Thursday, August 5, 2010

MPT9--Seventh Grade--Cliques Part 1

This is the ninth in a series of 15 posts recounting my childhood. (To see parts 1 through 8, click the label "MPT" in my sidebar.) Today's topic is Seventh Grade. First off, I'm having a tough day. I forgot to defrost the chicken for the crockpot (I hope I can get it defrosted enough to have the crockpot started by noon); I was planning to go to Walmart but I realized (1) I forgot to defrost the chicken and (2) I don't have a full list written. T has been waking up super early and screaming bloody murder and this morning she's been super cranky so I just put her in her crib for a morning nap (she hasn't had one of those in a long time). She's crying now but hopefully she falls asleep. Either way, I have to scramble to write 7th and 8th grade today as we're going on vacation soon and 8th grade will have to auto-post....

All of this to say that I've decided to make 7th and 8th grade a 2-part series about friendship and cliques. I was inspired by several piggy tales last week that talked about the awkwardness and the fickleness of friends and cliques in the junior high years. And I have several stories on the subject.

My 7th grade homeroom teacher was Mrs. Peters, another middle aged woman with grown children. Very kind, I liked her a lot. She also taught social studies and maybe English, I can't remember, oh and French, so I guess I had her for several subjects. 7th grade had its own hall in the 7th-8th grade wing of my 4th through 8th campus. We felt very grown-up switching classes. I had Mrs. Tritch for science, Miss {oh my gosh, I'm blanking on her name, it'll come to me} for math. What am I forgetting? P.E. (Mr. Berardi, now a Facebook friend), Art (Mrs. Felton, total hippie freak, taught us tai chi while waiting in line, very cool), Home Ec/Wood Shop/Computers (Mrs. Freesma), Music (Ms. Lundberg, a friend's mom, loved her!).

We did some short story writing in 7th grade. I wrote "The Man in the Wheelchair" as well as a story about a kid who couldn't get rid of his hiccups. I wrote the latter for a contest--we all had to write a story for this contest and I wrote this one about hiccups (not my best work!) and Mrs. Peters called me over and told me she couldn't submit that story because the character died. Yep, I couldn't figure out how to solve the character's hiccup problem, so he died. Oops. She asked if I'd mind submitting the Wheelchair story instead. That's what we did and I won a prize! Not first place or anything, more like honorable mention, but it was still really cool.

All these years, Kindergarten through 8th grade, I went to school with the same 40 kids (give or take--some would come, others would go, but about 35 of us stayed the same). There were some I was always close to (Julie) and some I was never really friends with (Amy), but in 6th and 7th grade, the cliques really started becoming more apparent and stark. The girls divided roughly in two, I specifically remember at this time starting to talk about the 2 lunch tables and knowing who sat where. So there were 2 cliques (I'm just talking about girls here), but there were roughly the same size and roughly, I don't know, equal. Some of the girls in the other clique had "boyfriends" so maybe they were "cooler" all along, but the "cool" thing was more of a big deal the next year.

Now, here come the painful memories, how we treated the less cool boys. I don't know if the boys had their own cliques or if this was as simple as who was cutest, but there definitely were (to us girls) the cool boys and the dorks/nerds.

Enter "7th Grade Social Dancing." This was an extracurricular activity, but everybody did it. It was at the school gym (once a week? once a month? don't remember). Teachers were brought in to teach us ballroom dancing--waltz, fox trot etc--presumably to teach us manners and social graces etc. Generally, I think I enjoyed it, but there were several awkward moments when we'd have to pair up. Thankfully, most of the evening our partners were assigned, but there would come the inevitable "boys choice" and "girls choice" dances and UGH, you didn't want a boy to think you liked him, you didn't want to be picked last, yadda yadda yadda. And I hate that I scurried to get with a cute boy and hated when I got stuck with a "nerd." I remember one time I got paired up with Seth, one of the "dorks," and at the next intermission I went over to my girlfriends and said how gross he was {I'm cringing as I write this, I'm so sorry Seth, I was an idiot!}, I wiped my hands on a napkin and to be all dramatic I waved the napkin and said "this is not a sanitary napkin" (which of course made us all laugh because I'd unwittingly referred to a feminine product, LOL)--as if he had cooties or something. Bad, bad, bad!

Oh how I wish I could go back and tell my 12-year-old self to like the uncool guys, to be kind to the outsiders. I could have been kind to Seth and Greg and whomever without it becoming a "boyfriend/girlfriend" thing. It would have been easier to just walk over to one of the less cool guys for partnering than to linger awkwardly. Oh the awkwardness!

By the way, I was taller than a lot of the boys. I know I was 5'5 at the end of 8th grade, not sure how tall I was in 7th, but a lot of the guys hadn't had their growth spurts yet. One day in social dancing, I was paired up with a shorter boy, Jordan, and as he had to spin me, I was so tall, his arm brushed against the clip in my hair (oh those fun '80s clips) and it fell out and embarrassed us both.

Meanwhile, one of the "nerds," Brian, liked me. We all knew he liked me, but I didn't "like" him. I liked him as a friend, he was a super nice guy and we'd been friends forever, but then he got a crush on me and I was cruel and I hate myself for how I treated him. (Nothing terrible, I just could've been so much nicer.) And of course it took till senior year of high school to realize it's about personality and not looks and we were in the same calculus class and then I started to "like" Brian but it was too late and he had figured out I wasn't so great after all.

For my part, I had a crush on this guy Cory for years. Literally, 5th through 10th grade, and he never gave me the time of day. I still dream about him occasionally (like this morning, I blame these piggy tales) and want him to like me. I wake up and I'm like "I'm 35 years old and happily married, why do I want this guy to like me??!!"

So anyway, that's part 1 of friends and awkwardness in junior high. Tune in next week when the real "fun" starts. And head over to Janna's for more 7th grade tales.


Janette@Janette's Sage said...

Isn't that just Jr High age? I am sure we would love to go back and act right. I have a friend that has been emailing me her memories from this was in the 70's for us and I never knew she had been so rejected. It is amazing we all make it through this age....good post...enjoyed as always.

Organizing Mommy said...

I guess we all are going through the same thing in the 7th and 8th grade, aren't we? Glad it's over. I don't wish I liked more nerdy guys. I wish I loved the Lord more. But yes, I have regrets and awkward/ embarassing things from that time also. It's good to work through them and then move on.

Janna said...

It's so true. I think many of us have behavior we regret during this period of life. I could see how sharing a story like this with young people could really help them think twice about being remembered by someone that way.

Hiccup man died I lol! The wheelchair story sounds interesting.

Jenny said...

Oh, how I wish I could go back and tell my 12 year old self a thing or two. It's an interesting phenomenon how you felt wrongly treated by those you thought were cooler and yet you did the same thing to those you thought were nerdy. Isn't that just how it goes. :) that's so funny that you had a dream like that. I still have dreams that I'm excited about someone from high school liking me. :)