middle school

This American Life: Middle School provided interesting lunchtime listening material today. As I sat at our dining room table with Stella next to me in her high chair chewing on pear slices, I found myself in the middle; looking back and cringing at the thought of my own middle school experience and thinking forward to the years ahead when Stella will be in the throes of that awkward age. 

I cringed for myself and I cringed for her. Like most parents, I hope that she sails through middle school with relative ease, that she won't be tormented by teasing, bullied by girls who seek to damage her self esteem because they are so frightened by it all themselves, marked by acne, or mortified by shyness. Part of me wishes that she is bookish and nerdy, like I was, that she is able to see middle school for what it is, a large dance into adulthood, towards more complex but better things.

Middle School was a frightening and exciting thing for me. It was big, so much bigger than the small canyon grade school I attended. There were dances, and class periods, and people kissed. Looking back I don't know if I was awkward, but I was definitely out of place. I played the cello, my favorite past-time was reading in bed, and I acted professionally at a local theater. Where I tried so hard in grade school to stand out by dyeing my hair pink, in middle school I found myself doing what I could to blend in and hiding the things that would make me different.

As foreign as middle school was, high school was more so. In high school I stopped trying to blend in and just held my breath and hoped it would be over soon. A few weeks before graduating, a boy I had been in classes with since middle school approached me as I was reading alone at a table in the quad and said "when are you going back to your country?" 
"What do you mean?" I asked. 
"Aren't you from, like, Sweden?" he responded.

Oh, adolescence. Listening to the kids being interviewed by the folks at This American Life as they mentally prepared themselves to enter a middle school dance, it was clear that it felt foreign to them too. To all of them.


Celia said...

in jr high, i was incredibly awkward, and i was NOWHERE near kissing. in my junior year of highschool, a kid in my english class told me i was the prettiest girl in school. i was completely taken aback. i was NOT one of the pretty girls... i shopped at thrift stores instead of the mall, boys never liked me (let alone, asked me to go to dances), and my makeup skills were embarrassing. i FINALLY got a boyfriend and kissed a boy my senior year, so i was a bit of a late bloomer. i always felt so out of place, like the other kids were so advanced and "adult", and i was just this goofy kid. the funny thing is, though, that even back then, i was completely aware that junior high and high school were so lame. i knew that all the good stuff comes later. i hope i can teach cheech to realize that too. i expect that she will also be somewhat awkward, and as much as i dread it for her, i also know that it builds so much character.

Heather G. Jones said...

William is in 6th grade! He starts middle school next year. He is so excited but I am freaking out. I remember being pretty well developed in Junior High. My distinct memory of 7th grade is being in a circle of boys who were grabbing and pinching my boobs and ass. I was so naive that, as uncomfortable as it made me, I took it as a compliment because I thought they liked me. Some 8th grade girl finally had to come and grab me out of the circle, cursing those horny assholes the whole time. Now I have boy on the verge years that illicit such fear in me that I'm almost muted in any advise I could give him! Help!

Hannah said...

Celia, I love that you were a late bloomer and didn't kiss a boy until your senior year. My first kiss was in 8th grade. At school, in front of some lockers on my way to biology class. It was sloppy and gross.

I don't know what advice to give, Heather, other than imparting how important it is to respect the girls at his school lest he become one of those boys grabbing at you. Ugh. And not to go along with things his friends are doing if he knows it's going to hurt someone else. Boys are funny. And boys at that age are still slightly alien to me... I'm sure William will be great in middle school.

Heather G. Jones said...

I agree. William will be fine. My concern is not so much that he will be one of those boys, more that he will be exposed to things I have no control over. I know it sounds crazy. I really can't control what he's exposed to now! It's just that the things he's learning are becoming so much more ADULT. It's quite a conundrum I find myself in. Wanting to hold my baby while trying to lead a young man.

Aralena said...

Love this, Hank. Why do middle schools even exist? Who thought that 6-8 grade was a good time to be exclusively with one's own age group?

In regards to middle school boys... I remember my little brother as a middle schooler, and his super dorky friends, and they were my favorite people in the world at that time. They were not cool or "popular," and their wacked-out vulnerability mixed with trying on being a "guy" was sweet and endearing. Sounds condescending, but I really do have an appreciation for that age of awkwardness that's almost absurd.

Kelly said...
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