Horrible High School

by 1:53 AM 0 comments
When I was thinking about all of my bullying experiences, I initially drew a blank when it came to high school. I remembered high school as a kind of utopia free of social conflict, and was trying to examine how such a beautiful place came to be. Was it because we were all 'gifted'? Were we so driven towards success that we took out all of our feelings on our GPAs? I was about to form a beautiful theory of social equanimity based on this data, when a series of cringe-inducing memories came back to me in quick succession. Oh, God. How could I have forgotten the Primaveras?

During my senior year of high school, I was forced to take a PE credit as a condition for graduation. I had already been in ballet/tap/jazz for years during elementary, middle, and early high school, so signing up for a dance class seemed the easy way out. I missed the audition date for the advanced dance class, so I signed up for late auditions that could get me into the intermediate class. I figured that once the teacher saw me, there was no way she wouldn't pass me into the advanced class. She was firm about the fact that I had missed the deadline, though, so I would have to deal with being in the intermediate class for the next year.

When August rolled around I went to one class of the intermediate level, and realized that I had far more experience than anyone else in that room. Also, the teacher from the last year had left, which allowed me to make a decision that I have never admitted prior to this writing: I LIED. I lied to the teacher. I said that the teacher from last year had told me I should be in the advanced class. There were no witnesses, and I stuck to my story. So I basically moved myself into the top class, the Primaveras.

What I didn't realize was that the Primaveras were very proud of selecting their members by committee, and that there was a very strict hierarchy based on how many years one had been a Primavera, and how hard one had worked to get there. However, I had danced with some of the girls before outside of school, and they knew I was good enough, and I had some acquaintances that were warm to me initially. But they expected a level of pride and spirit about being in the group that I didn't show.

I went from being cautiously respected to persona non grata on the day of a car wash. The Primaveras wanted to wash cars all day on a Saturday to raise money so that we could buy sweatshirts with our logo imprinted on them. I suggested that our time was better spent doing anything else, and just paying for the sweatshirts. This suggestion wasn't well-received, because 'not all of us have money.' I'm still convinced that all of those girls had money, but wanted to spend their Saturday in a bikini top and shorts waving a sign at an intersection. Regardless, I didn't show up to the car wash, which even during that day I recognized as a selfish decision as I listlessly ignored texts throughout the afternoon.

That was a crappy thing of me to do, and I paid for it all year long. The group turned against me, making not only 6th period awkward, but also practice sessions before and after school, and even some walks down the hallway.

It's hard to explain how these things happen. I never actually overheard gossip about myself. It was all tightened lips, lack of eye contact, slightly turned shoulders. There was no question, though, that everyone hated me.

I was conscripted into some kind of sleepover in that first semester with all of the other dancers. I think it started with us all meeting at a car show, an event specially tailored to the interests of none of us. We walked around and looked at old cars, and some of the girls claimed that some guys were checking out (let's call her) Megan. "Oh my gosh, Megan, they're totally going to date-rape you!" "D-A-T-E-R-A-P-E Megan!" I couldn't make this up if I tried. They literally created a cheer for the rape of the most popular girl, the host of the sleep-over. She loved it. It became an inside joke.

After the car show, we went to Megan's house. Her room was covered with Britney Spears posters at a time when Britney Spears was past her prime of popularity, but this didn't stop every other girl from gushing how THEY loved Britney, TOO! What a coincidence!

This was the sad thing about the Primaveras. Even from the outside looking in, I knew I was only slightly more miserable than these girls, who were constantly straining themselves and forcing the appearance of fun for Megan's attention. At least I didn't have to try to care.

Everyone decided they wanted to watch Dirty Dancing, and I couldn't have jumped faster at the opportunity to leave and pick up the DVD. A mellow, self-possessed girl came with me, and I wondered if she was as uncomfortable as I was at this party. At any rate, I was grateful that she volunteered to spend time with the social pariah.

We watched the movie, which is actually great, and then we offered Megan our prayers as we lay awake in our sleeping bags. "Megan, I really, really love your house." "Your Dad is so funny." Voices murmured earnestly one after another until we were all asleep.

In the morning, my friends picked me up from Megan's house to drive to Mt Lemmon for a picnic, and I haven't been happier to see anyone in my life since that day.

I actually did have one friend in Primaveras;Steven matched and possibly exceeded my level of cynicism about the other girls. He was terribly popular: he was a very good choreographer, one of only two boys, and openly gay, which allowed every single girl in the group to designate him her "gay BFF." Charming! I think that the Secret Santa was rigged because we both drew each other's names. He gave me a Barnes and Noble gift card, and explained later that he chose that because he knew I liked to read, not because he hadn't put any thought into it. Honestly, to hear someone express an interest in me while I was in the environment of that group was so touching. To have someone mildly like you when you're universally hated means so much more than a friendship under normal circumstances.

During Spring semester, I completely stopped caring. I was late to rehearsals, or missed them all together, which made the Primaveras hate me more, which made me come less...

One day, about six of us were sitting in the audience watching someone else practice their dance. I said something about how everyone hated me, I'm not sure what motivated me to make the observation, but one girl responded with surprising vitriol. "Because you didn't AUDITION! We all auditioned, and you didn't. You just decided to come in." Okay, that was true. "But I'm just as good as everyone else, so why does it matter?" She rolled her eyes. "That's not the point."

And when auditions finally rolled around at the end of Spring, I understood what she meant. We were the judges. The dancers kowtowed to us. We sat in a circle and talked about the personality, dating habits, commitment, and technical skills of each dancer. We took them apart, and put some of them back together. The finished ones went into the Primaveras. The rest were left in the intermediate group, or below.

The Primaveras were nice enough to me considering I wasn't chosen by audition. When I didn't even show up to the car wash, I was realizing their worst fear. Not going through the process of proving myself meant that I would continue not proving myself. And by socially isolating me, they further pushed me into a state of dejection and inaction.

The best thing I can say about that whole experience is that I'm lucky it was only for one class period during one year of my high school career. I was otherwise surrounded by wonderful friends and acquaintances who made me very happy and comfortable. I don't blame the individuals involved, I think that group dynamics and my obstinacy were destined to cause trouble. Still, I was practically skipping away from the Goodwill on the day that I dropped off my Primaveras sweatshirt, forever free from that tyranny of adolescent girls.


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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