the breakfast club

I hated high school. From the fall of 1990 until the spring of 1994, I tried too hard.

I tried too hard to be cool, to be popular, to be pretty, to be smart, to polish my college applications, to have a boyfriend, to be involved in everything, to be a perfect daughter, etc. It was hard to keep everything together. Added to the general turmoil and angst of being a teenage girl who desperately wanted to be liked and approved of, it was downright exhausting.

My school was like any other in the suburbs, maybe a touch edgier with its ban on wearing certain color combinations, multitude of security guards, gang fights in the cafeteria and the shooting I once witnessed outside the gymnasium, but pretty normal by most standards.

And by normal, I mean separated into cliques. And I fit no where. I was a brain – 15th out of a class of 537, secretary of National Honor Society and editor of the school paper. I was a jock – participated in volleyball and track. I was a leader – a member of the student council and president of the Latin Club.

But I was more defined by the things I didn’t have than by the things I did. I didn’t have perfect skin. I didn’t have self-confidence. I didn’t have designer jeans and $100 highlights and real Birkenstocks (just those fake ones I bought at Payless). I didn’t have pom-poms to wave on the sidelines or a booty to shake during half time. I didn’t have a dark personality. I didn’t want to do drugs or drink. I didn’t want to rebel. I couldn’t do complex mathematical equations or type 100 words a minute.

I spent a lot of time worrying about whether or not the popular girls: the Claires, the Betsys, the Megans, liked me. Instead, I should have been worried about what my real friends thought of me. What did the other normal, fun and friendly girls think every time I broke plans with them because I was invited to a party thrown by someone more popular? What did they think when I grabbed my books out of my locker near theirs and ran down the hall to the popular girls’ spot?

It took me a long time to get over this, this need to be liked. I still have it in a lot of ways. But I hope I would never again behave as I did in the early 90s. Because as much as that girl convinced herself she was nice, she didn’t have the first clue what nice was.

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10 Responses to the breakfast club

  1. Victoria says:

    That’s the trouble with high school. You’re just starting to realize that what other people think really does matter, but you spend too much time trying to improve what the wrong people think of you. The good thing is that the people who really matter usually forgive you because that’s what friends do. It’s a part of the learning process, and even though that process sucks, most of us learn what we need to know and we’re made better people for it.
    Makes me wonder what inspired this post. Reunion coming up?

  2. derekandmandy says:

    Oh, wow!
    That was powerfully true for me in so many ways….
    What a beautiful way to express it.
    No, you weren’t “not nice”, you were normal. As normal as any other girl in that same exact position. I know. I SO know.
    I’m like you in that I’m still like that a bit. It’s something I strive to get over every day. The need to be liked. The need to fit IN.
    It’s so much harder to try to be someone else, than to just be ourselves – the best ourselves that we can be….
    BTW, my husband will be ecstatic about your comment on his bar. 🙂 Thank you!

  3. ellinghouse says:

    oh I love this post! I was a lot like you in highschool…..probably not as smart. Glad it’s over but already getting nervous for my girls and dreading that!

  4. Jennifer says:

    So true. I wish I would have just forgotten about what “cool” meant and enjoyed my friends.

  5. Erin says:

    I probably could have written this post myself….if I had gone to a more typical high school. My school was so small (and all girls) that, even though we had cliques, well it just wasn’t the same. Everyone knew everything about everyone else….which causes it’s own set of awkward teenage problems.

  6. Christina says:

    High School sucked! I was an okay student, got grades just good enough to keep me out of trouble at home but I never really tried to do well. Such a waste! I was more into how I was going to do my hair and putting together my outfit for the day. I was not nice, I was a bitch, I thought way too much of myself and as a result find myself apologizing to women when I run into them now. living 2000+ miles away from “home” helps that from happening too often but it still does when I visit. I really wasted my time and energy on all the wrong things. I dont want to do it over but wish I had done it differently the first time.

  7. Oh god, being a teenager sucks. And in a good decade and a half we’re going to find out how sucky it is from the other side. Yippe.

    I went to the “Fame” high school in NYC, which made my experience plenty bizarre, but it took t’ill my mid-20s to realize that NO ONE really feels like they belong when they’re going through adolescent hell.

  8. Indygirl says:

    Wow. Just wow. That was poignant. Beautifully written.

  9. Mar says:

    Pretty much sounds like we were in the same boat.

  10. Do we ever get over this stuff? I’m not so sure we do or that we should. By being such a misfit, I learn that words hurt. I remember that every time I post to a blog, for example. I hated high school so much I barely went. I figured a way to get my absences excused and just didn’t go. College was fun though…. 🙂

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