Live Through This

Great Expectations

“If school days are the happiest days of your life, I’m hanging myself with my skip-rope tonight.” —Jackie O at 16, in a 1945 note to her boyfriend

Illustration by Cynthia

In 1995, there was nothing I wanted more than to finally become a teenager. That was the year: the year I crossed over from being just an ordinary, awkward 12-year-old to enter the mystical world of teendom. Everything in my life told me that becoming a teenager was the solution to all my problems. To be a teen was to be beautiful, popular, stylish and free.

I would bond with an unlikely group of misfits, who would become my friends for life! I would fall in love with Judd Nelson in detention! Should I fail to be pretty enough to entice Judd right away, I would get a makeover from kindly popular girls and/or new BFFs! Also, I would go to school dances; at these school dances, it would become immediately apparent that, when I took my glasses off, I was just so pretty!

Imagine my surprise when I turned into just a regular teenager.

Look: I am going to break this to you now. Your teen years are a very valuable commodity to some very wealthy adults. They have learned that packaging and promoting the experience of “teen” is a great way to get you to buy things. Movie tickets, music, clothes: you name it. The unfortunate side effect of this is that you can wind up, as I did, expecting your teen years to resemble a scripted drama by a 45-year-old male screenwriter. Or, worse yet, expecting yourself to resemble one of the very pretty 23-year-olds who are routinely called upon to play “awkward” high school students. And when you expect this, you are setting yourself up for some fairly hideous disappointments.

Hideous disappointments like mine! Which I will now tell you about. Because, you know? I learned something from every single one.

EXPECTATION: I will find my clique, and settle into a life of acceptance, friendship and wacky adventures!

REALITY: Dumped by all of my friends, publicly, in a cafeteria. Twice.

I was just not very good at clique-finding. First, I tried to hang out with the popular girls—the ones who knew about fashion, wore makeup and were a hit with dudes. I liked fashion magazines! I knew a bit about makeup! I wanted to be a hit with dudes. Unfortunately, the things I liked other than fashion magazines and makeup were talking about what I saw last night on the news, and feminism, and how gay people ought to be able to get married. This was not a turn-on. One day, when I went to our usual cafeteria table, the girls all just turned their backs on me in unison, and that was that.

So next, I went to the alterna-teens. The ones who played guitar and talked about how they wanted to move to Seattle. I liked music! I could do this! Unfortunately, I was still talking about feminism, and this time around I was trying to get them all to listen to Hole (them: “Oh, yeah, she’s Kurt Cobain’s girlfriend”) and Tori Amos (“Oh, yeah, wasn’t she maybe Trent Reznor’s girlfriend?”) and PJ Harvey, who was not anybody’s girlfriend that they knew of, and therefore was not worth listening to. This time, the dumping was even more theatrical: I sat down at the cafeteria table, and they all got up and walked to the next table.

LESSONS: Surprise: I am now an adult. I still like fashion magazines; in fact, I get to write for a website that does a fair bit of fashion. And how did I get to write for it? I started a website where I talked about what I had seen recently on the news, and feminism, and how gay people ought to be able to get married, and also sometimes PJ Harvey. Having friends is great; you should definitely make friends! I made some real ones, eventually. But having a “clique” is awful for you. Cliques teach you to fit in. The only way to know your value is to know what makes you different. If everyone agrees with you all the time, odds are that you don’t have anything interesting to say. When people reject you for not fitting in, take note: they’re pointing out what makes you unique. And that’s going to come in handy later.

EXPECTATION: My true beauty will be revealed, through the magic of makeovers!

REALITY: Got called “young man,” on a regular basis, for an entire year.

As a teen, I adopted Winona Ryder as a role model. My goal was to transform myself from an ordinary-looking, skinny brunette into an edgy brunette “waif” of the sort who might possibly date Johnny Depp. Thus, I got all my hair chopped off, adopting what the magazines were calling a “pixie cut,” put on my dad’s flannel shirts and went to town.

I just sort of forgot that when someone wears androgynous clothes, has short hair, is completely flat-chested and is of an age where many boys don’t have facial hair or deep voices, there are several different ways you can read that look. And what people read on me was “Hey, a dude!” Teachers did it. School bus drivers did it. Sales clerks did it. But my fellow students, for some reason, never did it. They just waited for me to have to clarify that I was a girl, so that they could laugh and laugh at this latest hilarious misunderstanding.

