At my California high school, my best friend Jeannette and I lived parallel lives: Advanced Placement classes, trivia competitions, swimming and track. We were nerds, sort of, but also jocks, sort of, and as a result were pretty much never invited to parties. Instead, we’d siphon small amounts of liquor out of five or six bottles from her father’s cabinet, combine it all into a Nalgene and go bowling. She felt deeply uncool. I thought we were awesome.
I puzzled over the difference in our perspective for decades, only recently realizing that I felt perfectly acceptable, though not totally accepted, because I knew what it meant to be truly unpopular.