I Hate You Because…..

I think every High School in the world is on some kind of loop where the same scenarios keep getting played out over and over again in fifty, sixty, seventy year cycles.

The classroom and playground dramas my son describes after a day at school are almost exactly the same as the ones I experienced at school.

Everyone is divided into a tribe.

There are the divas. A mixture of Miley Cyrus and Paris Hilton, with their short skirts and glistening lip gloss, so pink you imagine the colour of it must be able to be picked up from outer space. Their conversation is peppered with like, sooo hot and I hate her because she’s so thin.

At High School the playground is as much a source of education as the classroom. In one day my son learned what a cougar is, the meaning of MILF, and that some people still believe you can get pregnant from a toilet seat.

Another tribe is the nerds who discuss their scores on Runescape in between working out complex calculus problems and picking at their acne. They hate anyone who thinks maths is boring and a waste of time.

Then there are the jocks. Toned, lean, tanned and pumped up. Ready for anything that will increase their athletic performance, including an injection of bull testosterone (according to my son).

The would-be gangstas are in a class of their own. Bouncing to songs only they can hear on ubiquitous MP3 players. Speech peppered with Snoop Dogg speak and Wat ups? They talk for hours about only one thing – about how they saw some guy in the street and bashed him. They hate people with no street cred.

There are the shy guys who are finding it hard to fit in and hide in the library or sullenly lurk on the benches at the back of the canteen. They hate everyone. Just because.

A tribe that in my day used to be the Goths but is now the Emos have a penchant for heavy eye-makeup, angst-ridden music and poetry and black clothing. Who knew a look of anaemic dread would be so popular? They hate shiny, happy people.

My son’s group is the Funny Guys. Kids who like to have a laugh and watch everyone else, sending them up as a way of trying to make sense of it all. They hate the kids who are mean and just looking for trouble, throwing their weight around.

Maybe I should take comfort in the fact that what I went through at High School is very similar to what Nick will have to go through. I mean, I survived, so it can’t have been all bad, right?

But it’s just the fact that it hasn’t changed that worries me. The divisiveness, the inability to accept differences, the picking on someone just because you can, is still there. The tribes that hate.

I wish it was different. I wish there weren’t all these rites of passage we have to go through in life because sometimes I don’t think they help us at all, sometimes I think they make us want to scream: Is that all there is? This constant trying to find our way?

People often say: Things aren’t what they used to be, but I beg to differ, I think they’re almost exactly as they used to be. And that ain’t good.

We need to change if we are to move forward. We need to embrace one another’s differences. We need to stop being afraid of the Chinese guy, the Indian guy, the Jewish guy, the Arab guy, the religious guy, the gay guy. Being different is necessary. Being different is good.

Tribes are good initially. They offer us a sense of security, a sense of belonging; but in order to get the best out of each tribe we need to be prepared to move away from them. We need to acknowledge that there are good things waiting just over the horizon that we are able to embrace on our own. More than anything, I hope my son takes that away from the next four years. More than anything, I hope he can face the new day on his own and be unafraid.

* Inspired in part by the Slice Of Life prompt Is That All There Is?

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21 thoughts on “I Hate You Because…..

  1. how could high school have changed if the rest of the world didn’t?? it is sad,, but i am thinking that a lot of things have to change before high school ever will….

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  2. I went to a catholic school with a heavy academic program, uniforms and an emphasis on religion and “all that.” It was also a much smaller school. I’m not sure why but we didn’t have groups like this. (Again, how this happened I’ll never know.)

    I switched schools in my last year. Ended up in a large public school. They had clicks. Me, I didn’t know so much about clicks. I was the goth kid who hung out with the gay Lebanese guy because I liked him. Apparently this was against the “rules” … it was a bit of an experiment in social isolation. (At least that’s how I explained it to myself.)

    The teen years are such a difficult time… alas.

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  3. Well Selma, I like the sound of Nick’s group and they certainly seem to be the most well balanced and sane of the available options.

    I used to float between groups and didn’t really fit in anywhere. I liked it that way. People who were cool seemed to like me and forgave me for befriending all the unpopular kids. I’ve always had a weakness for the underdog and never even considered it may put me on the “outs” with other groups. If it had occurred to me it wouldn’t have mattered, I still would have done it.