LESSONS: Well, we should deal with the serious lessons first. There are plenty of people who get mis-gendered, or bullied for not conforming to stereotypes about their gender, and most of those people have it way worse than I did. Transgender people, in particular, often have to go through their entire adolescence in bodies and gender roles that just don’t line up with their inner selves, and it can take a lot of work and a lot of time to get their inner and outer selves to match. Gay, lesbian and bisexual teens are often bullied mercilessly. I had none of those problems; all I had to do was grow my hair out and start wearing skirts. I had it easy. But in my year as a “young man,” I did learn a lot about how screwed-up stereotypes and gender expectations are, and I’m grateful for that.

Also: haircuts, much like assault rifles, should probably require a 48-hour waiting period. I’m serious. Those things can ruin your life.

EXPECTATION: With my popularity and beauty duly attained, I shall now find that most important of all things: my very first high school boyfriend!

REALITY: You know what? College is a very exciting time in a young woman’s life. It’s totally fine to get your first real kiss in college. No, really. It is.

LESSONS: Oh, all right. I’m still bitter about this one. I’m told this bitterness can be assuaged by watching a little show called Teen Mom, but I’m having none of it.

But, hey. You know how they tell you that dating isn’t the most important thing in the world? That’s something you get to figure out firsthand when you go through pretty much the entirety of your teen years dateless. Life goes on. Your friends still like you. In fact, they like you more than usual, because you’re not one of those girls who go AWOL every time they start dating someone.

And, while actually falling in love is great, wanting to fall in love is usually just another way of wanting validation. People often want boyfriends or girlfriends because they want to know if they deserve them. But who deserves the power to decide whether you deserve love? Whose judgment is really that great? OK. This is the person you want to date, correct? Are you, by any chance, basing your assessment of this person’s judgment on the fact that he or she has really, really shiny hair? Does this person, by any chance, still have bed sheets with Pokémon on them? DOES THIS PERSON STILL LIVE WITH HIS OR HER PARENTS, AND RELY ON THEM FOR FOOD AND SHELTER??? Great. Let’s acknowledge that this person might not quite be ready to tell you whether you deserve to live just yet, and move on.

EXPECTATION: If all else fails, I can at least pull it together for the prom. It is the most magical and romantic night of a young girl’s life! I deserve at least one of those!

REALITY: Here is how I spent my prom: crying in the back of a station wagon.

At first, everything looked good. I got the dress, the hair, the makeover— and it actually worked. I looked great. I went with a guy friend whom I was not even remotely attracted to, but at least I had a date. My best friend was there, with her boyfriend; I had people to hang out with. But then I was at prom, and I didn’t have a real date, and everybody else was smooching, and nobody complimented my dress, and the expensive necklace I’d bought for the occasion turned out to be flimsy and it ripped right off on a piece of the decoration, and my best friend wandered off to have intensive smooch times with her boyfriend, and I went back to my fake date’s station wagon and cried about it. And then he sort of cried, too, because he wasn’t aware that the date was fake. And then, we had the awkwardness. Oh, the awkwardness.

LESSON: This, too, shall pass. After I cried, my best friend came back, witnessed awkwardness, and declared it was time for both of us to leave. We got in her car and rode around in the dark, singing along to the radio. It wasn’t magical, it wasn’t romantic; it was just the two of us, doing what we normally did, in more-expensive dresses. But when I remember all of this, it’s her I remember. More than anything else about my high school years I remember the several thousand times we rode around town in her car, going to no particular destination, circling around on the highway and singing. It wasn’t cinematic and it wasn’t glamorous, and the two of us were the nerdiest nerds who ever nerded, and we were treated as such. But that didn’t stop us from having fun. That’s the other lesson: there is goodness in all of this, too. Beneath the hideous disappointments, behind all the shattered hype, there’s always some kind of goodness. It just never looks like what you expect. ♦


  • klytamenstra September 5th, 2011 6:57 AM

    I’m an adult now and I can say that this article is very much true. I’m sorry…
    But I still can enjoy the typical teen movies.
    Thank you for writing this!

