Being Free

Big people, the grown-ups, the grandmas, and the grandpas, always claim the middle school was (and will) always the hardest part of being junior, and being a kid. A lot of people know middle school as junior high, where the girls start to straighten their hair and shoot up a couple of feet (and inches) over the years. Junior High- where the boys still walk around, short, with their baggy shorts, backward caps, and their lame jokes like, “Why can’t your hand be twelve inches? It would be a foot!” (hahaha…)

But yet again, I wouldn’t agree to that “on my life” (not literally). Elementary school was always the hardest. Oh, sure, until third grade or so, nobody stopped teasing you if you were best friends with a boy, but in fourth and fifth grade, they really let the rockets on you. Not to mention that Arianna had stopped being best friends with Harrison in first grade. But that is not my story to tell. Not yet.

My story were the popularity ladders. The discrimination. The control. The people that were so full of hate to one another, that every word they spoke dripped with red, thick, syrupy loathing. And, finally: the ones that tried so hard to let each other down. You can tell me what you want, but middle school wasn’t like that. Girls just cared about their bodies and getting skinny, while boys just cared about winning their sport’s championships.

Third grade was my best year. Or so they said. My school had unknowingly developed a complex system of “points” and popularity ladders. It wasn’t official; it wasn’t the complete deal, but everyone knew it existed. Everyone knew that’s how it worked. The lower kids, the ones who weren’t good at being pretty, stylish, or what-else, could get messed with. The upper kids, the “good” ones, couldn’t get messed with. If you were on top, you usually stayed there. If you were on the bottom, you always stayed there. If you were in the middle, nobody really touched you, looked at you, or anything, and your popularity could eventually go either way.

Before third grade, I was always a middle kid. I cared more about books and my horse back riding competitions than I did wearing the latest trashy shirt, or texting the latest abbreviations (biffles, LOLOLOLOLOMG, which I still don’t understand). I was fine with it, since I had my friends and nobody ever teased me or cared if I did something stupid.

Then came the beginning of third grade. Where my group of middle kids got stuck sitting right next to the upper, popular, “OMG” kids. My friends started thinking that it was vitally important to somehow become one of “them”, one of the girls who could do anything, say anything, be anything, without the whole school crushing them down like boulders to a fly. I didn’t get it then, but I do now. It was simply how you survived.

Lanie, Rose, Beth, Alexa, Kim, Amanda… they were all there. Lanie, at that time, was super nice. She cared about everybody, the way Kim, Amanda, and Alexa did. Rose, from the start, was mean but popular. And rich. I don’t remember the details of it, but one day on the playground, Lanie asked me if I wanted to play. Just thought, why not? Since then, I just became one of them. Those girls. The top girls. It was, in my opinion, kind of stupid, to rocket the ranks just because of a friend, but it was that way.
After two years of being with those “up” girls, I began to question my freedom. Was I more free being someone who the whole school looked at, for advice, “promotions”, and admiration… Or did my freedom lie where I was before, in the middle level, with my own real friends, and my own interests?

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The Memory Game

It is such a bad title for the many things I really want to share right now. They’re things that I’ve watched happening, and now, I feel like kicking myself for not doing anything about them earlier. Well, rather- I’ve already mentally kicked myself. Now I want to do it physically, but I have to figure out how first. Though I have to tell this to myself: good luck with that. And I suppose: here is what I want to tell you.

It kind of started months ago: I guess I should introduce the “characters” first. Mary Jane? The girl being bullied- the one called a midget, a shrimp, and a million other things by people who’ve never even talked to her. Bethany, Courtney, Rose, and Lanie are the posse, the posse that I used to have a best friend in (Lanie was once my best friend). They’re feared, and you don’t exactly ever want to mess with them. That is, unless you’re like me, try it once, and then realize your immediate problem. It’s rather sad, since they’re a pretty good-looking bunch of girls, that lots of guys would want had they not been so vicious.

The first time I saw Mary Jane being bullied was six months ago (I think). Courtney had found her, and since Rose was absent, it was Lanie and Bethany who advanced on her. They said a lot of words that I don’t want to repeat- not because they were curse words, but simply because they disgust me so much. I knew what they were up to- saying things like, “Oooh, Mary Jane, love your shoes!’ and “Hey, Mary Jane. Come hang with us.”
Behind her back, though, they would be criticizing her, insulting her, and whispering their plans for her. I still feel horrible that I didn’t go up and say anything- but I guess it was just the fear of those girls that made me stop.

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As if that wasn’t enough, the second time they struck was in the cafeteria about a month later. Mary Jane had become “friends” with Bethany, Courtney, Lanie, and Rose- she had genuinely thought that she had become “part of the cast”. It sickened me, but I just stayed watching. I think lots of people noticed it by then, but no one did much against it. It was always fear, fear, fear.
I don’t really know how it came to it, but suddenly Mary Jane had her face in her hands, she was crying, and she was running from the lunch table as if there was a rocket on her heels. I later heard, from someone that had watched the whole ordeal within earshot, that Lanie had “accidentally” let it slip that the whole clique had never thought positively of Mary Jane. I sort of understood Mary Jane better and better- a girl who had made some friends, girls whom she had dared to trust-girls who had ended up showing their despise for her. The next day, Mary Jane wasn’t in school.

I think it was kind of done after that- but then again, it wasn’t. Mary Jane kept going back to them. I wanted to tell her to just ignore them, and realize that they were all in all bad girls, but she wouldn’t hear of it. “Sometimes they’re nice, but sometimes they’re mean. There’s something that happens to basically “unleash” their meanness. I want to find out what it is.”
“Jane”, as she was nicknamed by some, was a girl who was so intelligent- she wasn’t like the rest of the grade, at all. She gave one person more than two chances, and even the worst people did she try to understand. I decided to stick around her more- not only did she turn out to be really kind, but also a kind of “dream” friend that lots of people wish they had.

It really explains a lot that Jane and I became the best of friends after that. Almost, I would actually thank the mean girls. They brought me more than they thought- they gave me Jane. Lanie and her troupe kept trying to “deflate” Jane. They tried new insults on her, criticizing her dream of coming to Yale University, telling her that in 20 years, they would be nice enough to take her off the streets and let her live in their mansions. But then, I always told Jane, “You shouldn’t believe them. You’re growing prettier and prettier and prettier by the minute. You are one of the smartest people in the school. You work harder than anyone. You can do anything with your life.” Jane thankfully took that as true (it was, but she was modest).

Later, Jane stopped going near Lanie, Bethany, Courtney, and Rose. It didn’t matter. We had each other.

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