My Popularity: A Brief History

I hated 7th grade.

Hated.  It.

My best friend at the time was Marie Kendricks,* and looking back I still think she was one of the best friends I’ve ever had.  She was loyal and gentle and smart.  We spent our Saturday afternoons riding our bikes around my neighborhood and writing stories about her horses.  We were friends because we genuinely liked each other.  She was there for me during the tumultuous transition between elementary and junior high school; childhood and adolescence.  A time when I was still figuring out who I was, and whether I actually liked that person at all. 

I was also tangentially friends with the “cool” clique.  But I always felt like I was friends with them only by association.  Like they never actually called me or wanted me around or really knew me the way that Marie did. 

So despite my friendship with Marie, I was unhappy.  Regardless of the fact that I had a supportive family, was voted class athlete, and went out with some of the cutest boys, I felt like a loser.  I was miserable.

By 8th grade, I’d figured things out a bit more.  I developed a circle of friends that I really felt close to.  Girls I trusted and liked.  Marie and I drifted apart as kids do, but my new friendships were based on some of the same properties.  I felt satisfied.  Comfortable. 

At the end of 9th grade, a friend commented to me that I’d been part of the “popular crowd” back in 7th grade.  I was flabbergasted. 

I realized then that while others may have seen me as an insider, I’d felt like an outcast and a wannabe.  The perception didn’t matter.  Apparent popularity sucked.  It was hollow.  Empty.  Lonely.  (If only I’d seen Heathers sooner!)

Many years later, I often find myself in the same position.  Still striving.  Still feeling hurt when I’m not invited directly to a happy hour or a party.  It doesn’t even matter if the event includes people I like or not, or if it’s something that I want to attend.  I still feel bad when I’m left out.  Granted, these emotions don’t dominate my life in the way that they did when I was in junior high, but they’re present nonetheless. 

I know, I know…It’s terribly lame and pathetic, and I should have long-since outgrown it.  One could even argue that I’m asking for too much, because I know full-well that I have more than my fair share of amazing friends.  But what can I say?  I suppose I’m still a 7th grader at heart.  I’m thirty years old, and I still want to be part of the popular crowd!  I still want everyone to like me! 

Do any of us ever really get over middle school?

*Names have been changed.

2 Responses to “My Popularity: A Brief History”

  • fortunecookiejunkie Says:

    I think the topic of outgrowing middle school and its inherent navel-gazing tendencies is a different one than the occasional tinge of jealousy or uncertainty brought about by one’s proximity to popularity. But that’s just me. You know…one of your “amazing” friends. 🙂

  • Colleen Conrad Says:

    If “navel-gazing” refers to the self-centered nature of adolescents, I agree; that is different than adult jealousy or uncertainty. And certainly I was unhappy in seventh grade due to my own insecurities, which aren’t as pronounced now as an adult. But in those moments of adult uncertainty, I still feel like I’m a seventh grader all over again! Thanks for being one of my amazing friends. ( :

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