The Friendship Club

by 10:22 PM 0 comments

Before my third grade year, my family moved from the posh Foothills School District to a larger house in a more central location. I was being transferred into Tucson Unified School District. Luckily for me, I tested into an all-day gifted class offered at a school not too far from our new home.

Despite all evidence to the contrary, I had an idea that all girls were required to wear their floatiest, spinniest, most floral and/or pink dresses on the first day of school. I'm not sure where I got this idea, but up to this point my habit of showing up on the first day in something absolutely ridiculous had gone unnoticed. On my first day at Lineweaver Elementary, I practically waltzed through the halls of my new school in a pink crepe vêtement and into my new classroom. "Excuse me, is this Ms. Kayhart's class?" I sing-songed/announced as I skipped through the door, and looked around at my classmates. Oh, dear God. This outfit was completely inappropriate. Literally every other girl who stared back at me was wearing shorts, a t-shirt, and sneakers. It was like that card game where you discover the rules as you play, but you're nonetheless penalized for breaking them. I was horrified, but the teacher was charmed, and she showed me to a desk. 

There were about twelve girls in our class: one played sports with the boys, three had a cool group by themselves, and the rest of us were in 'The Friendship Club.' Despite the fashion faux pas, I was inducted into this group.

The Friendship Club was very hierarchical. Lauren* and Rachel were the leaders. They were cute, short, funny, outgoing, stylish, cool, normal-smart but not crazy-smart, alternately bossy and kind. They were everything the rest of us aspired to, and we vied to become, if not like them, at least one tier below them. 

A few things marked me out for ostracism. First of all, I was slow to grow out of the dress-up stage, and insisted on wearing skirts and dresses after they had been deemed uncool by everyone else. I was over-eager in class, and I was too serious about pretend games. I wasn't allowed to read Baby Sitter's Club books**, which made me and my parents weird. But my most condemning aspect was that in a large group, I rarely spoke. I studied these other girls, trying to figure out what the right and wrong things were to do and say. At night, I would go over it in my head, rehearsing the phrases that the other girls had used that day. Of course, the next day it was a new game and a new topic of conversation, so my practice could rarely, if ever, be utilized. 

Quickly, I went from being basically liked to the subject of ridicule. Everything was game, from the way I walked to my lack of Mariah Carrey knowledge. The other girls would imitate my mannerisms to my face, or ask me why was I wearing that? The worst was after school when I had to take the bus home. Two girls, Rachel and Kathy*, had rigged a system of determining who was 'it' where I would literally be chosen every time. If I tried not to play, they wouldn't leave me alone wherever else I went on the playground. Once I pretended to be so sick that I needed to be picked up after school, but my sister's nanny was furious, so I never did it again. After the long wait for the bus, the bus ride where I would sit alone, but always within view of the other girls so they could keep making fun of me. Then Kathy and Rachel would call each other to discuss why they hated me (I found this out later). They called it the 'We Hate Marina Club,' no joke.

As revenge, I got Lauren to start a club with me against one of the founders of 'We Hate Marina.' Our club was called the 'We Hate Kathy Club,' membership 3. We hated Kathy because she was bossy and fat. 

At the end of the year, Kathy and I had a heart-to-heart. She told me about the We Hate Marina Club, and guilted me about starting the We Hate Kathy Club. She said that the day after she found out about the club, she stayed home from school because she felt so sick. I wonder how many of children's sick days are really the repercussions of bullying?

I was arguably one of the three most unpopular girls that year. I spent a lot of time crying at home, some time crying at school, and the majority of my time being unhappy. 

A few things coalesced to change my status the next year. I started taking drama classes, where I learned to speak up and express myself. Kathy, my main enemy, transferred to a different school. My mom started letting me read Baby Sitter's Club books. I wrote some scripts for the girls in The Friendship Club to act out, which ended up being a popular activity. For the rest of elementary school, I enjoyed a relatively stable and comfortable social status. Someone else's mom must have complained to the guidance counselor, though, because in fourth grade we were all called into the office for being an exclusive clique. The guidance counselor explained to us that we must be more kind to one another if this was really a 'Friendship Club.' We all walked out of this meeting with good intentions, which were carried out for several days at least. 

Socially, third grade was by far the worst year of my life. It took a long time for me to completely grow out of that time, to accept it as a fluke and not evidence of my being an unlikeable person. It sucked, but I wonder what happened to the girls who were on the bottom not just once, but year after year? Are they bitter? Stronger for it? Still insecure? Over it completely? 

Funny how memories can last, and small things can mean so much, or large things so little. And funny how aptly-named some of our clubs were (the 'We Hate' clubs) and how poorly we named the main one.

*Name changed
**Whenever we played Baby-Sitter's Club, I had to be Dawn because my parents were divorced just like hers. There are no words for this insanity except LOL.

Marina Gafni

Marina Gafni is a 28-year-old speech pathology student. She lives with her husband in San Jose, CA.


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