I think everyone feels awkward and out of place in junior high, but somehow, you make yourself believe that you're the only who feels that way. As a seventh grader I was shy; I had a hard time talking to new people, especially girls. A bit on the chubby side and self-conscious about my weight, I was the kid who was afraid to take showers after P.E. I dressed in baggy shirts and baggy shorts and even my glasses were baggy (to be fair, baggy was in during the mid 90s).
I remember the first time I heard Weezer's "My Name Is Jonas," almost 16 years ago as that frumpy, 13 year-old seventh grader. As a brand new teenager, the music I listened to consisted of the Star Wars Trilogy soundtrack and a small repertoire of Chicago and Peter Cetera songs I had heard incessantly as a kid (my dad being a huge fan of Chicago and Mr. Cetera). As great as those songs were and are, "My Name As Jonas" made me feel something different. It was a strange nostalgia -- nostalgia for what, I don't know, I was too young to be nostalgic -- I didn't understand the feeling (I still don't) but I was nevertheless hooked. Weezer became my favorite band, my first true love.
As my love grew, I learned more and more about the band, and in particular their singer and principal songwriter, Rivers Cuomo. To me, Rivers was a kindred spirit. He too was shy, and by his appearance, he seemed to not quite fit his niche, the world of rock and roll.
If I had to choose a favorite song of all time this might be it.
About a year after my first encounter with the band, Rivers and Weezer released their second album, Pinkerton. I didn't understand the album at first. It was so much more messy and raw than their debut album, the lyrics were intensely personal, and at the tender age of 14, I was too young relate to most of the subject matter. However, the album's first single, "El Scorcho," a song about about being too shy to talk to a girl despite having so much in common, struck a chord and kept me coming back to Pinkerton.
As I grew up and experienced life, this album began to mean more and more to me. The premise of the song "Pink Triangle" -- falling in love with a lesbian -- might seem laughable to a kid, but even a high schooler can know the pain of falling for that unattainable girl who barely knows you exist. Or the simple ache of loneliness found in "Across The Sea": "As if I could live on words and dreams and millions screams / Oh, how I need a hand in mine to feel". Or the simple joy of finally connecting with someone: "I'm shakin' at your touch / I like you way too much / My baby I'm afraid I'm falling for you."
Pinkerton felt like a glimpse into Rivers Cuomo's diary, but somewhere in my late teens it became my diary. Rivers became a distant and unknowable friend who nevertheless chose to share such private moments of his life with me. His music helped me be comfortable with the teenager I was: a chubby, shy kid who couldn't talk to girls.
Happy birthday, Rivers. Thank you for these 16 years of music, and thank you for the years to come. Keep being who you are.