  • anton September 5th, 2011 7:03 AM

    Spot on!

  • ladyserendipity September 5th, 2011 7:25 AM

    Oh God, so much truth. I remember how I spent about 2 years desperately attempting to make the “cool kids” want to be my friend…then realized how dull they were ¬,¬

  • sysrae September 5th, 2011 9:07 AM

    Ah, the fake milestones of high school as propagated by Hollywood. This article is exactly right: all the best things I remember from high school are random, with nothing whatsoever to do with movie moments. Most of my Year 11 formal is a blur, but I do recall that when someone’s dad came to pick us up from the city around midnight, I rode home in the boot of the car because there wasn’t enough room for us all inside. I remember quoting Shakespeare in the pouring rain with a friend on a way to the station, and inappropriate singing in public, and dorky debate team conversations on the way to other schools, and all the awkward-yet-awesome shenanigans that went on at parties. That’s the stuff that matters; the stuff that’s special, that you do with your friends. Everything else is just ritual.

  • dadabase September 5th, 2011 9:17 AM

    Preach it, lady!

  • Tavi September 5th, 2011 9:18 AM

    I like how everyone commenting now is talking about being British since everyone here is sleeping in for Labor Day.

  • damali September 5th, 2011 9:19 AM

    “the nerdiest nerds who ever nerded”…..hilarious!!
    everything here is sooo true, tho.

  • AmandaLouiseHobba September 5th, 2011 9:34 AM

    Very enjoyable. You totally made my day!

  • happyjoy23 September 5th, 2011 9:40 AM

    i bet me and my soon to hopefully be boyfriend will be the even nerdier nerds who ever nerded.

  • jhopz September 5th, 2011 10:14 AM

    I think actually having a prom date with a friend where one of you doesn’t know it’s not a date date is as fundamental and common experience for a “weird” kid in high school as getting a limo is for popular kids. I got asked by a cool upper classman punk rocker girl, and I thought it was no big deal that I blew it off to go hang out with a guy I actually liked–which added insult to injury–because she thought it was a date date. Tragic on all levels!

  • Demmy September 5th, 2011 10:36 AM

    Well, I’m a teen and my life is not like that but it’s true for some people though :)

  • jojo September 5th, 2011 11:05 AM

    Lovely article, Sady.

    Another Brit chiming in here. Back when I were a wee lassie, dating in high school – well, it wasn’t really a *thing*. You might “get off with” a boy, you might *go out with* one, but dating? Not really something that anyone in my peer group did. For which I was very, very grateful. I read all the Sweet Valley High books, and was terrified by them; everyone was dating all! the! time! and the only people who didn’t date were the weirdos, the loners and the serial killers! Even nerdy Liz Wakefield had a boyfriend with whom she went on dates – eek! I was glad, oh so very glad, not to be a Californian high-schooler.

    Like other commenters, I’m getting pretty old now, so although my upper sixth class had a “leavers’ prom”, it was a fairly new thing, and it wasn’t really expected that girls would get asked to the prom by boys; instead, we mostly turned up in sex-segregated groups. Most of my girl friends went in a limo; my dad gave my best friend Catriona and me a lift in his Peugeot. The focus of the evening was on drinking wine, having tipsy heart-to-hearts with classmates and teachers, and posing for photos. Again, I am very glad that our version of a prom was all but free of the heteronormative pressure of the stereotypical US prom, about which I’d read so much in those SVH books.

    The cliques bit, though… oh yes, that *certainly* hit home. It took me until year 11, so age 15-16 or so, until I found a solid group of friends; while there was still drama after that, I never again felt as soul-crushingly lonely as I often did before things fell into place. I never was very good at pretending to like stuff (boy bands, horror films, hanging out in McDonald’s) in order to fit in.

    Tavi: Best of luck with the magazine. Looks like it’s off to a great start!

  • Lindsey September 5th, 2011 11:14 AM

    I’m a senior now and I’m glad that I -for the most part- never really stressed about all this cheesy high school stuff. I mean, it would be nice to have a boyfriend and go to all the parties, but I’m not all bent up about any of it.

