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I live in a small town; it’s peaceful, everybody knows each other, and everybody knows each other’s business. Maybe that is why the small school I went to seemed separated, the kids were mirroring their parents’ behavior.
In third grade, all of the kids in my class were friends. When one kid had a birthday party, either all of the girls, all of the boys, or the whole class was invited.
By sixth grade, that changed. We were all starting to be divided by these lines, these unspoken rules that were created after the summer. I didn’t see the lines at first, I still thought that my next door neighbors were my good friends, the ones who I would swim with on hot days, the ones I had over to eat ice cream and play on the hammock. It seemed within the first month, we all decided to choose our “groups.”
The girls who liked to dye their hair blonde, tan throughout the year, and only buy Hollister or Abercrombie clothes were grouped together.
The girls who liked to get into trouble, or didn’t want to listen to the teachers were grouped together.
The guys who were good at sports and played football or hockey were grouped together.
Then finally the kids who didn’t fit into any groups divided amongst themselves, grouping with others to survive.
I had been friends with two boys since the first day of kindergarten. I have a picture, still, of us awkwardly standing by the bus stop on the second day of school. We had been close growing up, since we all lived close to each other. During the fifth grade, I was frozen out by the two boys since they seemed to realize I was a girl, which meant I didn’t mingle with boys. They had stayed close, yet by the end of the sixth grade, the two former best friends had separated. One went to a group of sporty boys, the other the miscellaneous group.
I fit in with the miscellaneous girls group. I wasn’t in with being blonde, or tan; yet, I liked to pay attention in class and get good grades. I made a new group of friends with two other girls I had known, one since the fourth grade when she moved to town, the other since first grade. We became close, we had to when all of the other kids in our class seemed like they only wanted to be close within their own group. Even though there were 40 kids in my grade, it felt like each group was divided by the Berlin Wall, built up by the “social rules.”
Being in a school that was so divided for three years in a way scarred me. When high school came, I didn’t trust people I didn’t know. I was used to having the lines defined to me by my classmates. How could I forget what I learned in middle school and incorporate myself into the new social pool? I sometimes look back on those three years of middle school wondering if I would’ve turned out different, better, if I had chosen to be in a different group.





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