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My Own Table This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

I just don’t seem to get the whole enchilada. Even the people who I believe to be my “friends” react to me as if I’m socially awkward. I’m totally good at talking to my peers, I’m sweet, outgoing and the most colorful kid in the senior class. But there are things that keep me from sitting at a table with the popular kids, which is what I have always wanted to do since the first day of seventh grade. I was never allowed to, and I would get kicked out and outcast if I tried. I want to know why these lunch tables are so exclusive, why only certain people can sit there and why they put their own peers to shame by making their choice of lunch seating a symbol of superficiality. It makes the teens that don’t have a place at a table to sit feel bad about themselves and it bruises their self-esteem. Many of the “popular” kids are hailed as the gods and goddesses of the hallways but they often act in ways that give an impression that “You’re not cool enough to talk to us,” and that’s pretty mean. The culture of the clique involves very subtle, yet emotionally effective tactics of social bullying. Is this something they take pride in?
One time I was in middle school in the seventh grade and the popular eighth-grade girls “invited” me to their table to haze me. I was too innocent to realize that they brought me over to insult and make fun of me with mean inside jokes. Then, one of the girls called over one of “their” guys and told me I should talk to him because he “liked” me. He was pretty attractive, and when I said hi to him, he looked at me like I was from another planet. He and the girls were hysterical with laughter, and when they were done with me they screamed at me to leave. I quickly learned that I’d better sit alone in the corner and stay out of everyone’s way if I didn’t want pizza flung at my face, ruining my new t-shirt.
When I was a freshman, I looked up to the seniors of ’08. They were so attractive, so popular and they looked so cool. Even though I knew I had no chance with them, they inspired me. I wanted to be that blushing prom queen, glowing flawlessly with glory and a million-dollar smile of pearly whites, armfuls of red roses and a tiara… that was my dream. I am a senior now, and that dream never came true. But I’m finally there and I can’t even talk to my senior class because I am not “popular”. I am not socially entitled to mix with the “in-crowd” because it would be against the social norm of high school. It would be awkward, and I don’t understand this because I wear Aeropostale, I’m really colorful and wear a lot of pink. I wear Juicy Couture jewelry and I take very good care of my appearance. I see myself as an attractive person, but there’s still something that makes me different from the rest of my senior class. They have chosen to treat me differently for whatever reason since middle school, the beginning of their social lives. Word spreads fast, and if the head cheerleader decides you’re too plump or you’re not pretty enough, everyone thinks so. I’m trying to understand the complexity of this social injustice. I want to know the unspoken social rules and standards that seem higher-than-the-Heavens. What makes you cool or un-cool? WHAT IS “socially awkward”?
Yesterday I was sitting with my friends and I was upset because they were deliberately excluding me. They are a pretty tight-knit group and they are like sisters. They have known each other longer than I’ve known them but we have been friends on-and-off since freshman year. They pretended to be my friends and lead me to believe it, and they left me out of everything. They pretend to like me, and they all exclude me. They never invite me to their parties, and I watch them have so much fun together in front of me. I see the pictures on Facebook they take together, that for whatever reason I NEVER appear in. The last few days I have sat with them, they would interrupt me whenever I opened my mouth and change the subject. When I stopped talking and wondered why they were acting so rude, they ignored me as if I were invisible. I got up, walked away and they didn’t even say anything. The next day, they got up and moved to one side as soon as I sat down. I felt insulted, and got up and left again. This time, they all spread out as soon as I left because I was gone and it was “safe“to sit there again. Why did they treat me this way? It is unkind and insulting. They sat on the ground against the outside wall of a classroom. Now, I have nowhere to sit at all. But that’s okay that I’m no longer friends with those girls, who were obviously never my friends to begin with. It wasn’t where I truly wanted to be.
What I would really like to do is march my fanny right over to the popular table, that one by the big tree that all the cheerleaders, football guys and ASB kids sit at. That is the place I know I would belong and feel happy, with kids who share my interests. I know a lot of these people and I think some of them are pretty nice. But that would be awkward and interrupt everyone else sitting there, because of the social norms of high school—which I aspire to really learn. What are things that define good social status? What gives The Popular so much prestige? And why is inter-subcultural alliance so unheard of? It makes me feel sad that people don’t treat their peers with kindness, and I wish I knew what these teens thought made a person “cool” or “un-cool”. And on Facebook, why do people react in certain ways to my comments? Recently I commented on one of my friends’ status posts, and her sister said “TFFF !” after my comment, as if what I had said was awkward. I’m sorry, but is it conflicting with the social norm to comment on my friend’s status? Because if it was, I’m sure Facebook wouldn’t have the “Comment” option! Cattiness and sarcasm aren’t cool or necessary at all.
And for all the other teens like me, who can’t sit with who they want or where they want, you’re not alone. Our beautiful Lady Gaga once faced the sadness of this same situation, and she speaks out about it during her performance of the song “Hair” in A Very Gaga Thanksgiving. I was really inspired when she said, “I feel like I wrote this song ten years ago when I was 15 going to this school. And right now, believe it or not, this is the banquet hall, and when we were kids we used to eat in here. And this is the most amazing school in the world, it really is. But I’m sure it’s no secret to everyone that some kids get bullied and don’t have a seat at the table in the cafeteria. So I was one of those kids, and I know there are lots of kids out there that don’t get to sit at the table they wanna sit at. So I wanted to thank you for believing in me so that I can come back to my own school and come to the banquet hall and sit… at my own table. So this song is about your identity being the most important thing to you, and no matter what anyone says or how much you have or how much you don’t, it’s what’s on the inside that matters.” As I listened, the song and her words brought tears to my eyes. The song was beautiful, and she was singing about me. I really felt what she was saying. Throughout the song, she added on different colored hairpieces. In the middle of the song, she said “Maybe just one more piece. Just one more piece of hair… and this one is for all the kids who are bullied in school, who are afraid to be themselves. I’m gonna put this big, funny piece of teal on my hair and tell you that I feel fabulous because it is my freedom and my choice to do so. And I hope that every day at school you remember, you remember that there’s somebody that’s fighting for you.” I think Lady Gaga is a beautiful person. She inspires me, and I hope she can inspire everyone. I hope that very soon, teens feel free to sit with and talk to anyone they want without feeling ashamed of themselves or feeling different.



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WritingInPinkCloudsss said...
Aug. 11, 2012 at 8:25 pm:
Beautiful and well written! OMG i love this! It brought tears, smiles, and much admiration. I can so relate to this. Our highschool years are supposed to be great, so why should our short 30minutes to an hour in a cafeteria decrease our fun and enjoyment? Decrease the value of highschool? I'm hoping that one day, none of it will matter and modern day teens will have a new bond and love for one another. Sadly, my hopes clash with reality and are lost in an un-known sea of fic... (more »)
 
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