Miss Unpopularity 1987

If there was an Olympic event for making mountains out of mole hills, I think I would have won a gold medal this week.  Or maybe not.  Maybe my intuition about certain recent events is right on target.  It’s hard to say because I’m rather biased about this particular topic.  And that topic is…

Popularity.  As in, who’s cool in school and who gets treated like crap.  You’d think that at the age of 39 I’d have gotten past all that by now.  Well, think again.  Ever since Cassie started kindergarten a few weeks ago, this particular issue has hit me like a ton of bricks.

Let me explain.  Twice last week, Cass came home from school in a very unhappy state.  The first time, she came off the bus sobbing because, as she put it, “So-and-so was mean to me!”  The second time, she waited until we were at home before disintegrating into tears.  When I finally got her calmed down enough to ask what was wrong, I got the same answer as before.  Some kids at school were mean to her.

What does that mean, the kids are being mean to her?  In the course of the past week it has meant: other kids pulling and hitting on Cassie’s backpack while she’s standing in line; one child scratching Cassie’s hand while trying to get her to turn around and sit forward on the bus (was it horseplay? accidental? deliberate?); name calling; being played with and then abruptly ignored; and other minor events.

I know enough about kids at this point to know that I’m not getting the entire story from Cass.  I’ve e-mailed her teacher and talked with her to confirm that Cassie has not become the class pariah.  The backpack incident was horseplay and Cassie wasn’t the only target that afternoon.  I’ve also talked with the mother of the child who scratched Cassie’s hand, to try and ascertain what happened that day.  We’re both chalking it up to personality differences and a misunderstanding at this point.

So there may or may not be a problem.  At the school open house tonight, Cassie seemed to have a lot of fun playing with a few of her classmates (I gave my number to the moms in question in hopes of setting up play dates). And Cassie’s teacher says Cass has a great time in school.  But then I keep thinking about the two days Cass came home crying last week, followed by mornings where she did not want to go the the bus stop and see the girl who scratched her, and I can’t help but worry.  You see, I was one of the most unpopular kids in my school.  It started in first grade and it only got worse as I grew up.  Name calling, snubbing, a little outright hazing and plenty of rumor mongering.  At age seven the popular girls liked to pretend I didn’t exist even though we sat at the same table and were assigned to work on projects together. By fourth grade, one little twit started a rumor that I was stuffing my bra even though I didn’t own a fucking bra yet.  In seventh grade, at my first dance, one of the most popular girls in school threw a soda in my face just because I showed up and it pissed her off.  Mary remembers that night.  She grabbed my right arm to keep me from punching that girl’s lights out.  So I hit the bitch with a left hook instead. 

Speaking of Mary, my best friend and partner in crime, she and I became the school lesbians after we decided to go to ring dance together because we couldn’t get dates.  (Recall back in those days that being a lesbian was a hanging offense… like it isn’t anymore, right?).  Anyway, Mary was just as popular as I was all through school, but by that point, the name calling didn’t really phaze either of us anymore so we hammed it up for all we were worth and to this day people ask if we’ve eloped to California yet.  Hey, they’d understand us there.

By 1987, my senior year in high school, I had quite the reputation.  I was gay, a witch (because I did a research paper on the Salem witch trials), and a socio-path who enjoyed dissecting cats (that last was actually true, but the cat was dead when I got it).  When the time came to vote for senior superlatives, I got ‘most artistic’ and ‘worst dressed.’  The same snarky little bitch that had accused me of stuffing my bra in the fourth grade nominated me for the later title.  Mary was voted ‘most anti-social.’  Today she’s a nurse who gives people colonoscopies if they aren’t nice to her.

So I went through all that shit and survived, and when I left college (yes, I had problems with the popular crowd even in college, thanks to my fellow fuck-head ROTC cadets) I thought I had finally escaped it all.  I went out into the world and became recognized as someone who was smart, competent, hard working, decisive, aggressive, and more than a little scary/crazy and not to be fucked with (and all these terms come from various job reviews and military evaluation reports I have received over the years).  I was in charge wherever I went, I had my friends who had stood by me all through school, I was away from the assholes who tried to make my life miserable, and on the rare occasion when I did run into said assholes, I just pulled out that scary/crazy confident aspect of me and they backed right the fuck off.

I grew up, and I grew out of the popularity contest.

And then I had a child who started kindergarten this fall and I am right back in the middle of that shit.

Is it really a problem yet?  Has my girl entered the popularity contest and been found wanting?  Or am I just too fucking paranoid thanks to my own bad experiences?  I so do not want to see Cassie go through what I did, and no, don’t even suggest that if I came through it a better person so will she.  I’ve only highlighted a little of the endless sadism I had to endure.  My kid does not need to face that to become a better, stronger person.  No one does.  So it raises my hackles when she comes home crying, sobbing, about how the kids at school are treating her.  I fear I see the hints of what is to come.  Cassie is me all over in many way, the younger me who didn’t have the razor sharp tongue and the scary-as-shit take-no-prisoners attitude.  She’s a smart, sweet, goofy kid who’s just entered a world where smart, sweet, goofy kids get turned into shark bait.

What to do, what to do?  I’m trying to get her out to see her friends more — her real friends like Mary’s son and the little girl down the street who’s allergic to everything under the sun and thus will probably never go to a regular school.  And I’m trying to help her find new friends by reaching out to the moms of the classmates she does seem to get along with.  But that one little girl, the same one who goes to Cassie’s bus stop, is in Cassie’s class, that same kid who scratched my baby and made her cry… I got a bad feeling about her.  I’ve got this sense that she’s one of the sharks, and somehow, some way, I have got to prevent her from eating Cassie alive.

I was Miss Unpopularity 1987, voted ‘Worst Dressed,’ ‘Least Liked,’ and ‘Most Likely to be Spit Upon’ by my fellow classmates.  That is not a title my daughter should have to inherit.

About Cynical Woman

Cartoonist, Artist, Geek, Evil Crafter, Girl Scout Troop Leader and Writer. Also, a zombie. I haven't slept in I don't know how long.
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  1. Damn, Helen!

    In many ways, my school experiences were the polar opposite of yours. No, I wasn't one of the nasty ones, but I managed to sail through those shark-infested emo-waters with fair skies and following winds.

    I have every confidence that you'll be able to steer & support Cassie so that she'll find her way through, too.

    My younger two kids get the "retard" hazing 'cause their older brother "rides the short bus." They developed thick skins very, very early. Still, it sucks.

  2. Oh, I was SO unpopular… but I survived.

    Cassie is doing better. I’m starting to think a lot of it was just getting through that first month. She was so tired all the time, and when she’s tired, everything is wrong in her life. And like I said at the beginning, I’m quick to turn mountains into molehills. Things have settled down.

    But I’m still keeping an eye on her to be sure…

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