VALPARAISO, IN—Expressing concern that his summer vacation is too quickly passing him by, local incoming seventh-grader Matthew Valentine told reporters Tuesday he now has just two weeks left in which to acquire a cool new identity before school starts.
The 13-year-old acknowledged that he must dedicate all his remaining free time to developing a socially acceptable persona he can display to his classmates, noting that he still has a lot of work to do if he is to assemble a recognizable combination of attitudes, style choices, interests, and favorite bands that will win his peers’ approval during the upcoming school year.
“The clock is ticking, and I still haven’t figured out who I’m going to be yet,” said Valentine, adding that he hopes to remake himself as a popular kid, a scenester, a rebel, a hip-hop head, or a member of some other respected social category prior to his first day of classes at Thomas Jefferson Middle School. “At one point, I was going to try to come back as a skater punk, but I never did learn to skateboard, and after that I kind of lost track of the days. Now, I’ve really got to scramble if I’m going to put together a cool personality.”
“I mean, school starts August 20th!” he continued. “I’ve only got a few days left to get down to work and change myself into the person I want people to think I am.”
The middle-schooler confirmed he is currently considering which speech patterns, mannerisms, clothing preferences, and hangout spots to adopt. He stressed that he must select between a variety of potential identities—from intellectual to class clown—carefully hone his presentation of his new personality, and then convincingly sell that persona to his fellow TJMS students when school starts.
To that end, the teenager said, he has begun testing slang phrases quietly under his breath throughout the day, and has spent hours trying out different hairstyles and facial expressions—including aloof indifference, casual self-assurance, and unruly defiance—in his bathroom mirror. According to Valentine, he attempted a “dry run” earlier this week in which he made a trip to his local mall while experimenting with the appearance and demeanor of a ska kid, “just to see if it clicked.”
Valentine also admitted to making a number of false starts during his three-month break from school, pointing to an aborted attempt to play summer sports and present himself as a jock, as well as four futile weeks spent trying to teach himself acoustic guitar, in hopes of becoming a sensitive artistic type.
“I have a few collared shirts, so I guess I could start acting real preppy and see if that sticks,” said Valentine, who cited hopes of distancing himself from his sixth-grade friends and being taken in by another, more socially prominent clique. “Or maybe I’ll just grow out my hair a little, wear a hemp beanie, and become a stoner. I honestly wouldn’t know where to buy any pot, though, and I’m not sure I’d want to, anyway. This is really tough.”
Describing a catastrophic and speedily abandoned attempt to “go goth” after winter break last year, the seventh-grader said he had learned a valuable lesson about the consequences of not choosing a well-constructed identity before returning to school. According to Valentine, the group of goth kids at his junior high, which had coalesced early in the fall term, dismissed him as a poseur, and after a day or two, he was forced to put away his black clothing and boots and return to being a normal kid.
“There’s a very short window at the start of school when I have to establish myself, and then I’m that person for the rest of the year,” Valentine said. “One thing’s for sure: If I don’t get my act together, start pretending to like a completely different type of music, and choose to either love or hate team sports, then I won’t have any option but to suck it up and go back to school as myself.”
“God, I really, really hope it doesn’t come to that,” he added.