May 19, 2008
By Mallory Zimmermann, Hartland, WI

This is high school, a controlled simulation of real life. Opinions are forming like stalagmites, drop by drop of influence from countless sources—the internet, friends, parents—building the pillars of assumed fact and subtle discrimination that will later hold up a comfortable roof of belief to shield each person from the things they don’t understand.

I’m a self-made outcast, having given up the group that would have become my clique. That’s what everybody sees me as: the smart girl, the fat girl, the asocial weird girl who sits alone at lunch. That’s alright, that’s where I fit in the high school society. Everyone else, safe in their groups of friends and acquaintances, has labeled me with those words.

Equally, they have their niches too.
The preps stand atop the social ladder, with bright ‘Abercrombie & Fitch’ shirts and miniskirt, gaggles of friends huddle in conversation, and big houses in select subdivisions. Closely related, the athletic girls sport jackets from track and jean shorts, distinctly feminine without losing their laidback, competitive edge. The jocks have sports on the mind and naturally tanned skin, reputations in gold in the school’s trophy display, and pretty girlfriends from the abovementioned cliques. The geeks are united by long-standing stereotypes of intelligence. In this generation, they are the masters of virtual reality; supposedly sacrificing the possibility of a social life for internet sensations. Lurking in the background is the counterculture, as much of a conformed clique as the rest. They are the alternatives, dark hair streaked with unnatural colors and loud, violent-sounding music thrumming from their ever-present headphones. They’re paradoxically united in their struggles to be edgy and different.

This is the social climate, one of labels and cliques, where everyone must fit somewhere. Ironically, my “clique” is the group of the asocial, clumped together like everyone else who doesn’t want to be labeled.

As teenagers, we assume that everyone has a place. We expect them to act up to their appearance, like characters in a play, because that fulfills the point of labeling. Anomalies break apart our carefully constructed views of the world, smashing them into confusing pieces like a broken mirror, webbed with silvery cracks and showing us tiny pieces of ourselves, so alien in their separation from the whole.

The way we are trained to think is by assumption. Assume we know the people next to us, give them a name and definition, and that is the end. We know them as wholly as we’ll ever need to. It kills the concept of people as people, multifaceted individuals, not a group with assumed definitions. It makes them predictable, easy to understand, and that makes it easier to live around them.

We say it allows us to accept them for “who they are”. In reality, assumption does the opposite. We lose who everyone else is, even lose ourselves, in trying so hard to make things fit. We exclude, base ourselves in the negative connotations of each clique. All geeks have no social life, all preps are “rich b**ches”, all punk kids are stoners with no future.

It breaks us apart, no matter how we think we rely on it for stability.

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