Friday, April 30, 2010

The Cool Kids

I recently read “Nineteen Minutes” by Jodi Picoult. It’s a courtroom drama about the aftermath of a school shooting. Naturally popularity and bullying were both major themes in the novel. I also tend to read a lot of YA, and based upon these books it’s easy to assume that every single teen in the world desprately wants to be popular. And if you’re not popular, well then you probably hate yourself enough to contimplate things like mass murder.

But now, thinking back, I can’t even remember who the popular kids at my high school were. And I certainly never wanted to be friends with them. I do remember in junior high one of the super cool boys asking me out in the middle of class. I was an uber dork and it was probably supposed to be some sort of prank. But when I turned him down, I was being honest. I really didn’t want anything to do with that guy. In fact, I spent a lot of my teen years actively trying to be unpopular.

I was a “smart kid”. I took all honors and AP classes and participated in enough extra caricular activities to ensure a properly well rounded college application. All of my friends were equally achedmically motivated, many of them going on to Ivy League schools. My cluster of friends didn’t include many cheerleaders or football players, but I did sit at the same lunch table as the student body president and the yearbook editor.

I had a fairly large group of friends, but I didn’t really like all that many of them. The constant pressure to succeed combined with standard teen angst made most of my friends extreamly shallow and superficial. They all seemed so fake, it drove me crazy. Now looking back, I guess it’s possible that I may have really enjoyed getting to know some of the other kids at my high school. But at the time, I assumed everyone else was worse. My friends were the “smart kids” the “nerds”. Surely the jocks and cheerleaders would be infinitely more caddy, right?

Now that I’m an adult, I like my friends. I’ve always been a social person, and have a lot of friends that I hang out with on a regular basis. They were all dorks in high school who grew up to be well educated successful adults. But they aren’t shallow and superficial anymore, they’re just people with interesting thoughts whom I enjoy talking to. I recently took an informal pole of my adult friends. Very few of them have anything more than a vague memory of who the “cool kids” were at their high schools. Most of them assume they were teased or bullied a little, but nobody had any memories scaring enough to stick.

So maybe the old addage is true. The nerds do grow up to be happy adults, and the popular kids grow up to long for their high school days of success. So where does that put YA literature? Peer pressure, angsiety about fitting in, and bullying are all real issues that teens deal with. So completely removing them from fictional media would be disingenuous. But not every teen wants to be popular, I never did. And none of my current friends ever did either.

So what about you? Can you remember who the cool kids were at your high school? If one of them talked to you in the halls, would it have made your day? Or would you have hidden in fear? Or would you have simply not cared?

Joke of the Day
A dyslexic kid asked his mom if he could go to McDonalds for dinner. His mom said, “Sure, but you have to spell in before we go.”

The kid thought about it for a minute before replying, “I changed my mind. Can we go to KFC instead.”

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

That's a little too much labeling for me.