19: The Curiosity of Popularity

19: The Curiosity of Popularity

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Teens Talk Middle School

The Curiosity of Popularity

Fame is a vapor, popularity an accident, and riches take wings. Only one thing endures and that is character.

~Horace Greeley

It was the end of August, two thousand and six.
When something did happen, something had clicked.
We walked in the door that second day of school,
And suddenly knew who was normal and cool.
On the top of the ladder were all those who played sports,
Or were wealthy and went shopping to buy things of all sorts.
They were good-looking, clean, but not always nice,
They play football, lacrosse, or hockey on ice.
And then, way back at the bottom of the ladder,
Were the people who were smarter, clumsier, or fatter.
They played on computers, or played violin,
They didn’t have cell phones on which you can dial in.
We’re all in one school, but our fates have been sealed.
When we entered sixth grade, two worlds were revealed.

Four elementary schools, molded into one,
Some schools were different, people had more fun.
Some of the boys, you know what they’d shout:
“Hey! Me and Lisa? Guess what, we’re going out!”
They’d walk, holding hands, and they thought they were supreme,
As they went to the movies, or out for ice cream.
While the rest of the kids, from the other side of town,
Walked around with no hand, on their face was a frown.
Something that last year that seemed totally absurd,
Now, if someone didn’t do it, they became a nerd.
Most of the adults said, “No, it’s not time yet.”
But most kids gave in. They wanted a “someone,” you bet.
We guessed that real “dating” would soon come about,
But for then, people were still just “going out.”

The popular people had such a weird way,
As they roamed the hallways, looking for prey.
You could be at your locker, just keeping to yourself,
Getting your books and binders off your locker shelf.
And then, they would spot you, and walk right up,
And say things like, “Oh, hey, you. What ‘sup?”
What are you supposed to say? “The ceiling, I guess.”
That only creates several seconds of awkwardness.
You just kind of leave after you collect your pens,
And the popular kids go back out with their friends.
Sometimes the Populars do it as a joke,
To see your reaction, to see if you choke.
Maybe you give it a shot, to be nice and sincere,
But you realize, soon after, you’d rather disappear.

Then there’s something you notice about your new school,
That Populars spend time on the field or in the pool.
They play their baseball, basketball, water polo, and lacrosse.
They have swimming, back and forth in the pool, they cross.
They play football, where they can get dirty in the mud,
And soccer, where they’d kick the ball as much as they could.
But then, those less popular people play things as well,
They seem to find things and still manage to excel.
They play violin, really working their right arm.
They play chess and menacingly find an opponent to disarm.
While they play real sports too,
The ones popular kids do,
They might not be as good,
At these sports as they “should.”

Middle school—sixth grade—is way different, that’s for sure.
The day you walk in school, everyone is suddenly “mature.”
While most of the times that you have will be good,
You’ve got homework, friends, and things in your neighborhood.
But school is a part of living, and it’s a part of life.
You’ve got to go through it, all the fun and the strife.
And now I will say this, with all sincerity,
Do your best to survive the perils of popularity.

~Hale McSharry

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