License to Fish

Fishing for compliments is fair game

Fishing for compliments is fair game

This was my Fishing For Compliments license…a  copper badge that I first deployed in college.

It doesn’t have the original information though…maybe I can find it in my journal…

The first “license” was an alternate to the “Hello My Name Is”…and this is what it read:

“a) Jacquie Phelan

b  Midd only

c) 1240

d ) Sagittarius –Dec. 10

…and how are YOU?”

Freshmen had only a week before classes began–so little time for five hundred unleashed brats to establish rank.

Preliminary coolness-sorting took place during the evening “mixers”.

I hadn’t been to many parties back in high school, so I was out of my element. Small talk completely baffled me.

(Note: my element was, and  is  library/couch/bicycle saddle.)

A  pattern emerged at the mixers,  boiling down to

“Where else did you get in?”

(i.e. which other schools wanted you. The more, the groovier)

“What were your SAT scores?”

Scholastic Aptitude Test had a a couple numbers,  one’s intellectual bank balance. Tops  was sixteen hundred points. Nearly no one got that score in those days, and I was a  measly twelve hundred or so… P.S.  I really felt shame about it.

My badge was my mean  way of cutting through the BS…and  putting people at unease.

Being from California –as only one or two of the five hundred frosh were– I counted  on natural hipness, despite the non-blonde hair.

I  was gonna ambush ’em with a new style : lacing one’s shoes underneath the leather tongue.    This arrangement meant the tongue was literally sticking out, guaranteeing a unique silhouette– the one-eared rabbit look.

Once the campus was overrun with this sort of lace-tying,  I could bask in coolth, and work on popularizing un-patches (carefully embroidery-bordered  holes in one’s jeans: an alternative to streaking, which was huge that year).

How invisible I’d been in my two thousand-strong  senior high school class! At 5’5″, and weighing maybe ninety pounds,  I trudged the halls of L.A.’s William H. Taft (a 350-pound president, way ahead of his time)  snubbed by blonde babe cheerleaders, squished between huge football players, slaloming around skinny surfers, and  developing crushes on  more nerds than you could shake a slide rule at. There were about a dozen of us “other”- caliber kids  who simply didn’t fit any  molds.

In my college surroundings, I’d   failed to notice that the only shoes being worn in 1973 (in Vermont, anyway) were “top-siders” (a loafer worn on boats).

By winter, ‘Bean boots’ (an ugly rubber ankle boot for wading through bogs) came out, but my shoe trend failed to catch on.

“This is how it we tie ’em in San Francisco” I’d explain condescendingly.

No nibbles.

Despite the fact that nearly everyone had the same uniform on from head to toe (tee shirt, khakis, striped belt, Dr. Scholl’s sandals for the women and  top siders for the men, well, maybe some Earth shoes too…) nobody was taking fashion dictation from a  lunatic.

Those who hadn’t scratched me off their New Faces guide were no doubt charmed that I wanted to know what their favorite band was, and how glad I was they  didn’t  slavishly tie  their shoes the way we did out West.

~ by jacquiephelan on December 4, 2008.

2 Responses to “License to Fish”

  1. Have I understood it well? While others were lacing their tongue underneath the leather shoes, you were lacing your shoes underneath the leather tongue?

    That’s going against the tide. Not easy, but clever! 😉


  2. During my frosh year (1982) at Lewis & Clark, the best conversation bomb I got to drop was why my folks had divorced the year before: my dad came out of the closet and had just moved in with another man (who to this day remains My Wicked Step-Queen; when my father died in 2003, Brian gave me away at my wedding).

    Other kids either looked away uncomfortably or, in very rare cases, wanted to know more. Either way, I admit I had fun with it, especially when my dad came up to the school on random weekends to take me out for brunch or concerts and my dorm-mates would stare after us, trying not to stare at the guy who “looked so, well, DAD-like”.

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