One of the elements I most enjoyed from Popular: Vintage Wisdom for a Modern Geek by Maya Van Wagenen was the periodic insertion of “Maya’s Popularity Tips,” which ranged from tongue-in-cheek to hilariously specific to perfectly serious. They certainly could not be confused with the prim and proper tone of the 1951 advice she is following from author Betty Cornell.
Here are a few favorites:
Never throw up in class. It’s better just to run out of the room and retch in the hallway. Even if you make it to the trash can in the corner, if anyone sees you puke, you will be tormented forever. During elementary school I hurled in a wastebasket. When we moved away five years later, the last thing one boy said to me was, “You’re that girl who barfed in kindergarten.” It’s impossible to live some things down.
When you’re wearing an embarrassing hairstyle and people have started to notice, it’s always safest to have a sudden, urgent, need to pee.
Make your yearbook pictures memorable because, as my science teacher says, “Your grandkids have to laugh a something.”
Bite your tongue off before nerd-talking about Lord of the Rings to the boy you like. Unless he himself is from Middle Earth.
Don’t question your wardrobe choices based on someone else’s religious intolerance.
Laugh at your friends’ painful situations only after they give you permission to do so … or when no one else is around.
Maya’s Final Popularity Tip
Popularity is more than looks. It’s not clothes, hair, or even possessions. When we let go of these labels, we see how flimsy and relative they actually are. Real popularity is kindness and acceptance. It is about who you are, and how you treat others.
P.S. Betty Cornell’s Teen-Age Popularity Guide has now been republished and is available in bookstores and libraries for readers who want to enjoy the text that inspired Maya to live and write Popular!