My homeroom teacher in Eighth Grade was Mrs. Brady, an old woman who'd been teaching forever. A seasoned veteran and one smart lady, she taught social studies which was primarily civics that year. In fact, it was the year of the 200th anniversary of the Constitutional Convention (1787-1987), so we did a lot of stuff around that. Again, switched classes. I loved Mr. Monroe for English (or I guess we called that Language Arts); Mr. Goodspeed was the new science teacher, young and cute, all us girls had a crush on him and he went on to marry our 7th grade math teacher, Miss Hogan (yea, I remembered her name); I can't remember the name of my French teacher. We had an AWFUL new art teacher that year, Mr. Little, he should never have been allowed to teach--he hated kids.
In 7th grade and entering 8th, my best friend was Liz. We would pass notes between classes. We were a foursome with Jina and Julie and we all had nicknames for each other. I was Frisbub, Liz was Caroline Squared (can't remember the nicknames for the other two).
Not long into the new school year, things got weird. I don't remember the exact turn of events. There was some weirdness at a Bar Mitzvah I think and then I talked to someone else, I think it was Kristen, about "hey, that was weird at the Bat Mitzvah" and she was like "I don't think Liz wants to be your friend anymore" and then somehow we set up a before-school meeting between me and Liz. Ugh, it was an ugly time but the gist of it was Liz didn't want to be my friend anymore, she wanted "space," whatever that means when you're in a 40-person class together.
That was soon followed by Jina breaking off her friendship with Julie.
Soon it became apparent what was going on: Julie and Liz were moving into the popular clique. (Apparently one could not do that and be my friend at the same time.) I don't know how these things work, but somehow it was established that the other clique, the other lunch table, was he popular one and we were, I don't know, unpopular, uncool? So the girls in my group tried to make their way into the popular group.
I won't say this wasn't painful, it was awful to lose these close friends and feel left out. But I was also smart enough to realize, hey, this is 8th grade, next year we are moving into an enormous high school (2700-students-enormous), all this clique baloney wasn't going to last, we weren't going to see many of these kids again and what clique you were in wasn't going to matter in a few short months. So I did not attempt to join the popular club.
Instead, I became an "outcast." I don't remember who named us that--did we name ourselves? Is this a name I called us at the time or only in hindsight? I think there were 5 of us after the dust settled. Me, Julie, Jenny, Naomi, but I can't remember who else. I'd have to pull out my yearbook and I'd rather not. Maybe there were only 4 of us. What confuses me now when I look back, I can see why the other girls were left behind--the tomboy, the black girl, the girl who spoke broken English. Why was I there? Certainly I was a nerd. I was the smartest girl in my class, wore glasses, was tall/skinny/flat-chested. Was that enough to qualify me for outcast status or was I just swimming against the stream and refusing to suck up to the popular kids? I don't know! I'd like to think we were just the strong ones who didn't care about popularity--and in a way we surely were, because we weren't kissing anyone's butts to belong. But with wisdom and age and a history degree, I've learned that the ones singled out for things like witch trials tend to not fit in with societal norms. What was my stigma? My scarlet letter?
So that was 8th grade. I hung with the outcasts, but I didn't totally disconnect from Jina and Liz either. And in the end, I was right--none of this baloney mattered when we entered high school the next year. We were a tiny feeder school into an enormous high school. I made new friends and left that drama behind.
But even though it didn't matter in the end, it still sucks. It sucks that we did this to each other, treated each other this way, cared about popularity rather than connection and friendship and bond. I hope that I've learned lessons that will help me help my children navigate these stormy waters when the time comes.
And so I don't leave you on this downer note, I'm happy to say I have reconnected with all my former besties, Jina, Liz and Julie, so it's all good. :-) (Yea for facebook!)
Next week we enter the high school years. Ooh fun. For more 8th grade stories, visit Mommy's Piggy Tales. See you next week!