I remember high school. Almost everyone was a brand.
I remember the art geeks wearing black clothes and earrings high in the ear that looked like it hurt and I winced when I saw it.
I remember the football jocks who sat at the popular table, well, not all of them popular, but they liked to think so, or they hoped so.
I remember the popular crowd that started in middle school with only a small group of kids, all kids, all unsure, desperate to find a spot to call their own at the lunch table the first week.
As the years went by, the circle grew, and soon a large crowd of kids were friends by senior graduation. Some of those same kids who in middle school when alone at night in their bed, their covers pulled up to their chin, trying to ignore the tiny squeaking of a mosquito, dreamed of being in that crowd. And they made it.
Maybe it was the casual way they said hello to a certain girl every day after practicing for hours the night before. Maybe it was that they sat behind the right boy in French class. Maybe it was that they copied the clothing styles the best they could of the popular crowds. Who knows? But it happened.
Some never desired to be in that crowd. They were confident in who they were. Maybe their families went out for soft serve ice cream with sprinkles every Sunday night, they laughed, they talked. Maybe they played Monopoly on Friday nights and learned the value of not giving away all their valuables early on. Maybe a grandmother whispered in their ears that they didn’t need the validation of anyone else to feel important. And they believed it.
It was never about being popular even if they were convinced it was. It was about feeling loved, special, that they held a spot in this world and if they left, they’d be missed.
All kids move on from the bubble called high school and they realize it was all a game. They wish they could go back and tell themselves to not spend hours worrying.
Except then they enter the work world and they realize that the groups, the cliques, the popular crowds don’t fade away. They go to the Kindergarten playground and soon realize that certain mommies rule the school, even if it’s not obvious at first. They see it starting with their children, even at preschool, and realize that dealing with people is a part of life.
Maybe late one night, their kids tucked in bed, sleeping, they realize that the game always exists if one wants to play. This time, thankfully, they step back, away from the pressure, and choose their own course, their own happiness.
They stick their daughter’s earbuds into their ears and dance to Lady Gaga in their jammies, not caring if the neighbors can see through the window.
And they decide that’s the best place to be.
I loved this post, Laura. My daughter is in middle school and I see it all unfolding. I happen to enjoy dancing in my jammies, but it’s usually to Train! 🙂
My daughter is in kindergarten and my son is in preschool and I already see the cliques. I know what you mean about the mom’s that rule the school. It’s crazy how it never changes, but now I know to just be me. It took many, many years to learn that.
Thanks! I guess the person dancing in the jammies is me even though I sometimes get caught up in appearances, I know not to make decisions based on a group of people, and I know to walk away from the snooty and exclusive. And I love being in this place.
I went to Catholic school so we had uniforms! There were 150 kids in my HS graduating class. Small! I guess there were certain groups of friends, but I didn’t pay attention to it. I had my best friends, but I talked to everybody. Besides, I’d known most of them since I want to elementary school with a third of my high school class!
I was traumatized by my best frenemy from around third grade through seventh. She was like some kidn of mob boss. When she was happy with me, I was in. But when she wasn’t I was OUT- and all my so called friends wouldn’t even look at me. It was horrible and stayed with me for a long time until I was around fifteen or so and started just being me. And what do you know? People slowly caught onto the fact that my frenemy was spiteful and manipulative and friends flocked to me because I wasn’t. Eventually most people grow up and stop being scared. There’s nothing worse than meeting an adult who is still afraid to be who they are and afraid of how others see them. So sad and unecessary.
Such a great post. We’ve been dealing with cliques in the last places you would expect them – church, the professional workplace, etc – and it is shocking to me how many people have never moved on from middle school and high school.
But then I catch myself with a longing to be accepted, to be popular, to be the one everyone flocks to, and I realize that even though I was homeschooled throughout middle school and high school, I’m not immune to those desires, either! Human nature, I guess. But really, the person rocking out to Gaga (or KT Tunstall!) in their jammies without caring what other people think is the happiest in the long run. No question.
I was thinking about the same thing the other day. More specifically, I was thinking about cliques that occur long after we’re done with school. Even Queen Bees continue to reign (unfortunately), though maybe not the same ones that existed in high school.
YES! Most people suck. But a few of them are cool. Unique. Individual.
One of them is you.
Yes, there are cliques everywhere, people trying to get into cliques everywhere and I get this sick feeling in my stomach when I start doing something in social media or anywhere else when I’m doing it just b/c I feel I have to or just to impress someone. In fact, I’ll rebel and do the opposite. I have no desire to go back to middle school! Thanks everyone!
Oh, I’d so join you. I love to dance and like the song, I’m A Okay to dance by myself.
I played the game for too long. Even saw some of being played at Open House last night.
Done playing. I’d rather live free.
This is beautiful, Laura. Truthful and poetic.
