Here’s the way I saw the social universe during junior high and high school. Was it at all similar for you?
- Top rung: Football and basketball players; cheerleaders/pompon girls
- 2nd rung: Other jocks; friends of jocks and cheerleaders
- 3rd rung: Cowboys
- 4th rung: Smart geeks
- 5th rung: Band weenies and choir/theater people
- 6th rung: Stoners
Really, this list overstates the importance of rungs 3-6. It felt like below the 2nd rung, we were all lumped together as varying degrees of Losers.
Me? I was a Band Weenie, and proud of it. I wore a funny hat during marching band parades and hung out with other Band Weenies. We had cleaner fun than the Popular Kids — we weren’t cool enough for alcohol and other vices. We were more likely to TP a house (the quarterback’s naturally; the closest I could get to him) than to attend a kegger.
I got through high school without making any really bad decisions, and I suppose it was said I had a pretty good head on my shoulders. So in a way, unpopularity worked for me.
But at the time, I was keenly aware of being low on the ladder. This fact was emphasized more recently at my mmmfrtieth reunion, when I wished I’d had a dime for every time a former Top Runger asked me, “And which high school did YOU go to?”
YOURS, you self-centered princess / narcissistic musclehead!
But no, I’m over it now. Clearly. Thanks for asking.
I often wondered where popularity comes from. I mean, at what age do you get assigned a rung? Was it before 4th grade, when I moved into the school system? Was I assigned a lower rung because I was new? Then why were other newcomers allowed access to the upper rungs? Was it simply that I was not an athlete? That my jeans were off-brand and not Calvin Kleins? (On second thought, if you clicked on the link above, I bet the reasons will become apparent.)
What were the qualities that separated the Ins from the Outs? And who got to be the judge? I’d like to think it wasn’t just being, uh, easy, back in the 70s and 80s. After all, isn’t it supposed to be a recent phenomenon that kids are very, uh, body-savvy by middle school?
Now Tessa and Reed are beginning to steer their way through social strata. In the early elementary grades, the rungs assignments are not yet set and the kiddies are not yet cutthroat evil vicious eager social climbers, but I’m not exactly sure when the game begins. It could be very soon for my children. Surely the foundation for each of them is already being formed.
So this makes me think: how can I best help them navigate the emerging strata in their social lives? How do I teach them to balance their individuality (Tessa has a unique sense of fashion , and Reed is one of the most enthusiastic Jedis-in-training in this galaxy) with attempts to fit in and conform? How do I keep them from being either the hurters or the hurtees?
What are your thoughts?
- What was your position and memories of your own ladder?
- Where does popularity come from?
- How will you / did you / would you help your children with these issues?
Note: this post was referenced on ABC.com.