Column: death of popularity


Rebecca Wen

For a while, I just couldn’t put my finger on it. Nobody had left (except the seniors, who had already been fading away anyway), and nobody had changed (except a few freshmen who made it through puberty at last). But I felt lost. It seemed my classmates were now just classmates; there was an absence of something at school, but what was it? Finally, it dawned upon me as Mean Girls played on TV while I was babysitting.

While I slumped on a sofa, Cady approached Regina, Gretchen and Karen during lunch. The crowded, synthetic tables and awkward food trays were nostalgic, but when was the last time I had lunch drama? I hadn’t witnessed it since the beginning of high school.  Then, it dawned upon me. Popularity had died. Or maybe it was just barely hanging in there, dazed and confused.

One person told me the popular group at our school is the hipsters while another said only the hipsters think of themselves as popular. So I searched. What happened to the immaculate jocks and Regina Georges of West High? Who was I to worship and hate simultaneously? West’s social pyramid of teenagers had collapsed. It was nice not feeling like a low-class nobody, but change was frightening.

This is not a proclamation that everyone is lame, but recognition of our school’s social balance. There are many things at West that I could brag about (like the 26.1 ACT average mentioned at all relevant or almost relevant situations), but one thing that actually matters is our social environment. Of course, nothing can completely prevent me from being an angsty teenager or stop me from passive-aggressively judging someone’s outfit, but there’s more freedom and leisure at school when the populars don’t exist.

This freedom entails some great changes for me. For one, I have finally unmolded my school appropriate “approachable girl” smile. If I look pissed off, that’s probably because of the bitchy-resting-face syndrome. I’m also comfortable wearing grossly elegant clothing one day and the donning some unacceptably floppy pants and a floppy shirt the next. And more importantly, I don’t feel embarrassed by the clubs I go to or the classes I’m in.

I suppose the lack of popularity can be seen as an opportunity for many. The throne is empty, so perhaps you have a greater opportunity to take hold of it. I have no idea how though, since all of the old tricks prove to be useless. Pearly-white smiles, athleticism, and wealth don’t make the perfect combination anymore. In this scattered environment, go ahead and try to establish your popularity, but I’d much rather spend my time relaxing and doing the things I want to do.

Image from Creative Commons