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English Comp 123, M/W at 3
20 January 2004
When I was twelve years old, I started going to a new school called Taylor Road Middle School. It was freshly built in the quickly growing, upper class, Atlanta neighborhood that my family had moved to the year before. Taylor Road gave parents the opportunity to keep their fragile children away from the riff-raff of the middle class kids who went to the “old” school. Unfortunately for me, all of my friends went to the old school, and I did not know anyone who would be attending Taylor Road.
The newly built school opened in the late summer of my seventh grade year, and all of the students were feeling the excitement of being the first class in a virgin building. However, by my second day there, the initial excitement wore off as I realized that I was going to have problems with making acquaintances. At this age, in order to have any friends, it was imperative that you get on the good side of the “popular” crowd. In the case of popular girls, a nasty, mean-spirited girl typically leads the crowd, followed closely by what can only be described as cronies, who do her every bidding. This girl is not in charge because she is well liked; she is in charge because she is well feared. She holds in her hands the fate of every girl in her class, for if the popular group does not accept you, you are banished to being a loner.
Loners were forced to attend school without making eye contact with anyone, laughing in class, raising their hand, or sitting with anyone at lunch. If they were lucky, and kept a very low profile, they did not have to suffer being emotionally and physically abused by the members of the elite. They were doomed to accepting only friends from children grades below them, which could be even more humiliating than being friendless.
When I started school that summer, I had all the intentions of being accepted into the popular group. I studied them carefully in the first few days; I laughed quietly when they laughed, tried to mimic their speech patterns while talking out loud in class, and hung out on the fringes of their mob as they gabbed to catch bits of conversation that would help me in the future. It was important to know which bands I was supposed to listen to, which movie stars to fawn over, and whether or not it was cool to have parents who had been divorced. Unfortunately, one thing that I could not easily adapt to was one of the most important points of belonging to the group; wearing the right clothes.
About a month after we started school, I began to see my efforts paying off. More and more of the kids in the in-crowd were starting to act like I existed. Some even knew my name, which was a huge feat as far as I was concerned. They would finally look me in the face, and I was now allowed to sit closer and closer to the core members of the group and their leader. I was elated, but scared…. At this point, all it would take would be one misstep, and I would not only be labeled a loner, but, even worse, an outcast. “Outcasts” were one-time members of the popular crowd who had been banished at some point. They would never again have the opportunity to be accepted back into the crowd, and they tended to be the kids who took the brunt of the abuse from the upper crust.
About the same time that I was seeing changes in the behavior of the crowd toward me, the leader changed the rules about fashion. It was now necessary to wear jeans that were made by Gap. Any other brands just were not acceptable. The other girls in the group quickly had their new Gap jeans bought and were wearing them within weeks, all in crisp shades of blue, and all neatly tight-rolled at the bottom. As for me, I begged my parents for a pair of Gap jeans, but I only received a long lecture on jumping off of bridges after everyone else. I
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Clothing, Jeans, 19th-century fashion, California Gold Rush, Western wear, Culture
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