21 Sep 2014

Fear & Loathing in Secondary School

Religious 8 Comments

I have to keep this vague so as not to even remotely implicate specific people, but over the weekend I went to my 20th high school reunion. I talked to some people who flabbergasted me with the complimentary things they said; I would have previously guessed that they kinda sorta knew who I was, but that was about it. Also, I talked to other people who were very defensive regarding people from other social circles, attributing motives to them that I knew just weren’t true.

When I stepped back and thought about it, what had happened is that one or two people from a given group had indeed been “jerks” (their critics would have used much stronger terms at the time, calibrated to the gender of the offender in question), and since these people were friends with a bunch of others, the recipient of the injustice/insult assumed the entire group endorsed it and thought the same thing. But no, that’s not really what happened.

I’m mostly bringing this up because I’m curious if any of you would report a similar epiphany. For example, if you vaguely remember, “Oh yeah, those guys were a bunch of a-holes,” is it because every single member of their group did something objectionable? Or if you think about it person by person, is it rather that you had a problem with one or two guys out of 20? And–if your walk down memory lane is like mine–is it that the 18 or 19 out of 20 were actually fine?

In full disclosure, I went to a private (Catholic) school so I realize my high school years were sheltered compared to those of many others. But I’m curious if any of you can change your memory of your teenage years just by thinking through your experiences with a blank slate and holding individuals accountable only for their own actions, not the actions of everybody who sat with them at lunch too.

8 Responses to “Fear & Loathing in Secondary School”

  1. Grane Peer says:

    As someone who is undoubtedly on more than a few “people to kill lists” I can’t say that I fully understand your experience. Anybody I had a problem with was as an individual and not representative of any group. I moved freely in many cliques but was never sure if I was accepted or merely tolerated because of my reputation. All I get from my walk down memory lane is why did it take them twelve years to expel me from somewhere I did not belong. It would have been one less a-hole to ponder.

  2. Major.Freedom says:

    I was a recipient of this a few times in my life. I was friends with someone who I later found out treated his girlfriend very badly. Before I learned this, I couldn’t figure out why she sneered amd scoffed at me so often. After the truth came out I sat down with her and asked if she thought ill of me because I was friends with him. Yes, she said. That was an eye opener.

    Before that one of my teachers in 7th grade, who was also my 3rd grade teacher, totally changed her opinion of me due to the “bad crowd” I liked to play hacky sack at lunch with. Went from being a sparkle in her eye gifted class student, to being frowned upon and condescended. I later learned one of the “bad crowd” students called her a series of very bad names (which I won’t repeat here), right to her face. I was perceived as joining the dark side.

    Learned very early on that I had to fight for my individuality if the truth were to be known.

  3. Gamble says:

    “I talked to some people who flabbergasted me with the complimentary things they said; I would have previously guessed that they kinda sorta knew who I was, but that was about it.”

    Glad they like your drunk karaoke;)

    Satan uses flattery to build pride, now humble yourself and get back to work.

    • Bob Murphy says:

      Right Gamble, good example. Back in high school, I would’ve been very guarded around every commenter on this blog, but now I realize nobody else controls the comments that you leave.

  4. Ben B says:

    No, I never held members of a group responsible for the actions of specifics individuals within the group; however, if I knew that they were aware of the situation, and ether they were indifferent or supported those actions, then I might assign a particular negative judgement to them.

    Most of my high school days were spent “people watching”, and for the most part I stayed emotionally detached from the actions of others. I was much more curious in the behaviors of others and how they interacted with different individuals of different groups. By the end of 11th grade, my two friends and I had developed a pretty systematic understanding of our school’s social hierarchy. We had groups known as “Pop 1”, “Pop 2”, “Intermediate 1”, “floaters”, etc. The most funny thing I remember about this whole social analysis is that late in my senior year, “Pop 2” had found out about our social hierarchy analysis, and many of their members became upset at us. I remember us laughing abou it, because we thought it was so like “Pop 2” to be offended because somebody didn’t think they were as popular as they should be; this level of insecurity tended to be a charscteristic of these individuals. I figured this level of insecurity was due to the fact that many of them were not natural Alphas, but they really wanted to be part of the A-team.

  5. JimS says:

    Most of the “a holes” and bullies grew up to become cops (no kidding).

    • Mike M says:

      Adding to that, I find most of the people in Ben’s “Pop 1” group rarely evolve. They are stunted emotionally at age 15. They are like the character Al Bundy, always reliving that high school football game.

  6. Dan Lind says:

    The company someone keeps is just a quick and easy factor we use in our preliminary evaluations of people.

    For example, if I know that someone hangs out with you, I’ll make a tentative judgment about him. If that person also hangs out with Hillary Clinton I might modify that judgment, and perhaps wonder a bit about you.

    It’s a form of profiling. It’s not a terribly accurate form of profiling. Lord knows I’ve been wrong many times. But it’s pretty useful nonetheless.

    Seems like “you know someone by the company he keeps” should be in the Bible somewhere but I don’t think it is.

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