Against my better judgment and Sean’s taunting, I’ve been watching the second season of Glee on Netflix out of desire to watch a TV show that is still “new” to me. If you’ve seen Glee, then you know an ongoing gag in the show is the members of the Glee Club get “slushie facials” from the bullies of the school — in short, they get ice cold, unnaturally colored beverages thrown in their faces.
This never makes sense to me because at my high school, the closest thing we had to Glee Club was Opus, our most selective choir group, and they were like superstars at our school. We band kids should have been getting the slushie facials. There is nothing cool about hats with plumes or memorizing arpeggios. Being able to sing and dance is kind of awesome.
Anyway, all this fictional depiction of bullying made me think about a really great feature I read in New York magazine last month, “Why You Never Truly Leave High School.” In short, this article details the long-lasting psychological effects being the bullied nerd — or alternatively, the ruling Queen Bee — while in high school can have upon a person. Kind of depressing stuff. Get this: the kids who were nerds were painfully aware of it and never forgot. The kids that other kids deemed “popular” always thought someone else was more popular than them. In short, no one is ever happy with their social status. Or so this article says.
While I never felt bullied in high school, the way I saw other kids were, I felt the worst I was ever treated was completely ignored. I distinctly remember one “group” assignment in my freshman English class, in which by some horrible fate of luck, I was stuck in a group of three with two Queen Bees. I studiously began flipping through my novel and working on the assignment right away. One girl looked at the other and said, as if I was a chair and not a human being, “Looks like she’ll take care of it.” And then the two proceeded to gossip away.
While that isn’t a fun memory by any means, I was happy to have formed friendships with other hard-working, ambitious peers. We had pizza study parties with our history teacher on speed dial and exchanged calculus notes on long marching band trips. Our lives were not the glamorous making of teen movies, but most of us got college scholarships, and a few are in medical school now, so I think we did OK for ourselves in the end.
But there is one incident from high school that I will never forget. It makes me crack up now, but at the time, not so much.
You know that part in The Princess Diaries? “Someone sat on me again”? That actually happened to me. I’m not even joking.
You see, it all started in the eighth grade. I had just moved from rural Southern Maryland to Northwestern Florida. I spent my first lunch there in tears, missing my childhood friends from up north so much I thought I would be sick to my stomach. (FYI, I do not recommend doing this on your first day at a new school. It’s not so great for making new friends.)
So there was that, and then this boy in my algebra class had developed an inexplicable fixation with me. Every time I went to answer a question on the white board — and I’m a nerd, so this was often — he would watch with rapt attention. After class, he’d follow me down the sidewalk (Florida schools tend to lack hallways, going for more of an outdoorsy approach that everyone scorns on rainy days), and we’d have incredibly deep conversations like this:
Him: You’re new here. Where are you from?
Him: You’re so quiet.
Him: But I like you. You’re cute.
My painful shyness did not help these conversations as you can see. But let me tell you a little more about my eighth-grade admirer. He was on the football team. He had long, swoopy hair like every other Florida boy. He wore a blue Hurley hoodie every day. He “surfed” (still not sure how this is quite possible on Florida waves). He was one of those kids who had somehow, at 13, managed to show up at school smelling faintly of pot, with the telltale bloodshot eyes. So, yeah, basically “dreamboat” by stereotypical Florida middle school standards. If you like potheads and prime community college material, I guess.
Let me tell you about me in the eighth-grade. I had bangs and glasses. I made my mom drive me to the public library once a week. I was obsessed with the Disney Channel. I coveted all things Limited Too. My crush was young Christian Bale in Little Women (oh wait, this is still true):
So you’ll have to excuse me if I was a little flustered one day at lunch, as I applied ranch dressing to my salad, when this fellow — who deserves no identity protection, so we’ll just call him like it is, Micah — shouted “Hey! Hey, you, Rebecca!”
“Will you go out with me?”
I turn beet red. All of his swoopy-haired, “surfer” dude-friend are staring at me. I want to dissolve into the economy-size tub of ranch dressing. I am 13. What does that even mean? Will you go out with me? Why me? Why is this happening?!?
I bite my lip, scrunch my nose, shake my head.
“ARE YOU SERIOUS?!?”
The friends are laughing, and I nod, and dart away in a beet-red flurry.
It is only later that I realize that it was the day before a much-anticipated field trip to Mobile, Alabama, a good two- or three-hour drive away by bus. We got to choose our bus-buddies. Micah obviously was planning ahead. You see, the ultimate in eighth-grade “relationships” is hand-holding. Field trips are good for that.
The rest of eighth-grade algebra was uneventful. Micah by and large ignored me. By spring semester, he was switched to another algebra period because his schedule changed as football season became baseball season. My face glued to the white board, I hardly noticed.
Fast-forward to sophomore year of high school, the first day of classes. English II Honors. I snag a seat near a friend, and stare in horror as none other than 15-year-old Micah strolls in. I am even more horrified as we are re-seated in alphabetical horror, placing Micah C. directly behind me, Rebecca B.
I ultimately decide I am being stupid. Micah C., member of the JV football team, has forgotten about his fleeting eighth-grade affections and my rejection of him. Besides, I love English. He was not going to ruin this class for me.
I was so wrong.
Over the next few weeks, Micah developed a reputation as the class clown. His favorite prank was calling the classroom phone number on his cell, and then hanging up as soon as our teacher made it over. He also would steal her dry erase markers when she wasn’t looking upon entering the classroom, then roll them across the floor in the middle of her lectures, completely perplexing our somewhat senile instructor. (Charming guy, huh?)
Then one day, he dropped his pencil on the floor. On accident, I think. It rolled to the side of my desk. I was about to fetch it for him, like a nice person, when he strolled up out of his desk, bent over to grab his pencil…and then SAT ON ME. Like, actually, physically sat on me to reach his pencil.
After, he jumped up in fake-surprise and exclaimed, “Wow, I didn’t even see you there!”
Some of the Queen Bees who were smitten with his antics started snickering. I felt the beet-red come to my cheeks, and stared determinedly at my notebook for the rest of class. I still have no clue how I made it through the rest of the year with that jerk sitting behind me.
Looking back, I think it’s ridiculous I still remember this incident. It’s not like I was shoved into a locker, had nasty things written about me in the ladies’ room, was stood up for prom or any of the stereotypical teenage torments you see in movie. Probably everyone else in that one class of 25 students, save Micah and myself, forgot about the incident by lunch break that day. I know that.
But I haven’t forgotten in eight years.
So yeah, that New York magazine article? Scary accurate.
I’m not looking for any sympathy because it was such a minor incidence, and it makes me laugh now. If you’re wondering, Micah didn’t even make it through community college. Looking at his life versus mine now, I think I am entitled to the last laugh (again, see the New York mag article, or look at Mark Zuckerberg’s life, for the geeks shall inherit the earth). But it is annoying, you know, how the littlest things are intensified emotionally by five million when you’re an adolescent, searing such little embarrassing instances on your brain forever.
My advice is to be nice to everyone. Even the girls who don’t want to sit next to you on the field trip bus.
P.S. Second-most-awful high school incidence: The time my own homeroom teacher gave me detention for forgetting my student ID at home. Student IDs were no longer enforced two weeks later. There is nothing more comical than a high school salutatorian trying to remain invisible in after-school detention.