Nerdy Triumph for a High School Introvert

I have some pretty terrible self-awareness. At least, I used to. Not only can I be overly self-conscious, but I am super adept at convincing myself of things that are simply not true — about myself. It wasn’t until I was 23 that I finally understood my body shape. I had been buying jeans 3 sizes too big, shoes 2 sizes too big, and pants that ran “long.” I’m 5’3. But I fully believed those were my sizes. To be fair, I did grow up in the ’90s…. still…

It’s also taken me this long to finally understand what it means to be an introvert. I always wondered why, even though I loved being in a large group of good friends, I always had to slip away, find my own quiet hiding spot. It’s why really loud, energetic people who aim their energy at me really piss me off.

But being introverted was a huge issue all through my education – I just didn’t know it. No one seemed to understand why it was so hard for me to participate in class, why group projects and sitting in a circle caused me to “white-out,” a term I use when I’ve been unexpectedly presented with a draining activity without any chance to prepare. It’s like my brain shuts down everything, diverting all power to getting me through the situation. Because of all this, in high school I was usually described as quiet, weird, snobby, and smart. I guess they weren’t wrong, though I wouldn’t call myself snobby so much as elitist, but minor semantics.

Being introverted and anxious meant I spent a lot of time dwelling over “embarrassing” moments that in reality, most of my classmates probably forgot about 6 minutes later. Like the time in 6th grade I couldn’t pronounce “Knickerbockers.” Or in 7th grade when a homework assignment for English class included guessing a football game score, and I said “2-3.” Or when I cried in front of the class in 1st grade. And 3rd grade. And 5th. And 9th. And freshmen year in college. And my first semester in grad school. And my last semester in grad school.

But it’s also why I remember the little triumphs so well – again, something everyone else most likely forgot in minutes.

It was junior year health class. Yes, health class. It was taught by the football coach, who was a nice enough guy as far as I knew. Gym teachers and coaches were hit or miss with me, but Coach Richards never pushed me too hard or made me feel stupid, so I had no qualms.

This particular day in class was right before a break, because Coach R decided against teaching any new material in favor of a game day. We must have been divided into teams, and the winning team would get bonus points on their test or …. something, I don’t remember. But he was asking trivia questions, going up and down the rows. This was good, since it meant I’d only have to answer 1 or 2 questions at most. It was bad because for those 1 or 2 questions, I’d be put on the spot.

Because he was the football coach, a majority of the questions revolved around sports, of which I knew nothing.  Great. He got to me, and asked a general pop culture question, which I answered correctly, but without much fanfare. He made his way through the room again. I prayed that class would end before he got back to me. It was getting close. My heart was racing, my stomach in knots. Please not another question.

“Miss Pugh,” Coach R started. Damn. He looked at his note cards which contained the trivia questions, and his big eyes got bigger. “Ooooh,” he said, wincing. WINCING. “This is a tough one.” The class, or those on my team, groaned loudly. I sat perfectly still.  He started.

“What movie — ”

A movie question. At least if I got a sports question, there’d be no expectations. Now if I get a movie question wrong, I’m humiliated because I don’t know the answer to what I actually care about.

“What movie is tied with Titanic for the most Emmy wins?”

Wait. Really? I took a moment to process the question in my head. I heard the class groan again, but I knew. Ignoring the fact that Coach R didn’t know the difference between the Emmys and the Oscars, I quietly answered.

“Ben-Hur.”

I could actually hear the confusion from my classmates, like I had just made up words. Coach R, a look of complete shock on his face, nodded. “Yes. Well done.” The class erupted into cheers.

For that moment, I felt vindicated. Like all the time I spent with my dad, Mr. IMDb himself, watching documentaries and awards shows and countdown series paid off. I DID know stuff. Maybe not sports or cool bands, but so what.

It’s hard to be super-obsessed with things that aren’t necessarily popular. Geek is chic at the moment, but it wasn’t always. Even now, at my current job, I get “NERD ALERT”-ed for openly loving theater and old TV and Disney.

And it still stings. But I don’t cry over it anymore.

 

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Yes, I Love Award Shows

Yes, the Academy Awards are tomorrow. So, of course I could write a big, long thinkpiece about the lack of diversity in Hollywood, the disconnect between audiences and Academy members, the over-inflated pomp of an industry in love with itself….

I could also give you my Oscar picks, list who I think will win, who should win, and what kind of drinking game I’ll be playing (that’s actually a good one, but I’ll explain in another post).

I won’t be doing any of those things, not this time, anyway. It’s all been said already, so I’m not sure I can bring anything new to the crowded table.

Instead, I’m going to explain why I love award shows. I love them unconditionally. Without shame or guilt.

And it all goes back to the same thing: family tradition.

We didn’t watch sports in my house. My dad loves football, but if he dared watch a game, it was usually in his bedroom, door shut tight. That’s mostly because my mom does not like sports. At all. Growing up with four super-athletic, competitive brothers might do that to a person. You’re either with them or against them, and my mom was the latter. So no sports.

Honestly, this didn’t turn out to be a big deal. James and I were far more interested in movies and TV shows and theater and music, so it all worked out. Though it did make for some highly embarrassing gym classes, but that’s a post for another day.

In our house, it was not about the Super Bowl or the World Series. It was the Oscars. The Emmys. The Tonys. The Golden Globes. The SAGs. The DGAS. All the Guild awards, really. When we were younger, it was the Kids’ Choice Awards and the MTV Movie Awards.

But it didn’t start out to be a family event.

I’m not sure when, but from a really, really young age, I became fascinated with whatever my parents would watch after I went to bed. Probably because I would usually sleep with my bedroom door open slightly, and I would hear them cracking up. And it killed me. What was so damn funny? What are they talking about? (Side note: Neither my brother or I grew up with a TV in our bedrooms. I was in college when I finally got one. This played a HUGE part in my love for TV, but again, another post.)

They always watched award shows, so I wanted to watching along with them. I was so young, I rarely knew any of the celebrities by name, except maybe Robin Williams, but I recognized faces and voices. My dad yelled at the TV when there was a shocking win or loss. My mom would comment on the ladies’ dresses, questioning trendy colors and jewelry choices. Dad would (and still does) spout off facts and tidbits from the back of the room like a Pop-Up Video you couldn’t turn off.

When an award show would start, I was always allowed to watch the first hour or so. But come 9 or 9:30, I’d be sent to bed, forced with the decision to either hide behind the wall near the steps to LISTEN to the rest of the broadcast, or wait til morning when my mom would fill me in on the winners.

Typically, I’d be sent up during a commercial break. At each break, I would beg, “One more commercial! Just one more!” My dad would relent, and I’d pull the same thing until he said no. This worked for a few years, but when I got a little older, I learned a phenomenal trick.

I wouldn’t make a peep.

Once it started to get late,  I’d curl up tight in the corner of the couch and stay perfectly still. If I didn’t budge, nobody said anything. It was the weirdest thing.

I mean, okay, I knew my parents knew what I was doing, at least eventually. But it just worked so well, and it was thrilling. As the show would cut to commercial, my heart would race and I’d hold my breath, seeing if I could make it one more round.  It’s how I finally got to see an Oscar broadcast in its entirety.

Over the years, we developed little traditions, like mini parties and legendary drinking games.  It was always an affair.

So bring on the dreadful red carpet interviews, the stiff presenters, and the ceaseless commercial breaks – I will not be sent to bed.

(Well, I’m on PST now, so it’s still way too early for bed. But you get it.)

 

PS – Do you have a favorite Award Show host of all time? From ANY Award Show? Vote Here!