Well, as with most cool things, I was never wearing flannel much at the time. I never wore the shirts unbuttoned over that trailer park kid white tee-shirt with the jeans torn up. I wore my sweatshirts and corduroy jeans. I wore my Reebok sneakers (which may or may not have lit up with flashing lights in the heel). I wore my hair straight and not disheveled. I had these thin circular glasses propped on my face. I bathed once and a while. Given all these facts, you can probably guess that I wasn't one of the cool kids in the mid-90s, but I tried obsessively to get into that inner circle. And gentlemen, I may have made it further towards acceptance by the flannel jerks than any dork ever has.
Here is my tragic story of profound heroism, and how it all went so wrong. To this day, flannel brings back memories of desperation and ambition gone awry. Of me sitting with my friend Nick behind a divider wall in the classroom, sitting in those little yellow plastic chairs at eight years old, him teaching me how to burp on command of course. It was school after all, and if we were supposed to be learning how to read dumb Little Bo Peep stories about little girly girlies getting all up in a whirly whirly over who-gives-a-CRAP?!, we figured we might as well be learning how to do something useful. See, burping is all in the way you turn your neck...
Anyways, there was this other boy I knew... and yes, he too could burp like a champ, really low pitched and loud, which is a very important... So anyways! He was awesome for a lot of other reasons: stone washed jeans, flannel shirt unbuttoned, white T-shirt, shades. The whole nine yards. Did I want to be him? Of course. Since that wasn't possible, suffice it to say I wanted to be cool like him. He had this gang of other third grade Cobain disciples, and I remember desperately wanting admittance into such an esteemed sanctum. I was so desperate in fact, I would've done anything. I would've uttered every swear word in existence with perfect pronunciation to be in the group. I would've climbed the tire castle on the playground to the top just to see how far I could launch spit out of my body to be in the group. I would've huffed the inside of this kid's Chuck's sneakers and held it like a bong hit for ten seconds three times over... to be in the group. And I mean, three really long huffs (I mean, drags) on his really, really, really rancid, festering, nasty, sweaty, intoxicating, hallucinogenic, delirium inducing, vomit producing, radioactively-smelly sneakers!. I would've taken twenty rock-thrown nutshots up against the brick wall in back of the school... without flinching (or puking!)... to be in the group. I would've poked my hand with a pen tip to the point of drawing blood... to be in the group.
And I know I would've... because I actually DID do all those things just to get these jerks to like me, and of course they actually thought it was the damn-dern funniest thing they'd ever seen, but trust me, this stuff gets real when you're a kid. Becoming "cool" in elementary school is literally life or death. I would've died to get "in" on whatever the hell they were actually doing, and all it probably was was just...I dunno, hanging out by the swing set? Shooting the shit? Being jerks? But no matter. It wasn't about doing all that stuff, it was about doing all that stuff with people who think you're cool. That's the point. Getting to do literally anything "along with them" was that freakin' important to me!
So no word of a lie, I passed through their rigorous series of harsh, painful, smelly, and often humiliating rituals and rites just to be counted among them. I hopped on every tire circling the playground at school without falling off once. I made a complete swing on the ropes and walked up the slippery metal slide. I climbed to the top of the tire pyramid on that playground. I wore shirts that, while not flannel, could be unbuttoned to expose that ever-necessary trailer park pit-stained tee-shirt. I attempted to burp the alphabet (only got to the G, I think). Hell, I let them poke my hand with a pen until blood was drawn! I was not afraid. Give me "cool kid status" or give me death!! And you know what, as crazy as it sounds... it actually worked.
At the end of it all, after all the degrading, demoralizing, humiliating, painful, injurious, testicle imploding, burp reverberating, macho nacho-ness abounding, they were finally proud to call me one of them. They let me sit at their lunch table. They let me hang out with them at recess. I'd finally made it. I was one of the club. I was cool. I had every protection they could afford. There was no more teasing. An official proclamation went out to all the other cool boys. I was part of the wolf pack. It was probably the greatest achievement of my life (especially considering the last 20 years...). And so, that's when I lost it!
It turns out that cool kids are so "cool" they don't have to go announce to the teacher what they were put through to order to become cool. One whiff of that and she came down stern on the whole crew, all the boys who I'd so conveniently named by name, and that was that. "Cool kids don't rat," they said afterwords, and then there was nothing but hostility for the rest of the year. Oh well. As Bob Dylan once said, "Life is bad, life is a bust, all you can do is do what you must." I quickly went back to combing my hair and wearing sweatshirts. That was a must.
The moral of the story is, "90s kids man... 90s kids."