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Teen Girl Goes Old School (1951) to Get Popular

Did you ever wish you could go back to high school knowing what you do now about human nature?

by
Scott Ott

Bio

June 2, 2014 - 8:00 am

Bought the book in the morning. Finished it in the afternoon. Literally could not put it down.

That may sound odd when you learn that I’m a 52-year-old father of four and I’m talking about a nonfiction book written by a geeky teenaged girl about her efforts to become popular. But it’s weirder than that: I actually had to reach for the Kleenex more than a time or two.

Popular: Vintage Wisdom for a Modern GeekIn Popular: Vintage Wisdom for a Modern Geek, Maya Van Wagenen, 15, lives and writes an engaging adventure — a social experiment, in which she tries to apply the lessons of “Betty Cornell’s Teenage Popularity Guide,” which her Dad found in a thrift store. Maya manages to bring precocious insight into the human condition through a fun, often dramatic, personal story.

Did you ever wish you could go back to high school knowing what you do now about human nature? Maya actually does it, but as a middle-schooler willing to test out principles of grooming, attire and attitude tailored for 1951. And she doesn’t update them. She lives out the vintage popularity guide as written.

Maya: Before

Maya Van Wagenen before she wrote (and lived) “Popular: Vintage Wisdom for a Modern Geek.”

How could paleolithic advice about makeup, girdles and etiquette survive the onslaught of feminism and political correctness? Quite well actually — surprisingly well. But ultimately, what Maya learns has little to do with superficial attractiveness. It really gets at the core of why some people seem to naturally attract friends, and have more fun, while others live lives of quiet desperation.

It’s easy to understand why this book, out since April 15, has already been optioned for a movie. I hope that the studio realizes that this is much more than a story of teenage angst — that it has broad appeal, and deep meaning.

Scott Ott co-hosts a news, commentary and humor show called Trifecta on PJTV. He created and hosted the 20-part series on the Constitution titled Freedom's Charter. His satire site, ScrappleFace, spawned three books and praise from Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Mark Levin and many others.

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Top Rated Comments   
Being "popular" matters to most people, but we all have different definitions. I like being popular with my coworkers: liked and appreciated for what I bring socially and professionally to our group. Not only is it pleasant to be around people who like and appreciate me, it is also a validation that I am doing something right. If I were a grouch and bad at my job then not many people would like me.

For teenagers it's a little different because they don't have the experience of adults to understand who's opinion should matter and who's should not, so many think validation is in as many people liking them as possible, i.e. being popular.

Plus, while teenagers can reinforce many negative behaviors with the reward of popularity, I never knew anyone popular who wasn't well groomed and well spoken. And many of the popular people I knew in school were NICE (especially the guys) which contributed greatly to their popularity. Though mean or nice the most common trait held by the popular kids when I was younger was an aura of confidence (even if it was feigned).

While popular people can be mean and/or shallow, those aren't necessarily defining traits and wanting to be popular is understandable.
20 weeks ago
20 weeks ago Link To Comment
Narcissism plagues both genders, dear.
20 weeks ago
20 weeks ago Link To Comment
Because women like being the center of attention. It's natural for them.
20 weeks ago
20 weeks ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (23)
All Comments   (23)
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I was pretty much a loner in high school with a couple of close friends and I spent most of my time pursing electronics and computers back in the 70s (My high school was one of the few with a real computer system (DEC PDP 11/34) and I helped run it).

I wondered what it was like to be popular, so when I got to college I decided that I would be outgoing and fun and meet as many people as possible. It worked. I was very popular at first and had literally dozens of acquaintances who were always calling me to go do something and I was getting invited to every party.

However, I missed my alone time. I had no time for myself. I was always on the go. I learned that if I got invited to a party, but I already had committed that time to another place, people would get a little upset if I politely thanked them, but declined the invite.

Not wanting to upset anyone, I tried to attend all of the parties. It was very tiring. Everyone seemed happy but me. I learned that it really takes a lot of effort to be popular and it really leaves little time for doing the things that I loved. After a month and a half of the popular life, my grades were in the toilet and I realized that I needed to balance my study time with my social time.

Funny thing is, once I started cutting back on my social life, many of my new found friends got upset with me. One by one, they stopped calling. By the end of my first term, I was back to a small group of my high school friends plus a few new ones on my dorm floor, but I was much happier.

