I grew up in Flagler County Florida, where surfing rules, brah.
When I was in middle school, being a surfer was the popular social designation. It trumped any other athletic pursuit—soccer, lacrosse, football, cheerleading, wrestling—they all deferred to surfing.
Surfing defined a predominant part of our kiddie culture, complete with special slang and the coolest gear. They were the cool kids; the inner circle—at least, that was the way it seemed to me.
They were amazing.
I was not a surfer. I was also painfully shy. I had friends, but mostly existed on the periphery, excessive awkwardness crippling any chance of breaking into the elite crowd. I was never bullied directly, but, in my mind, I had constructed such a vast disparity in social ranking between myself and the surfers that I would suffer strange psychological symptoms including, but not limited to, panic attacks in their presence.
In our school, one of the biggest, baddest, most respected insults a kid could hurl at another was being called a “poser.” This label was used liberally and enthusiastically by the popular kids as they called out others for misrepresenting themselves through speech and style.
I still fantasized about being like the surfers—their self-confidence was intoxicating. But I was too naive at the time to recognize that self-esteem and personal identity were what made them so magnetic and charismatic. I thought it was the cool surf gear. So although I lived in fear of also being outed as a “poser,” I begged my parents to buy me an overpriced Quiksilver t-shirt and Shark watch, even though these things didn’t fit into our family budget.