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When you leave high school, you assume that you have left the petty bullshit behind- the cliques, the gossip, the jockeying for social position. You move on to your adult life thinking that from now on, everyone will be mature and kind to each other. College might have been a little cliquey but you found your way. It may have been tough to fit in at your first job after you graduated but that probably worked out just fine too. The next taste of high school-style behavior you will likely encounter is when your first child starts school. This was where I found out the hard way that the PTA is Mean Girls for grown-ups.

I was so excited when Claire began kindergarten. I genuinely wanted to help make her school a better place. I immediately began trying to meet other parents who felt the way that I did. I figured the best place to start was the PTA. After all, I wanted to be involved and what better way than by helping organize the events being held at the school? I could not attend the first meeting because of my work schedule but I began emailing with the president and filling out forms to let them know my strengths and where I might be best suited to lend my time.

As it turned out, no matter what those forms said I could contribute to the cause, the best place for me was apparently the same as a 1950’s housewife- in the kitchen. That fall, I was slated to volunteer at three events- the Back-To-School Fun Night, the Halloween Carnival and the holiday craft fair. I showed up at Back-To-School night and met the members of the PTA for the first time. They were busy and frazzled so I didn’t think much of their blase reaction to meeting me. They gave me a hair net and sent me to the back of the kitchen where it became my job to cut slices of pizza in half for us to sell. I was all alone and kind of bummed but I figured I was low on the PTA totem pole and needed to pay my dues. Someone had to do the grunt work, it may as well be the freshman! I figured we would all get to know each other later over coffee and scones like all PTA moms love to do.

Or maybe not. At the end of the Fun Night, I tossed my hair net into the garbage and went to talk to the other members but they barely registered my presence. I remember feeling like the youngest sibling in the family who has to jump up and down begging to be noticed. I left feeling a little miffed but not entirely discouraged- it was a busy night. Surely, at the next event, I would get to do something with a more social bent and maybe even make a friend.