Popularity is as confusing as an Excel spread sheet these days. No longer is it about just the students, it’s about logistics too. My ten-year-old daughter, who goes to an all girls school, explained to me for more than twenty minutes what “popular” means at her school. I had so many questions, and I was stunned at how “popular” now works in these modern times. I asked her if the teachers were aware of this, and she said, “No. You can’t tell them!” I promised I wouldn’t. But I told her I was writing about it.
I will tell you that being popular these days, or wanting to be popular, is as confusing and difficult as figuring out, let’s say, how a car engine works. (At least for me.) It starts at the beginning of the school year.
On the first week of school, there is something called, “acceptance week.” The teachers know nothing about this. During that week, the children decide what group they want to be in. There are four groups: “The Populars,” “The Cools,” “The Losers,” and “The Outcasts.”
You can choose what group you want to be in. But once you’re in that group, you are pretty much stuck there for the entire year. But what really shocked me was how, in pretty much every class or room in their school, “The Populars,” have their special hang out. Even down to the locker rooms! (When I went to school, the “Populars” only hung out in ONE place.) They didn’t mark their spots, like dogs, all over the school.
After their weekly swim lessons, “The Populars” hang out on the Marble floor area to shower. “The Cools” shower on the wood floor area, but I don’t know about “The Losers” or “The Outcasts.”
As my daughter explained, the MOST popular of “The Populars” take the private shower stalls. “But how do people know who is popular and who isn’t?” I asked my daughter. “You just know,” was her answer.
Even sitting in rows, at assemblies for example or watching a sports team, there is a pecking order. “The Populars” sit in the top row, “The Cools” sit in the middle row, and “The Losers” sit in the bottom row. (Again, as for “The Outcasts,” I really don’t think they care, because they live in their own dream world, one that I would live in!)
I asked my daughter what would happen if one of “The Cool” girls tried to stand on the marble floor area in the change room. “The ‘Populars’ will all just stare at you and won’t talk to you and you will feel so stupid,” she answered.
But can you move from “The Loser” Group or “The Cool Group” to “The Populars?” I asked.
“It’s really, really hard to do,” my daughter explained. I pressed; “So would someone who wasn’t in “The Populars” get to join that group if they wanted?”
My daughter answered, and I shouldn’t have been shocked about this, that to make it to “The Populars” you have to be “mean.”
The meaner you are, the more willing “The Populars” will take you in, but you have to work for it, and it could take months, and if they do accept you, you have to continue being mean. (We certainly didn’t have to WORK our way to become popular when I was at school!)
Of course, we all went through Grade Five, but “popular” at my school, didn’t mean you had to be mean (although more often then not they were) and “The Populars” at my school only had one hang out at school, not in every area in school, including the damn changing rooms.
So, where does my daughter fit in? She’s in “The Cools,” and I told her that’s the best place to be, because once you join “The Populars,” if they would even let her, she would HAVE to be mean all the time.
What I remember when I was my daughter’s age were the popular girls at my school were really pretty, really rich, or really well dressed, and also mean.
At my daughter’s school, however, pretty much all the girls live in their privileged bubbles, wear the exact same uniform, and from what I have seen, there is not one girl even slightly ugly.
I just had to ask my daughter, again, how, if everyone dresses the same, do her classmates know who is popular and who is not. “You just know,” was her answer again. “And you know where you can hang out or not.”
But, for all of you who think going to a privileged private school, where they all dress in uniform, even things out, it doesn’t. I hate to say this, but there will always, it seems, to be “The Populars,” but now they take over every spot in every room at the school.
I’m so proud of my daughter for being with “The Cools,” and not wanting to be a “Popular” because when you are in “The Cools,” apparently, you can talk to “The Populars,” or “The Losers,” or “The Outcasts,” and you won’t be judged and still be considered in “The Cools.”
I am still appalled that popularity is spreading like wild fire, down to who gets the best shower at school, and who gets to stand where, in the damn change room, to what row they sit in gym class. Why is it, I wonder, that to be in “The Populars” you have to be mean and get to take over so many areas? Popularity these days, after talking to my daughter, is so confusing. Everywhere at school, or on school grounds, there’s a place for “The Populars,” “The Cools,” “The Losers,” and “The Misfits.”
At least my daughter has no aspiration to be in “The Populars,” because who the heck wants to spend an entire school year being mean. Even my daughter is smart enough to know that’s not a happy place to be in.
I also wonder how the teachers do not see that the same Popular of “The Populars” always get the private showers? Or that “The Populars” are the only ones allowed to stand on the marble floor area?
And, yet, the children just “know.” And this includes where to sit, shower, and even what row to sit in watching a team game. Things were so much simpler when I went to school. You were popular or not, and you hung out in one place, if you were. Popularity now, seems to need a fucking map, so these girls can figure out where or where they should not be. So sad, but true.