    The nerds liked me because I talked to them and the tough kids couldn’t quite figure me out and probably considered me a waste of their time. All in all I had a fine old time in High School not being anyone but me. Once an individual always an individual 🙂

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  4. The divas in my sons’ schools, being that they are sons, were more accurately referred to as the Mean Girls. I can’t tell you the havoc they wreaked on my boys, and how the teachers protected them “Oh, they’re too nice to do that.”

    I regressed when they were in school. I walked into the building and, as a former nerd, was as intimidated by the Mean Girls as I ever was, because they also had Mean Mothers who defended them. Thank God they’re in college and we all survived.

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  5. I think things are changing more than we think they are. Some things remain the same – goodness, the other day I was reading the journal of a fella back in the 1800’s and it was STILL the same problems – but I think the embracing of people everywhere of all shapes and sizes, all beliefs and cultures, start with parents, and there is a lot of that going on. Sometimes to make a big difference, we have to start with the small ones. 🙂

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  6. I’ve always said that school is just like the adult world in a smaller, more concentrated form. I have to admit this is getting a little depressing. Is it cocktail hour yet?

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  7. WHYPAISLEY:
    Absolutely. We could be here all day listing the things in the world that need to change. I think High School’s at the bottom of the list….

    NAT:
    I was a bit like you. One of my best friends was a Goth girl who outwardly was full of angst and misery but inwardly had a wicked sense of humour. Oh, the laughs we had. People ostracised me because I was friends with her. Alas, indeed!

    ROMANY:
    You are the type of person I would have been friends with because I was like you too. I would always stick up for the underdog and had several friends from different groups. You definitely are one in as million!!

    OTTO:
    Sad but true. 😆
    Reminds me of that episode of The Simpsons where Bart has to get glasses and says he looks like a nerd. Millhouse then catches sight of himself in the reflection from Bart’s glasses and says with horror: ‘I’m a nerd too!’ Poor little Millhouse. One of my fave characters.

    QUERULOUS:
    Oh, thank God you said that because I feel like I have regressed. I thought I was losing my mind. That makes me feel so much better. What an odd thing to experience. I saw the divas the other day and did feel intimidated. They had such attitude. Where does one get such attitude at 14 years of age? It’s going to be a long six years…..

    TEXASBLU:
    You are right. I am being a bit one-eyed about this. We are embracing difference, but it is happening so slowly. I want things to speed up, I tell you. I don’t like to think of people not being accepted for who they are. I guess these things take time…..

    RICHARD:
    It’s 9.30 in the morning here but make mine a double. I can’t cope…..

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  8. The more things change… I don’t think groups of teenagers will ever be any different, they are always going to define themselves in terms of belonging to this and not to that, develop a social identity, but as you say grownups need to get past that into seeing themselves as humans first and foremost. I’ll have a double too, if that’s okay?

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  9. I do agree with the tribal references in high school Selma. You’ve described the divisions well. I was a member of a group of about 9 girls (I went to a Catholic girl’s high school) and we were inseperable. And don’t for a minute think that being taught by nuns slowed us down one little bit. The boy’s collegiate was only a block away, run by priests, natch. LOL

    I hope your son has a good experience with his high school years. They should be lots and lots of fun. Sadly for many kids, I know it’s not. 😦

    Hugs, G

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  10. Things have changed since I went to school (I think most teachers now believe the world IS round!!) … although we hung around in ‘sets’, the dividing lines were a bit hazy and amorphous.

    Kids whose fathers worked in the same place tended to hang around together; people who belonged to the same youth organisations (eg. Scouts, cadets, etc) … or, just people from the same place, who’d been to the same primary school (We had a large catchment area and such people tended to hang around the same bus stop, waiting for the bus home, after school)

    So, it was quite possible to belong to two or more groups, and cross over from one to the other as the mood took you without any animosity.

    Except for the ‘swots’ … (nerds and geeks, in modern speak) who were quite beyond the pale!

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  11. I remember purposely trying to be “different” in high school because I did not want to be accepted simply because I naturally blended in.

    Also, I believe that high school is that time in life when everyone is trying to carve out or discover a personal identity. And when you have all of them in one building, there will always be some sort of chaos because the ability to relate to someone a bit different than you is still somewhat limited. I think, as long as one is comfortable in his/her own skin, survival in high school is pretty much guaranteed.

