I am a square.

Just the title of this post makes me a square, coming as it does from the lyrics of Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs’ 1965 frat-rock classic “Woolly Bully.” Let’s don’t be L7, come and learn to dance. What kind of a dork would quote that barnacle-covered old relic?

I guess the term comes from the Beatniks, and it might not have meant literally “square,” but rather it might have been meant to describe someone who is squared away in life, all neat edges and perfect alignments, no disarray, no eccentricity, thus no creativity. Of course, there’s a good chance the Beats stole it from the blacks, who have always had better slang than white people in this country, often incubating entire sublanguages for months or years before white kids find out about it and “mainstream” it, which means “bring it to the attention of marketers.”

Wherever it came from, it evolved to mean dull, old fashioned and out of it. Square.

I used to be painfully shy. Now I’m just shy. There was a time when social situations caused terror to well up in my stomach and chest, and almost come out my mouth. I was insecure and unworthy, and I thought everyone knew it, could read it on me. I thought it made them look away and try not to let me know that they knew. But I knew, and their kindness added to my humiliation. I looked with longing at the ease with which the normal people would laugh and talk and touch each other, making plans for after school, after the game, after the dance, and I had no way in. I was isolated and afraid, a perfect candidate to join a gang. Little boys walkin’ away from it all, so cold.

I retreated into music. Huddled over the old kitchen radio after everyone had gone to bed, listening to whatever came through the static. Walking the city, the tiny six-transistor radio pressed to my ear, decades before Sony gave us the Walkman, in splendid, rockin’ isolation. Touching no one, no one touching me.

In ninth grade, as if my pain and alienation had been judged not horrible enough, I got my first pair of glasses. Black plastic frames. The stems hooked over and around my ears, like my Uncle Dick’s glasses. I wore them only when my parents or the optometrist were there watching. Fuck them. I never knew Buddy Holly, until it was too late. It would be years before John Lennon would come along and make them a hip fashion accessory, and make it cool to read books and write poetry and know about Neitzche and Buddha and painting, before I could say it right out loud: “Fuck them.” That’s when you fall. When you fall into a trance, sitting on a sofa playing games of chance.

In my shyness I learned to play guitar, by myself in my bedroom, until I dared to come out and show myself. Shielded by my guitar I could join all those people, the ones who were better than me, who pitied me and ignored me. I still couldn’t be of them, but I could be with them. And I found that if you don’t act shy, it is as if you are not shy. No one knows. No one cares.

You’re not hip. You’re not square. You are merely the word made flesh. That’s the thing to do. Get you someone really to pull the wool with you.

Thanks and apologies to Van Morrison, Paul Simon and Domingo Samudio (Sam the Sham).

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19 Replies to “L7”

  1. Hey Larry
    Thanks for the comment and the link. You make me think and for that I am grateful.

    I have to agree about bloggers being shy. At least in our own way. This is a strange but effective way to let the whole world get to know you with out ever letting your walls down.

  2. L7-one of my favorite bands of all time; chicks that kick ass and rock. Speaking of music, let’s not forget Bananarama’s celebration of shy boys in the song “Shy Boy.”

  3. A quiet terror, being shy.

    You’re right about the acting not shy. But if you pretend to be something, do you not become that thing? Can you still be considered shy?

    I guess only to yourself you’d be the shy one.

  4. L – I celebrate your squareness. Fitting in isn’t that great.
    Theresa – I’ve learned to hide my shy mannerisms, most of the time. Enough so that I’ve been 86’d from some of the best places.
    Red – But I’m eager to tear down the walls…
    Steph – How can I not agree? Chicks that kick ass…
    MPH – On you it looks so… sophisticated and urbane.
    Adrian – This is exactly why self-image doesn’t always match outward appearance. And you can work it to your advantage, or it can paralyze you.

  5. I used to be terribly shy. Still can be at times.

    When I saw your post title, I kept thinking of “Hip to be Square” by Huey Lewis and the news. I wonder how many nerd-points I get for that?

  6. Brent – That’s probably worth a lot of nerd points, but I think I should share in your points for not knowing that song.

    HeroineGirl will probably not be back to read my reply, so I’ll just say to you all – go read her blog. Parental guidance suggested.

  7. Cranky Pants – Believe it or not? If those are my choices, I’ll say… NOT!
    And thanks to everyone who wants to make me feel better about being a shy person. You are making me bold and outrageous, in a subdued and covert way.

  8. j eric miller – First, what I said was “You are merely the word made flesh.”
    Four guys wrote separate accounts of the life of Jesus. The least literal, and most poetic, of the group – John – started his off this way: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (italics mine). The “Word” has been interpreted to mean Jesus, the son of God, and so begins the great mystery of the Trinity, but that’s another matter. Later, near the end of the story, as told by more than one of the four, Jesus performed a miracle in which bread and wine were literally transformed into his body and blood. Thus “the word was made flesh.”
    What I was saying is that what you say you are (not shy, for example) becomes what you really are – so the word is made flesh.
    Of course, now my own mystery and poetry are spoiled, but anything for a bloggin’ buddy.

  9. Ever since I can remember, I’ve thought of the world as a huge balloon floating through space. The people within the balloon are necessary because they keep it inflated, but they are limited by it. Just as necessary are the people on the outside of the balloon who keep it afloat. Their souls are free to soar, explore, expand.
    Whether on the inside or the outside of the balloon, we all have purpose and are indispensable.
    Larry, are you still shy because you are “insecure and unworthy” or because you choose carefully when to speak and when to listen? Is it called shyness when you remain quiet and let your poetry and music speak for you?

  10. Lu – Sorry I missed your comment until now. Hope you get back to see that I finally found it. Thank you for your thoughts. Shyness, I guess, does not automatically make one the object of pity. As for your question, I’m still working on an answer.

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