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Sunday, November 30, 2008

rgz:A Popularity Discussion

This month, readergirlz is featuring the book, How to Be Popular by Meg Cabot.  In light of this new topic of the month, Little Willow  gathered the readergirlz divas, advisors and postergirlz to share our thoughts on popularity.

Here's my contribution to the discussion:

I will never forget my brushes with popularity during my high school years -- from the time one of the wrestling jocks had a major crush on me (!) in my freshman year, to when one of the most popular girls in my junior year became a true friend, to when a group of senior girls looked at me with a whole new set of eyes. All fascinating experiences for a girl who was not popular, who didn't always fit in.

I was one of those fortunate teens who could mingle with almost any group, but only in the fringes. To be in the core center of a group required an effort, a true belief that one belonged. I was a consummate rebel and unwilling to jump through hoops. Perhaps I was scared, or maybe I just didn't want to commit. It's funny, I'm really not sure now.

But I do know, looking back, that I always wanted to be accepted for who I was, not for what I represented. I hated being pigeon-holed as the Asian, the smart kid, the first chair violinist. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that the people who were most likely to see me for who I was, were the teens I thought were the least likely to.

This knowledge has been invaluable over the years and has shaped how I interact with people. There are people who will defy the definition of what it means to be popular, what it means to be beautiful, or exceptional. Yes, there are those who will always play the popularity card to the hilt, and be the epitome of every teen angst movie out there, but there are also the people out there who yearn to be seen for themselves, who believe in letting others shine, of letting people have their moment, and being true.

What are your observations about high school popularity?


Beth Kephart said...


I am wishing my son were still home, to read your wisdom. Thanks for this. I just posted a few thoughts on Little Willow's blog.

beckylevine said...

Popularity--I just knew I wasn't. I don't think I spent much time worrying about that issue, since there was no way. I worried much more about just individual people liking/disliking me--people in my circle or out of it, one on one in class. I was seriously, SERIOUSLY shy. I wanted straight hair and no glasses and ten pounds less to carry around, but even with all those changes popular would have been out of range. And,really, it wasn't a thing I wanted.

It is interesting, though. I do think it was the beginning of what amazes me these days about some of the YA I read--this feeling that there is (and was) a world out there that I have never moved around in. Many YAs have kids with thoughts, feelings, problems I recognize, but some...where was I when that was all going on?! :)

PJ Hoover said...

I'd be so much smarter were I to do it all over. And, that said, I'd probably be a horribly boring person, too.
Popularity seemed such a big deal back then.
And for the record, you are very popular among your blog world and critique group!

Little Willow said...

So interesting to hear different people's stories and note the commonalities!

beth said...

The more I live (and the more I teach high school) I realize how little popularity in high school is really significant. I used to think I was this horribly backwards person...but I've found out that I was actually considered one of the popular ones! It's all about perception--and I see that now, in teaching, more than anything else. It's not the pretty girls vs. the ugly ones--it's the ones who have confidence in themselves, the ones who are self-assured and don't care about popularity who are the popular ones. (With the exception of a few cheerleaders, of course, to whom image is everything)

PJ Hoover said...

Wait, Beth! I was a cheerleader :)

Shelli said...

I decided to make it popular to "not be popular". A little Reverse psychology.:)

Liz in Ink said...

This is so well written, HWM. I remember wondering why I wanted to be liked by mean girls, and not being able to tease out the answer but just knowing that I yearned for something they had. Some glow or spotlight. Sigh. I sometimes wish I could fast-forward my own kids through it, but better to work at keeping them strong and kind enough to survive it with grace.

Kelly said...

Thankfully our class meshed pretty well. Most classmates were friendly to one another. I was in a million activities so knew a lot of different people. There were no "mean girls" in our class. The class above us were another story! We called the cliquey girls, the "Gucci girls" due to their passion for name brands. Though now that I just attended my husbands 20th reunion, I noticed that people were friendlier, not caring about what others did in HS. Even the Gucci girls were pleasant to EVERYONE! :0)

Saints and Spinners said...

I wasn't popular in high school, but the school I went to was large enough that there wasn't one cool group. Many of the people in junior high who had been nasty and cliquish turned out to be pretty good people in high school. If I could do it over again with what I know now, I would have tried to find some smaller high school where no one knew me from elementary school onward and I could have gotten the extra help I needed. I also would have cut my hair short a whole lot sooner. For some reason, I thought big hair was essential to attracting guys--and I am a tad embarassed to admit that! Then again, this was the late eighties....