When I walked into eighth grade, I had my last growth spurt and a new haircut. Six foot three inches with a moppy undercut, I probably looked like a mushroom that grew arms and legs and forgot how to sit down. Inside started a little streak of anger, tempered and fired by friends with the same leanings.
I had no idea what was happening with the girls. They were growing, too, in more ways than one, and some stopped being friends and started becoming other worldly creatures. Took a long time to realize they were grappling with the same mess I was, they were just better guarded because of all those stupid boys.
In Eighth Grade, writer and director Bo Burnham tells the story of the last week of eighth grade for Kayla. Throughout the story we see her struggle to come to terms with her place in the digital and physical world, her loneliness, and her awkward hopes of finding someone to be good to her. In the end, as most coming of age stories do, she learns that it's mostly about not taking shit, being nice to herself and others, and being open.
Had Youtube and Snapchat and Twitter and whatever else the fuck is happening out there been around in the early nineties… Sorry I just figured out for a moment with thoughts of existential dread. Navigating these worlds now as a guy in his late 30s is tough. I can not image what so much open exposure does to a kid trying to find themselves.
Here's a story to make my point: My good friend and great man, Randall F. Wannamaker, once kissed the most attractive girl in school, Kathy Sue Pittman, and was promptly knocked out by a golf ball to the head.
It was recess and everybody was milling around. We were in eighth grade, so tag was for babies and it was too hot for flag football. Some of the football players were against the shop class building playing Suicide, a game apply named where a gang would stand in front of the wall and throw a tennis ball at the rough surface. The ball would bounce back, and if you touched the ball but did not gain control of it, you had to run. If you touched the wall, you were safe. If you did not touch the wall, some sadistic mother like Reese Guy, the reason they invented warning signs on lawnmowers, would hit you in the back as you ran. The game was banned at the school but nobody enforced it.
So we're sitting around, somebody talking about some video on MTV when Randall F. Wannamaker, my friend and great man, stood and said he was going to get a kiss from Kathy Sue. Without preamble, he walked her way.
We watched in stunned silence. He strode across the dusty playground, took Kathy Sue by the hand, and whispered something to her. Always getting some attention and always kind, Kathy Sue blushed just the right shade and leaned over for Randall's cheek. At the last moment, he turned his head and got her full on the lips, closed mouth. Her friends laughed, we gasped, both of them turned beat red. He grinned a picket fence back at us before the golf ball smashed into his skull.
So remember how I said those football players were playing Suicide, the game where the basic intent was to pummel each other with a tennis ball? They had upped the ante, deciding on this warm day to use a golf ball instead. They had less participants, but there's always someone dumb and dangerous.
That golf ball pinged off the wall, sailed two hundred feet in the air, and brained Randall F. Wannamaker, my friend and great man. Randall hit the ground like a tree falling in the forest. He still held Kathy Sue Pittman's hand, however, so she came down with him, a screaming pile of beautiful flesh and panic.
Randall F. Wannamaker, my friend and great man, to this day talks about the time he kissed Kathy Sue Pittman. The rest of us remember the golf ball.
What I mean by that is, somethings do not need to be recorded. Somethings are better in the memory and the telling. If everyone on that playground had a cell phone capable of recording and uploading, I would not be telling you this story now. I would just be sharing a link to a shaky video taken by some dumbass with an undercut trying to figure out how new long legs worked.