Thursday, July 26, 2007

It's Not So Fond For Everyone

I sometimes wonder if my high school experience would have been any different, if certain factors were changed throughout those four years of school. What if I had never dated one of the “hot boys” or my mom had never taught me how to properly apply makeup. What if I had a wooden leg or hair on my face or was 150 pounds heavier? What if I dressed like a boy, had uncontrollable acne, or walked with a hunch in my back. Would I still have had the same friends, the same experiences, the same unforgettable memories?

I’d like to think the answer would be yes. That no matter what, my experiences would remain unchanged and my friends that I made would remain my friends no matter what. I mean, I’m still me right? And our class wasn’t like all the other high school classes that you read about in books and see in movies. We didn’t push kids in lockers or tease them because they were different. We didn’t throw spitballs at them at lunch or trip them in the halls while they were walking. The lines between “cool” and “uncool” remained obsolete. There wasn’t a popular crowd or a nerdy crowd. We all just kind of blended together. You could be who you wanted to be, friends with who you wanted, and that was okay with us...with ALL of us.

Or was it?

I can remember standing in our grand football stadium, cheering on our Burlington Demons during our Homecoming game my junior year of High School. I, dressed in my pom-pom uniform, was giddy with joy as my boyfriend hugged me from behind and we chatted with friends as the Color Guard took the field during half time. Moments later, a group of my fellow classmates began cheering loudly and mocking someone on the field. I turned to see what all the fuss was about and there, at the edge of the field stood a boy one year my senior dressed in satin and sequins, holding and twirling his flag high and proud. He smiled as he “danced” to the beat of our high school marching band and looked so proud that he was out there doing something he loved so much, even if it wasn’t exactly the “cool” thing for a guy his age to be doing. Travis was one of the few openly gay students in my high school and for the first time in my life, I witnessed the intolerance that my school held. As the marching band finished their song, the Color Guard turned towards the crowd and began to walk off the field, just in time for the boys in my class to combine their efforts, and toss the small souvenir footballs that had been given out at the night’s game, directly at Travis’s head. They laughed and cheered as each football took its turn, hitting him in the back, in the leg, and in the face. I remember the anger I felt as the last football had been released and these boys that I had called my “friends” looked so proud at what they had done. I glanced down at Travis, now walking away from our section of the stands, and I couldn’t help but feel overcome with such sadness for him. How absolutely horrifying that must feel to be singled out and humiliated in front of hundreds of peers and their parents.

I quickly pulled myself away from Dave’s grip and stormed directly over to the boys in my class, hoping that my angry words would affect them in some way. But they fell on deaf ears and I found myself a few minutes later depressed and sad that I could do nothing to save Travis from sheer embarrassment.

I don’t know if there were more stories like this in my high school. I never thought of my class or my school as being cliquey and mean, but I could just be naive to it all. Regardless, it’s so sad to me that a high school experience can be completely altered, simply by how you look or what hobbies you choose to partake in. I consider myself very lucky every single day that I can look back on my four years at BHS with fondness but it makes me sad to think that there are children who wake up every single day hating school and everyone in it. They’re depressed, and inverted, and occasionally angry and suicidal. Some drop out, turn to drugs, or shoot up their schools. And a lot of it has to do with the simple fact that they just don’t, “fit in”.

How do we change that? How do we teach our children to be accepting of ALL people and to not punish those people who don’t have similar interests as us? How do we change a school system that praises the popular and ignores the rest? How do we ensure that all of our children have the chance at a happy educational career?


Krista said...

I had a good high school experience - great friends, good grades, nice boyfriends. But I would not go back there if you paid me.

Sometimes I want to shake the kids I see in high school and let them know that in 10 years, there lives will be SO different. The drama, the assholes, the "cliques" won't matter.

I think making a life after high school is the best experience, and so far I wouldn't trade my 20s for my teens any day.

Christi said...

Oh yeah, heck no would I go back either. I just wish there was a way to break through the mentality and help them realize NONE of it matters. Pretty and popular get's you to graduation...that's it. After that it's going to be a rough real world realization ahead.

Krista said...

Amen to that. It's so true. All the popular girls from my high school? Still living in our hometown after having dropped out of college.

I recently covered a high school graduation for work, and all the girls were hugging and crying and taking pictures. And I remember being just like that, thinking it was the end of the world. What would I do without these people, you know?

Here I am, seven years later, and I talk to - maybe - a handful of them. Life goes on. It a whole other life after high school.

Kids today get too wrapped up in it.