Some people just aren't built for the big social life. It made me wonder how many of the popular kids in high school secretly wished they weren't so popular. I wonder if anyone ever wrote a book like that.
20 weeks ago
20 weeks ago Link To Comment
Why aspire to exclusivity?
20 weeks ago
20 weeks ago Link To Comment
Exactly, as that is what being popular is all about.
20 weeks ago
20 weeks ago Link To Comment
I wish this story, as written, had more depth. I learned nothing. But I want everyone to know that I wrote a book about parakeets at age nine, and I wonder if it can be made into a movie because I could sure use the dough.
20 weeks ago
20 weeks ago Link To Comment
lol !
20 weeks ago
20 weeks ago Link To Comment
I was never much of a fitter inner but a single datum isn't prescriptive.
20 weeks ago
20 weeks ago Link To Comment
Same with me. I was definitely contrarian in nature, if most of the kids were doing one thing, I had an aversion to joining in with the crowd and would do something else.

It has never gone away with me. The more popular an item becomes, the less I want it.
20 weeks ago
20 weeks ago Link To Comment
I have never understood why someone works to become "popular". Why anyone even cares about it.

It simply does not compute.

"Shallow" does not begin to describe it.

20 weeks ago
20 weeks ago Link To Comment
Being "popular" matters to most people, but we all have different definitions. I like being popular with my coworkers: liked and appreciated for what I bring socially and professionally to our group. Not only is it pleasant to be around people who like and appreciate me, it is also a validation that I am doing something right. If I were a grouch and bad at my job then not many people would like me.

For teenagers it's a little different because they don't have the experience of adults to understand who's opinion should matter and who's should not, so many think validation is in as many people liking them as possible, i.e. being popular.

Plus, while teenagers can reinforce many negative behaviors with the reward of popularity, I never knew anyone popular who wasn't well groomed and well spoken. And many of the popular people I knew in school were NICE (especially the guys) which contributed greatly to their popularity. Though mean or nice the most common trait held by the popular kids when I was younger was an aura of confidence (even if it was feigned).

While popular people can be mean and/or shallow, those aren't necessarily defining traits and wanting to be popular is understandable.
20 weeks ago
20 weeks ago Link To Comment
When my daughter was 14, she announced that her main goal was to be "popular". My how things change as we mature (at least, I hope they do for everybody)!
20 weeks ago
20 weeks ago Link To Comment
MC88, excellent comment, you nailed the "popularity" conundrum.

Almost all the popular of my youth were attractive, well-groomed, communicative and confident. It's the confidence that does it however.

Throughout the years, I have had many young people work for me and as a fatherless child relished the opportunity to mentor. I always told them it was like hitting a baseball, often times the harder you try the less likely you will succeed.

Relax, get the mechanics right and approach life liking yourself. Never try too hard, because it shows.

Aha...if only I hard known me when I was young.
20 weeks ago
20 weeks ago Link To Comment
Not necessarily shallow. Some people with low self-esteem need other people to validate their sefl-worth.
Consider yourself luck that it does not compute for you.
20 weeks ago
20 weeks ago Link To Comment
Because women like being the center of attention. It's natural for them.
20 weeks ago
20 weeks ago Link To Comment
I gather you know no women other than your mother, and I bet she was a disaster in her role as your female reference book.
20 weeks ago
20 weeks ago Link To Comment
Narcissism plagues both genders, dear.
20 weeks ago
20 weeks ago Link To Comment
Two-word proof: Barack Obama.
20 weeks ago
20 weeks ago Link To Comment
Why yes... Female narcissism is a plague on men who have to deal with it. How perceptive of you.
20 weeks ago
20 weeks ago Link To Comment
20 weeks ago
20 weeks ago Link To Comment
Fitting in is not the same as being "popular".

20 weeks ago
20 weeks ago Link To Comment
I just read the Amazon reviews, and will be buying it as soon as my Kindle charges. Thanks, it looks like a good read.
20 weeks ago
20 weeks ago Link To Comment
I'll take insight anywhere I can get it. Do you feel the book would be suitable for a young teenager to read?
20 weeks ago
20 weeks ago Link To Comment
Yes, Katherine, although depending on your parenting style, you may want to read through it first, but I don't think you'll find anything you'll find inappropriate, and the overall message of the book is terrific.
20 weeks ago
20 weeks ago Link To Comment
Thanks, Scott. I have two girls who could both benefit from this.
20 weeks ago
20 weeks ago Link To Comment
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