It was exhilarating.
Last night, I came home “imperred” as my court appointed alcohol class instructor always said. I thought about that day in fifth grade. I dug Licensed to Ill out of the CD book. It’s scratched. The skips are perfect. I danced. I love that record.