June 19, 2010

The Final Word on Popular Girls

The post I wrote on popular girls generated more comments than most of my posts receive. I wrote about the layers of popularity, and the difference between popular girls that everyone likes versus the popular girls that virtually no one really likes. Women responded to it because nearly everyone can relate.

Girls, especially, deal with social pressure in high school that is almost universal. Regardless of our spot on the social ladder, dealing with insecurities is a rite of passage for most teenage girls. It's a rough time, and it often brings out the worst in us, whether we're at the top or the bottom of the ladder. There are regrets about things we said, as well as the things we didn't say.

Most of us are blessed enough to not be remembered by everyone in the class. Yes, we had embarrassing moments, we had unfortunate moments, but in all likelihood, no one else remembers those awful moments as clearly as we do ourselves.

It's a little different when it comes to the popular girls on the ladder's top rung. Everyone remembers them. Some (mostly guys) may have been oblivious at the time to the power this group held over the rest of the girls in the class, but everyone remembers them. There are many moments that the popular girls may not remember, but that are frozen in time for the girls they hurt. We may not even remember many specifics, but we remember the feelings they generated. We remember the pain they caused our friends. We remember the attitudes that we found so offensive.

What we forget is that a combination of time and life experience changes most people for the better. We know we have changed. We see the changes in the classmates with whom we have kept in touch. We look around and are amazed at what incredible people they have become.

Meanwhile, we assume those at the very top of the ladder are still snarky 16-year-old girls, frozen in time along with our memories of them. We don't give them credit for changing. Naturally, they sense that. So it's understandable if they tend to stick to the safety of their group at class reunions. They know they formed reputations for themselves as teenagers that are difficult to overcome as adults. So when it appears difficult for them to reach out beyond their inner circle, perhaps that's our opportunity to reach out to them. Perhaps that's the sign that it's time to forget who was popular and who wasn't and just be glad to see everyone together, remembering good times.

By middle-age, the power base in most classes has not just shifted, it has evaporated. The footing becomes much more equal, as the ladder has been thrown out.

Which is as it should be. Ladders are dangerous, especially near the top.

Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. ~ Colossians 3:13


  1. It must have particulary dangerous in my home town. Of the 6 major "Miss Thangs" at my school... one became human, one is still Ms Thang, 2 committed suicide and one is drinking herself to death.

  2. Yikes, Teri! That ladder was particularly precarious. It sounds like the insecurities never went away for most of them. That's too bad.

  3. What is it called high school? Why isn't elementary called low school?

  4. Very well said! I like your take on this and your empathy for the girls teetering at the top of the ladder.

  5. i have such a different perspective after raising three
    daughters. the less popular one had the best high
    school experience, the best grades, and the best life
    opportunities. she got her feelings hurt by the
    popular girls but didn't experience the consequences
    of their bad decisions.

    my daughters who were 'popular' had to climb up out
    of some dangerous situations that still make me
    shudder. thankfully, all three are healthy and happy
    now. whew.

    the boys . . . well were boys and still are.