Friday, October 2, 2009

Flashback Friday: I could have been popular

Lines between the Popular and Unpopular kids are drawn early, and mostly in permanent marker. The determining factors, then, are anybody's guess, since in second and third grade the idea of beauty is a non-concept, and the seeds of personality traits, senses of humor, and intelligence are only beginning to germinate.

But in third grade at Phil Lewis elementary school, I was somehow fortunate enough to be included on the Popular side of the line. I know this because it was abundantly clear that Makai, Jeffrey, and to a lesser degree, Brandon were the popular boys, and they would always chase me at recess. The ultimate goal of the chase was to plant a scandalous kiss, usually on the top of a girl's head, as odd as that might sound. In addition, when we all shuffled into the next-door classroom for joint movie-viewing, the three of them fought over who would get to occupy the seat on either side of mine. I held these clues in high esteem.

Various Rules of the Playground apply at every school I suppose. Some are the unwritten, naturally occurring type, while others are enforced by the almighty Recess Duty teacher. At our school the swings must have been a highly coveted commodity, because a rule was created which allowed a student awaiting his turn to stand by a swing in use and count to a specified number, at which time his turn would commence.

On this fateful day, the three Popular Boys were swinging, and I wanted to join them. There must have been more than three swings, but I made the lamentable choice to "count on" Brandon, which effectively forced him to alight and allow me to have a turn alongside the other two boys. There was no question that I preferred the suave Hawaiian and funny red-head over their more stout and spiky-haired friend. But what I failed to realize was that their friendship did not take kindly to my preference. Bros before Hos, dude.
So in one fell swoop my status as their friend and object of pursuit was shattered. Of course in third grade, alliances are made and broken and repaired over the course of a few days. Seemingly life-altering quarrels are magically resolved before the weekend. So this altercation and resulting hurt feelings could have easily been patched given time and carefully spoken apologies.

That afternoon, however, my parents made the staggering announcement that we would be moving away. For the few remaining weeks of school, things were never quite the same between me and those boys.

I have a very distinct memory of a discussion in the car with my parents several months after the move. They were wondering how I was doing in fourth grade at my new school. I was the 'new girl,' and those hideous LINES had already been drawn before my arrival. I wasn't being invited to cross over to the Popular side of the line. And my nine-year-old self cried miserably as I explained that if I could have stayed at my old school I would have been a Popular Kid, but now I was nothing.

My parents gave me the usual rhetoric about how unimportant being Popular is, and that it is more important to be nice to everyone. They proceeded to ask me what "being popular" even means, and I didn't want to admit that I couldn't conjure up a good definition. I just knew who was and who was not. And I was not. But at my new home I made good friends with whom I still remain close. Thankfully I grew out of that irrational desire for Popularity, but there was one other time that I watched the opportunity to be one of the Cool Kids slip through my grasp. I'll tell you about it next week.


Annie said...

Uggh! I hate the pack mentality.

And, I was a popular kid...snicker...

Anonymous said...

another fun story. From the mom-perspective...I read this book:
"Bringing Up Geeks: How to Protect Your Kid's Childhood in a Grow-Up-Too-Fast World"
The author has a very interesting take on why it can be less healthy to be a "popular kid" these days. btw... "GEEKS" in the title stands for Genuine, Enthusiastic, Empowered Kids. full disclosure: Christian Author


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