Being a cool kid at my high school meant spending an enormous amount of money at the mall, running track, and hanging out with a particular cluster of other people, at least one of whom fled a house party getting busted by the police and thought that his mom’s minivan was a good place to hide. This might have been true had it not been (a) stationary and (b) parked in front of said house, where said house party had just been cleared. It will shock no one to know that I wasn’t considered a cool kid, but to be honest, being a cool kid sounded pretty exhausting so I didn’t mind.
Charlie, as we can see from his absolutely fantastic horrified face, is buckling under the associated pressures. Although he’s definitely smart enough not to do the minivan thing.
Even without the financial burden of making sure I dressed the part or cruel joke that would be my participation in running track, I had a lot on my mind. One of the major elements of the teenaged experience that I wanted to convey with this story is the constant sense of impending doom that trailed me everywhere. My parents and authority figures liked to complain (and still do) that I seemed to wander around feeling impervious to reality, which is hilarious because all of my memories of high school involve being terrified someone was going to figure out that underneath a thin veneer of social competence, I was a hot bottled mess.
Charlie — who has the absolute best horrified faces — has the thinnest veneer of normalcy covering this massive well of weirdo tendencies and introversion. It’s just his misfortune that his slightly skittish, just-this-side-of-too-quiet nature keeps getting mistranslated as cool. That’s its own set of social pressures, and as we’ll see more and more, Charlie is very ill-equipped to handle them.