It especially hits me now as my daughter has just started 8th grade. She’s pretty secure in herself and doesn’t try to follow a crowd too much, but at this age, they all worry and all feel left out at times. It’s such a tough age.
Thanks for the reminders I can share with her!
“…not giving their valuables away early on.”
Brought back lots of memories.
So love this! I’ve been listening to “Born this Way” all week. #samewavelength 🙂
So true. It never seems to end, but the way we deal with it does.
Love this post, Laura.
So much truth here. So many memories.
Beautiful post and so true! But I dance to Brad Paisley rather than Lady Gaga. 🙂
You made me do this: 😀 Such an awesome post. And I think some never get there, but that’s kind of sad because we should all feel free enough to dance to Lady Gaga in our jammies.
Totally agree, Laura. Nicely put.
And in case you’re wondering, in the post, I wasn’t really talking about middle school and dancing to Lady Gaga. But the freedom to be bold in your writing and your career choice.
Beautiful post. Makes me want to get back into my jammies and dance! Except I like to rock out to Ella Fitzgerald!
I love this. Can’t tell you how many times, for whatever reason, I’ve shut out the world. Sometimes I use earbuds and music, sometimes a coffee and a quiet place to read. But, I do it and I’m glad I’m not the only one:)
For some reason this brought tears to my eyes. Huh…could it be b/c I can SO relate (and so can many others)?! Gorgeous post, L!
Thanks for sharing your dancing moves and motivation!
Oh, Laura, that was lovely. You made me cry. Dang it.
“It was about feeling loved, special, that they held a spot in this world and if they left, they’d be missed.”
This is it, the core of everyone. Bottom line.
Beautiful post, Laura. I was one of those kids who never cared about being in the popular group. I think about that a lot, trying to figure out how to recreate that recipe for my own kids, so they’ll be happy with themselves. I think part of it is knowing our place in God’s world, how he made us and loves each of us. My parents were deliberate in teaching me that, and in showing me that I was special and important, like you mentioned.
Thanks for this reminder.
Becca @ The Bookshelf Muse
Dance, dance, dance, Laura!
I found that at my 10 year hs reunion, others were still trying to impress one another. At the 20th, it was much more relaxed. People were there to really talk and have fun.
So some do mature!
LOVED this. (Especially since my reunion is just around the corner. Again.)
I was from the family with the sprinkles and a strong feminist mom who also had the courage to be a nurturing mom– she saw the woman power in it. And a dad who stayed and loved us.
So many of my friends in high school gave up their identity to the group. An identity made cheap by not being respected and nourished in youth.
I love Richard Peck’s theory that you don’t figure out who you are in a pack. You discover this on the fringes.
Could this possibly be true all through life? (Just thinking out loud here.)
Great post, Laura!
Terrific post! High school can be so hard on so many – such a tough time for tender souls.
Great post! My family wasn’t the one that went out for ice cream, but we were the family that sat down to family dinner every night.
Amen to that. It’s taken me a long time, but I’m finally pretty okay with not being like other moms. My kids know they’re loved, and that’s the most important thing to me.
When I realized how much EFFORT it took, I quickly gave up on the pursuit of popularity. I had a couple good friends, and always books to keep me company!!
But you’re right, the game playing keeps on – love the comment about the moms that rule the playground. I don’t mind. (But shame on me, I still close the shades when I dance – love to dance to the Move It Move It song from Madagascar)
very cool post. I adore the way you captured the evolution that continues into adulthood. Too true–in both good and bad ways.
And I’m also glad I’m not the only Mama who lets her girls listen to Gaga! LOL! 😀 <3
Laura, I related to just about EVERYTHING in this post! My son just started high school and we’ve been having these very same talks. Thanks for the walk down memory lane.
I’ve got one in middle school and one in high school.
In the car the other day, my 9th grader commented about non-conformists conforming to non-conformism. All this from a discussion about a friend who went a little Emo at one point. Kids are very perceptive.
I loved this post, Laura. I heard something about the psychology of images and how we autonomate (yeah that’s not a word, but it should be) like this: that when we are teens, we look to others as if looking in a mirror–as in, really focusing on ourselves when we see others. We’re looking for clues about how they see us, and judging ourselves accordingly.
We’re supposed to evolve past that mirror stage, and really be confident in who we are so that we can truly see others, and empathize with them. (that’s when we see others through a window)
Clearly not the case with the moms who rule my kids’ school. 🙂 I think that judging others is an epidemic in my town. And “perfect” is the new popularity. How boring is that??
Can I dance with you?
Thanks everyone! Everyone is welcome to dance with me! 🙂
I was so status obsessed in high school. Thank goodness my children were more evolved than I. They embraced their brainiac and drama nerdness with gusto. Loved this post. Now I’m going to lie on the floor and listen to the Best of Bread.