Friday, January 10, 2014

Popular Kids and "Geek Charming": Reflections on High School

The other day, while I was helping someone clean their home, a movie was playing on the television.  It was called Geek Charming and it was a Disney Channel Original Movie.
I didn't watch very much of it, since I was busy, but I caught enough to think, "Popular kids at my school did not act like that."

In fact, the way media portrays high school, you'd think students walk around with stickers on their heads defining them by class, amount of money, and personality.

The main character of the show is supposed to be a film geek who the popular kids look down on.  He manages to rescue a shallow, popular girl's purse from a fountain as she stands and yells at the people around her to save her designer purse.  Strangely, no one except the geek listens.

By the way, this 'geek' is a fairly attractive young man who at my school would probably have been fairly popular.  He has wit, charm, and he's intelligent.

Why is he an outcast?

After he saves her purse, he decided to do a video on the life of a popular kid because it is so different from the rest of the regular students.

That's about as much as I saw.  I'm sure he finds out she had a lonely life because her parents are rich and are never home and he recognizes that he is, in fact, the one who is rich in friends and family.  He probably becomes her first true friend and they probably start dating.  Or something like that.

Regardless, for some reason their portrayal of these popular girls has really been bugging me.

Now, understand, I was definitely not a popular kid at my high school.  Did everyone know me?  Probably.  My dad was a principal in grade school and I graduated in a graduating class of less than 100 students.  Everyone knew everyone.  Being known doesn't make you popular.

However, I got along fairly well with what we would have termed "popular kids." I didn't go to their homes and have parties, but I'd like to think that I was casual friends with at least a few.  Some of them I still check up on occasionally to see how they're doing via facebook.

They were pretty good kids.  High school is tough for all of us, and everyone was trying to figure out who they were.  Sometimes that made us act like jerks, but I liked pretty much everyone at my school.

What made these kids popular then?

I think it was confidence for the most part. These were kids who were basically all in the same friend group.  They acted fairly confident and they weren't afraid to achieve things. Maybe their parents had more money, but I actually don't have a clue. That never really mattered to me anyway.

The way they dress probably attributed to it though.  When I was student teaching last year, I had a little girl in my classroom who was talking about shopping.  She asked me where I bought my shirt from and I told her Deseret Industries (DI), which is basically a thrift store.

She was appalled.  She NEVER shopped at the DI, and all of her clothing was bought from designer children's clothing stores.  From that day on, she would ask me nearly everyday if what I was wearing was from DI.

The thought briefly crossed my mind, "You would have picked on me when I was a kid."

She wasn't a bad kid, she just had been taught that you should wear certain kinds of clothes.  Her questions continued until one day she was telling Grig and I how cute Kevin was, and Grig responded, "We got him at DI."  She didn't believe him, but for some reason it put an end to her questions.

When I was a kid, I didn't care what I looked like.  I only cared if I was comfortable.  Until junior high, I wore sweatpants and a t-shirt to school everyday.  It was only when my father put his foot down and banned sweat pants at school that I finally agreed to wear jeans.  Evidently, I had only tried on jeans that didn't fit up to that point, because I was startled to find out that jeans could (and should) be comfortable. Even then, I still wore my pants high and I tucked my shirts into my pants.  Bad combination.

I had thick glasses because I was nearly completely blind.  I only wore my hair in a ponytail and I was a tom-boy.  I read nearly constantly, and I qualified for GT, back when they based it upon your test scores and not your personality.

Was I a geek?  Sure.  However, some of the kids that were termed popular were still nice to me, usually.

I don't keep in contact much with kids from high school.  I didn't have very many close friends, and some of those that I considered to be friends, hurt my feelings quite a bit.  There are a few people that I check up on facebook occasionally, but other than that, I really have kind of left high school behind me.  I still like the people, but I didn't have the easiest time in high school.  It was a very lonely time for me.

The weird thing is, the exact same things that made me strange and an outcast in high school (like my ability to imitate animals and my weird, quirky behavior) made me 'cool' in college.  My first semester of college, I made some of my very best friends.  I don't talk to them that much (because it's hard to keep up with everyone), but  it's the kind of friendship where you don't need to keep in touch to still know you're friends.

I had lots of great friends in college and I enjoyed it so much more than high school.  That's probably why high school movies annoy me.  They are completely inaccurate, and I don't know why we're glorifying high school anyway.  College is way better, and relationships that you make there really do last forever.

For those kids who don't feel popular, who feel like high school is the pivotal moment in their lives and they can't waste it, or who feel like they don't have any real friends, here is my message to you.

There is so much life after high school.  There are so many fantastic opportunities and people who will love the weird things about you.  In general, college students are far more mature and appreciate the things that make you different.  There are some that are still stuck in the 'high school' mindset, but there are tons of people in this world, and it's easy to avoid those ones.

This post isn't meant to be offensive to anyone.  I'm sorry if I offended you, I meant it more as a way to vent my thoughts.  For some reason I couldn't get this stupid show off my mind, and I wanted to figure out why it was bothering me.

Popular kids aren't all shallow and rich.  Nerds aren't all awesome.  We all need a lot of work, and the more patience and love we have for each other, the easier the journey will be on all of us.  I love the things that high school taught me.  I appreciate the lessons I learned there and the people I knew, but I wouldn't go back to the high school years for a million dollars.

Don't give up.  If you haven't met a best friend yet, you will.  Sometimes you'll meet more than one.  When you do find those friends, treasure those relationships.  They are infrequent, but they can last forever.


  1. I have the same problem with shows like that. When I saw High School Musical, I thought, "Wow, I don't think I've ever heard of a school like that." People get upset if you sit at the 'wrong' table? Plus, we had a 'star' basketball player who was also an academic geek. And he was in the top choir. Very popular. I never understood why media (and Disney more than most) feels the need to tells us to be ourselves in a world where we'd never fit in - by showing a world that doesn't exist.

    1. Ha ha ha! I think you put it even better than I did! Bravo! Complete agreement.

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