Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Why middle school is full of the suck.

I wrote out this post awesomely yesterday and then lost it thanks to the server. I’m peeved. Hopefully I can recreate it

Day O8: Someone who made your life hell or treated you like shit.

Aside from the obvious subject of Day 04, the “person” who made my life most crappy was 85% of the people I went to middle school with. No joke. Middle school experience was awful.

My middle school served four elementary schools: mine, another middle class school like mine, a lower income school that required an hour and 45 minute bus ride to get there, and one of Tucson’s highest income schools. Quite a mix. The kids who went to the high income school - which we’ll call Moneybags Elementary for the purposes of this post - lived in huge houses in the foothills, their parents drove fancy cars, and most of them had stay-at-home moms, if not nannies. Now, don’t get me wrong, these things are all very nice, but there’s a difference between having money and being humble, and having money and feeling the need to show it off. Moneybags Elementary kids were the second kind. My pal Shelly would call them “new money,” like Molly Brown from Titanic.

Anyway, the rest of the school came from more modest neighborhoods. We were taken care of, clothed, and fed, but our parents didn’t necessarily have extra wads of cash for things like Mossimo shirts (remember when Mossimo was cool? Stussy, anyone?) and trips to Telluride. I'm not bitter, it was just a different lifestyle. Neither was better than the other. Unless you were a Moneybags kid, and then the rest of us may as well have lived in gutters and worn trashbags to school and they weren’t going to let us forget it.

In middle school, the only thing anyone wants is to fit in. So for me, not having the things the “cool” kids had was the worst thing possible. Any way in which I was different was instantly detected and used as a weapon against me. I swam synchronized swimming and was teased for smelling like chlorine. I tried to wear make up to fit in and be pretty, but mascara sometimes left me with raccoon eyes, so I was teased for that. My 7th grade math teacher was my swim coach, and although her classroom was my safe haven, I was teased for being teacher’s pet, even though she knew the perils of middle school and made sure to never draw attention to me. Despite my current voluptuosity (rad word, huh?) I was rail thin in middle school, had size 8 feet, frizzy hair, braces, and glasses. Moneybags kids had clear retainers, contact lenses, blowdryers, Vans shoes (instantly negates size of feet), and meat on their bones. They were like a Gap Juniors (if that existed) catalog come to life.

Needless to say, I hated middle school, and not for the reasons you’re supposed to like P.E. showers and boys teasing you because they like you. Those would have been cake walks. I begged my mom to take me out of that school, to home school me or let me go somewhere else. Neither of those were options though. My mom is a saint, and I don’t know how I got through it without her. I can see how the teasing and bullying of middle school would lead kids to things like self-harm, eating disorders, and worse. It’s brutal. On the day of my 8th grade graduation, I remember crying when I saw my parents after the ceremony, in part in sadness in knowing I’d miss the few friends I did have, but mostly in absolutely relief that it was finally fucking over.

I did get reprieve in not going to the high school that my middle school fed into. I instead went to a magnet school that had actual diversity. The Moneybags kids went to their neighborhood high school. I have run into a few of them in the last 13 years and it always makes me uneasy. When I worked retail in college, one of the guys came in. I was helping him find some jeans or something and I mentioned that I recognized him from middle school. He said I didn’t look familiar and asked my name. When I told him, he said, “nope, doesn’t ring a bell.” We had home-room and our core classes together, and we rode the same bus. I could have named every single one of my tormentors, and their faces are ingrained on my grey matter, and he didn’t even recognize me. It hit me that teasing me was just another day at school for those kids.

If I have to be forced to send my kids to middle school (I'd rather send them to a cannibal-inhabited deserted island), I plan to be honest and tell them how difficult it was for me. I want them to know that teasing is hurtful for years afterward. I know that cliques are a natural part of life at that age, and there’s a need to establish pecking order, but hopefully my kids will come out of middle school with less trauma than I had, and hopefully not cause any either.

3 comments:

BrownEyedGirlsMom said...

I had frizzy hair and braces in middle school too!

shana said...

I moved to a new school in 5th grade...right in the middle of my awkward stage. I was all skinny legs and arms and giant feet and bad hair. I transferred into a tiny school where everyone had known each other since birth and their parents were all friends before them. I was a complete outcast and I never truly fit in...even with my "friends". It sucked and I was so happy to get to high school...which was still sucky, but so much better.

I agree with you...I'm going to tell my kids the truth and hope and pray that they have an easier time than I did.

Thanks for sharing this. I loved it.

MrsCaptKerk said...

You are so not alone in this! And I actually thought about writing about my middle school experience...but I chickened out.

I transferred schools in 7th grade and it was terrible. I had zero friends. I didn't even have a teacher to stick up for me. Sometimes I think people forget how cruel kids are. And its so sad.

I'm so glad you posted this :)