Posted by: Christine Johnson | February 10, 2010

Hanging Out at the Cool Kids’ Table

When she spoke at the Tea Party Convention last weekend, Sarah Palin made a bit of a splash on the Left when she wrote some key points on her hand that she wanted to be sure to hit upon. The talking heads were crazy with rage at the idea that she might write a few things down (on her hand! how unprofessional!) that she didn’t want to forget. When speaking on live TV and on a stage, people get nervous, even in an interview, but that’s no excuse.

Well, their sheer excitement over the issue prompted Mrs. Palin to write on her hand again while stumping in Texas. This time, instead of her list of policy notes she wanted to point out, she wrote “Hi, Mom!” Hysterical! I absolutely loved it, and thought it was a great way to quietly point out how ridiculous this is. I mean, after all, it’s not like she had a teleprompter brought in to speak to a dozen or so people on a policy board she put together or anything.
Yesterday, at the daily briefing, he decided to write a list on his hand (a grocery list), cross out an item, then write “Hope” and “Change” at the bottom.

Niiiiice. Very classy.
You know what this administration reminds me of? The “cool kids” clique at school.
You remember them. It might start earlier these days, but when I was a kid, they started forming in middle school. They were the ones who sat at the back of the bus and wouldn’t let lesser students sit near them without taunting and jeering.
They sat together at lunch, in their echo chamber, making fun of the uncool who sat in smaller groups, or alone. If they ventured away from their table, it was to rip into someone lower on the food chain.
They were kings and queens of the school. Cheerleaders and jocks, most of the time. (No, not all the cheerleaders and not all of the jocks. You know what I mean.)
They wore cool clothes. They listened to cool music. They had cool stuff before anyone else did. They could schmooze teachers with their charm. (The teachers, themselves, probably allowed themselves to be schmoozed merely because it was their chance – finally – to be in the cool kids’ club themselves.)
And they could be ruthless if they didn’t like you.
I remember my first real run-in with the cool kids. Yeah, they rode on my bus, and I generally wasn’t near them merely because I knew they weren’t friendly to me any more. (Many of these students were my friends in elementary school.) And I knew that there were some kids in my classes who were part of that clique. My friends were not. But, God, who didn’t WANT to be? Who doesn’t want to be accepted by many people? Who doesn’t wish they could be looked upon favorably?
The difference between me and some of the other people I was in class with was this: I was willing to draw a line at what I’d do to be accepted.
One day, in eighth grade, I walked into my algebra class. I took the class with a group of friends I’d been really close with since the seventh grade. We’d shared tears over difficulties, we’d been to each other’s houses, we’d had sleepovers, we’d signed our yearbooks the year before with “Friends4Ever!” and all that stuff.
But that day, one of those people turned on me. And, sadly, another friend knew it was going to happen and the only thing she did to warn me was to say, “M. is going to do something. I can’t tell you what it is, but I wanted you to be prepared.” (Prepared?? I thought later. How? How did that prepare me for what happened??)
I walked into class, and moments before the teacher walked in, my “friend” – in front of all of the other students – walked up to my desk and asked loudly, “Chris, can I borrow a tissue? Oh, wait … I don’t want to make you any more lopsided than you already are! Never mind…”
She walked away and everyone laughed and I sat there near tears and stunned. I wanted to run away. I wanted to cry, but couldn’t. I wanted to crawl into a hole a million miles deep and just die there.
Now, looking back, I can think of a gazillion snappy answers to this. I mean, I was pretty under-developed, if you know what I mean. VERY. So this taunt didn’t even make sense.
But you know what? That’s not what entered my mind. Not at all. All I could think was that I’d been betrayed by someone I thought was a close friend.
And she did it so she would be accepted by the cool kids. And accept her they did. At my expense. Obviously, it was a test to see if she really did want to ditch the uncool, nerdy kids. I was the most uncool and the nerdiest of them all, I guess.
It still stings when I think about it. I was utterly humiliated in front of my peers. And I had done nothing to deserve it. She and I hadn’t had a fight or a falling out. We’d sat together at lunch the day before.
I never saw it coming.
The rumors flew about me for a while, with girls in the locker room giving me sideways glances while we changed for gym class. Eventually, it died down, but the damage was done.
The president and his administration remind me of that group of “cool” kids. The ones who wanted the other kids who were looking for acceptance to prove their metal. Show me you’re cool enough. Go after her. Go after the unsuspecting mom and her kids.
And they’re snarky on their own. They openly make fun of everyone who they deem not to be cool enough to hang out with them.

The problem is, the girl who is the newcomer in their little world has a lot more self-confidence than I did in the eighth grade. She’s comfortable with who she is. You see, she was in the popular clique in her old world.
But she was a different kind of popular kid. She’s the one who didn’t see the world in cliques.

She was friends with the geeky kids, the slow kids, the fat kids, the … uncool kids.

And these kids in Washington, DC, don’t like those other kids. They don’t like the retards. The don’t like the fat kids. They don’t like the ones who won’t play their games. They don’t like the geeky ones who have real values in life that they aren’t willing to sacrifice for greater glory.
And so they viciously go after the new kid. They do everything in their power to punish her. And they schmooze the teachers, who always wanted to be cool, and get their help with picking on her and on her family. The teachers are extra harsh on her. They grade her down for things that the cool kids do, too. But the cool kids get a pass on those things – the teachers make their excuses for them.
What they don’t get is that the new girl isn’t caving under the pressure. She’s not giving up, going home to cry. She’s got a Facebook page, too, and she calmly tells everyone what she’s up to and what she’s thinking. She. Won’t. Crack.
And the cool kids don’t get it. So they keep on trying, being snarky. Openly trashing her.

And the rest of the school LOVES her, and they don’t know why.

[more book tour pictures here]


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