    But teens will always be teens… unless, of course, parents change… on a global scale. Good luck on that one.

    Seems like Nick will do just fine, though. Just like you did.

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  12. I was a shy guy… but i didnt hate people (well not most people anyway lol)… I did hate high school though… it felt like prison to me… Thanks for this beautiful post…

    Much love to you and your family my friend, M

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  13. Those nerds and their Runescape. Back when I was in high school we gathered around at lunch to play chess.

    Uh, I mean they played chess. The nerds. Not, you know, me or anything.

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  14. I recall a quotation that went something like this, “Like its politicians and wars, their youth is what a society deserves.” Your story brought this quotation to mind. I agree that not much has changed in our schools which is why all teenagers have to endure their turbulent high school years. Nothing will change until our society decides to put aside its prejudices. Children only repeat what they have learned from adults.

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  15. I have to say that I have been so pleased that my son has gone back to primary school here in Australia. He was far too young for secondary school. Not that he complained. He seemed to settle really well – but some of the stuff he said (about clans) made me cringe. Like your son, Harry is a clown (although also a bit of a nerd – he is bright and loves computers and wears glasses). He is very self-contained so that stood him in very good stead but nonetheless it just seemed such a shame to me that people were not really allowed to just be themselves.

    But I guess it;s just something we all have to go through.

    I am sure my Harry and your Nick would get on really well. And I am sure we would too!

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  16. Hi Selma! Even as a child I avoided these little tribes or cliques. I was basically a loner, but had many friends in each group mentioned. I hung around some jocks, dweebs, geeks, stoners, preppies and so forth–but wasn’t really part of their groups. I’m still the same way–just an individualist. My mother taught me that fitting in isn’t important and that “fitting inside yourself” is. A loner that gets along with anyone.

    Your son is in the best group. If I had to be in a group, the funny guys sounds like the most fun!

    I’ve always had an aversion to categorization and felt like it is really just a form of conformity because of our natural need to fit in somewhere. I think we can all fit in everywhere:)

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  17. PAUL:
    I think I’ll join you. It’s been quite a week!

    DAOINE:
    I think pain relief for the school years should be mandatory. I’ll have a pethidine cocktail with a valium chaser. Stat. 😀

    GERALDINE:
    I think for many kids it can be touch and go. I do think it’s important, however to gets the kids talking about what is bothering them. It really is the only way to get things in perspective. Fingers crossed my boy will keep yabbering on!

    TRAVELRAT:
    The big debate when I was at school was whether or not Darwin’s theory should be accepted and taught. I remember it caused quite a kerfuffle among the staunch Catholic parents.

    We used swots as a term for nerds. I think I might have been one on occasion (but only for certain subjects).

    CHRIS:
    You have made such a good point – one must be comfortable in one’s own skin, otherwise everyone will tear you down. So important.

    MAITHRI:
    It felt a bit prison-like to me too. My school was very strict and very regimented. Not that we still didn’t manage to get up to things……

    IRON FIST:
    I was in the chess club. We were taught by Father O’Malley who was always drunk. It was awesome. Chess is cool!!!

    CRICKET:
    Absolutely. When you hear young kids making racist remarks and so on, there really is only one place they could have learned it. ‘Why can’t we just love one another?’ is one of those questions that keeps popping into my head these days. I don’t know the answer.

    RELUCTANT:
    Well, Nick will be 13 this year so he definitely is the right age, but in many ways he still seems young, so I know exactly what you mean. His enthusiasm for life has not yet been checked. Your Harry sounds very like him. I am sure they would be friends. Just as we would!!

    BOBBY:
    You would have made a fabulous teacher. Kids need to hear that. It’s so important to know that whoever you are, you can fit in to any situation. I thank you for your wise insights!

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  18. Different labels, same song and dance….how we as member of our socities change this is a conundrum because it takes embracing the values of acceptance and understanding of one another. To be interested in the differences and not aversive to them.

    My daughter who is in her second year of high school is always amazed when she describes a social scenario unfolding at her school and I completely get it.

    Would love to see some big changes…both in and outside the school.

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  19. DANA:
    That’s the key, isn’t it? To be interested in differences, but not afraid. Bring on those changes, I say. We need them. We all have something to offer, just as we are!!

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