T-Shirt & Jeans This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

December 19, 2010
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I sit, blankly staring at the muddy gray food in front of me, as indistinct voices fill the air around me. Am I supposed to know what this is? Do they expect me to consume this?

The unidentified food object bubbles, as if to answer my question. I'm going to take that as a no, I silently resolve, pushing the tray and its revolting contents away from me. My stomach growls in protest. Hush, I reprimand it. Do you want to get sick? It growls louder.

I try to ignore the hunger and focus on my surroundings: the cafeteria of my new school. To the untrained eye, of a parent or teacher, it looks like a massive group of high school students all eating together, laughing, and enjoying each other. So completely normal, it could serve as a background to a clichéd high school movie where the girl falls in love with the boy. Or they fall in love with each other. Or something like that.

Yet the high school cafeteria has depths beyond what parents and teachers can see. It is divided into social groups so precisely that you could make a map and take visitors on a tour. Now, if you look to your right, you will see the drama freaks. They are not understood by anyone but their own. To the left, you find the nerds, the ones addicted to their calculators and who look like their mothers still dress them. It's the same at every high school; it doesn't matter whether it's the biggest public school in the middle of a huge metropolis or the smallest secluded private school isolated in the mountains. Although the map differs a bit for every school, the general idea applies to all.

I sigh and glance at my table. As a new student, I'm not sure which table I am supposed to sit at. I met two of these girls in chemistry, and they seemed nice enough. When they invited me to sit at their table, I pounced on the opportunity. There is nothing worse than sitting alone in the jungle of the high school cafeteria.

Currently, they are talking about what kind of clothes they are wearing. They rattle off designers I've never heard of: Miu Miu, Michael Kors, Neiman Marcus. They chat about what's in this season and what's out. They describe what styles each girl prefers: bohemian, vintage, punk-rock-but-in-a-good-way. I instantly realize this group is the fashionistas. They are the ones who jabber about clothes and designers and fashion endlessly, as if they have nothing better to do. They lay out their outfit the night before, and wear more makeup than the professionals.

Not that I have anything against these girls. I love fashion as much as the next girl. But I do believe there are limits to how much of your energy should be focused on school, and how much on the getting the next big trend before the rest of your friends.

“Hey, new girl, what's your style?” someone chirps.

I snap from my thoughts and realize that there are ten pairs of eyes expectantly looking at me. “Uh,” I stammer, looking at my plain T-shirt, jeans, and Converse sneakers. “T-shirt and jeans?”

There's a split second, and the girls burst into laughter. “Awesome answer!” they snort. Suddenly, I feel a rush of embarrassment run through my cheeks, although I have no idea why. I excuse myself amidst their laughter and hurry through the empty halls to my locker. I lean against cold metal and close my eyes, wondering how my first day of junior year turned out so humiliating.

I hear footsteps, and the clink of a locker opening, but I keep my eyes shut silently hoping I'll be left alone when my traitor of a stomach growls. I hear a snicker and prepare myself for even more embarrassment.

Instead, I feel a tap on my shoulder, and as I look up, I see my locker neighbor, a girl I encountered this morning with a simple “Hi … which way to chemistry class?” She's holding out a banana. With a grateful look, I take it and devour it in three bites.

She laughs. “I take it you didn't welcome today's mystery meat.” I shake my head and she chuckles. “Rule number one: Always have a backup snack in your locker if you're not sure about the lunch. Don't count on the vending machines either,” she warns. “Half the snacks are about ten years past the expiration date.”

I swallow the last bit of delicious banana and nod, accepting her advice as readily as a young grasshopper with his sensei. She looks me over, then asks, “Want to join me for lunch? We actually have real food at the table, and I'm pretty sure the girls won't mind sharing their lunches with someone who didn't know any better.” She smiles, and it lights me up.


As we walk back toward the jungle, I look over at my new friend and ask, “What style would you describe yourself as?”

She shoots me a questioning look and shrugs. “I don't know … T-shirt and jeans?”

I smile. “Interesting choice.”

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

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This article has 10 comments. Post your own now!

elites5 said...
Oct. 10, 2012 at 5:56 pm
This is totally like my high school! Really well written and I am t shirt, jeans or sweat pants girl :)
AlwaysAbditive said...
Jul. 6, 2012 at 12:27 pm
I like the irony and the ending is definetely the best part. Very interesting piece. Keep writing!
BloglessBlogger said...
May 29, 2012 at 4:45 pm
My style, all the way!
BloglessBlogger said...
May 29, 2012 at 4:34 pm
That is so my style
ginger1993 said...
Jan. 23, 2012 at 11:41 am
Nice! i liked it!
forgottenpenname This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Sept. 17, 2011 at 5:12 pm
I love this! :) My school's so totally different from this -- we aren't divided that way as much, the guys just kind of sit with the guys and the girls just kind of sit with the girls; we're not nearly as cliquey as most high schools -- but I still see where you're coming from. I'm a t-shirt and jeans kind of girl, myself, although I do enjoy dressing up a bit, too. :)
Pumpkinscout said...
Sept. 13, 2011 at 12:10 pm
Well written story! I enjoyed reading it a lot! My style is t-shirt and running shorts :)
zadiekatie23 This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Sept. 4, 2011 at 3:12 pm
Enjoyed reading this! I'm not all that into fashion either; t-shirt and shorts, baby!
LovelyBlueRose said...
Sept. 2, 2011 at 3:48 am
Nice story. I'm a girl but not that into fashion though. My style is t-shirt and jeans.XD
Kendall N. This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Dec. 22, 2010 at 8:32 pm
I really liked this piece :) I've seen the movie mean girls a few times and i think that you did a really good job!
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