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?