    I did, however, have a pretty bad prom experience. I had all these big expectations and a vintage fifties prom dress and all my friends in my limo group, but I was embarrassed of my date and the majority of the night my friend and I spent avoiding our dates. Then at the pool party I had afterwards he left early and I flirted with the boys I actually liked. I was a real jerk about it, and I know it’s bad, but the best moments of that prom were when my friend and I just sat in the bathroom gossiping about everyone else.

    You should add something about party expectations, too. Every time (and yeah, it is rare) I go to someone’s party I expect a Jake Ryan a la Sixteen Candles rager, when really it’s a few kids playing beer pong and having unintelligent conversations.

  • zeldrian September 5th, 2011 11:50 AM

    I don’t feel alone anymore. I always thought I was the only one going through “this.” But, this described my teen life in high school perfectly. Brilliant!

  • Sam September 5th, 2011 12:03 PM

    Is it okay if I’m a boy and on this site? I love this article, I must admit I am British but so much of what you mention in this article transcends both gender and nationality. I like the bit about the alternative kids, the ones in my school refuse to play any instrument other than the acoustic guitar and have never listened to Bjork. I’m not a social outcast by any means, I do have friends, but I’ve never felt like I fit in with them. I’m a very unique person in terms of my interests and my views, I love how this article says you can be your own kind of cool and that the cliques and everything will be irrelevant the moment you leave school.

  • Alicia September 5th, 2011 12:22 PM

    This is so many levels of correct.

  • foxglovewilted September 5th, 2011 12:32 PM

    I can agree that alot of this is true, but I had alot different of a time in high school but with similar results. I was homeschooled all the way to my senior year, and then put in a local public school where I learned QUITE alot about how the real experience is. I didn’t make any friends that time, due to cliques and cemented friendships that had been made freshmen year, and my newness and innocence to the inner workings of teenage groups. I spent most of my time going home sad and reading weetzie bat to the nth degree. However, when I went to college the next year I found everything I had been looking for.. friends ‘not the ones I had imagined, but good and faithful ones’ and a boyfriend, who I wasn’t with very long. Now I am still in college with the same friends, but I am engaged to the love of my life. High school years and adolescence can be bittersweet, but it helped me to become the person I am today. When I see the same cliquey people at my college I can only bad for them, because they only have each other and don’t see all of the opportunities they miss by limiting themselves to the same social principles they had in their high school years.

  • steph.anie11 September 5th, 2011 12:48 PM

    this article cracked me up! i can relate to so many things on here and i loved that it acknowledges that high school is never what you want/expect it to be.

  • Maria September 5th, 2011 12:58 PM

    loved the Winona Ryder part! I soo went through that -__-”

  • rayano-banano September 5th, 2011 1:28 PM

    It’s a bit hard NOT to model your life to Winona’s. The parts in the article where you said that might have been the most cut-throat for me.

  • LaVie September 5th, 2011 1:40 PM

    A two-day’s university freshwoman here. My own experiences (last semester :P) were definately not this dramatic. I was never “dumped” by friends, I just had trouble making them, and a few verrry minor tiffs.
    Sometimes I feel like a freak for not having more drama in my life. Extreme self-consciousness ?? Preventing normal interactions ?? Whatever it is, manifested itself after grade 8 grad. :( I’m hoping it subsides and that I can find my niche now in university, except for the fact I’m here now and have never felt more alone.

  • Laur Elyse September 5th, 2011 1:43 PM

    Oh my. I think we lived the same life at different times a la parallel universes. For real.

    “Dumped by all of my friends, publicly, in a cafeteria. Twice.”: Check.

    “Winona Ryder as a role model”: Check but minus the whole “young man” thing. Too busty.

    Crap love life: Check

    “I went with a guy friend [to prom] whom I was not even remotely attracted to, but at least I had a date.”: CHECK. You wouldn’t think this would be a bad idea, but MAN.

    I feel you.

  • oriana September 5th, 2011 1:52 PM

    Woah, this is frighteningly accurate! I entered my teenage years expecting everything you mentioned, and exited high school with the most uncomfortable, unsatisfying, awkward years of my life behind me. Let’s just say that I lived vicariously through John Hughes’ films and daydreams. I really like your closing statements, “Beneath the hideous disappointments, behind all the shattered hype, there’s always some kind of goodness. It just never looks like what you expect.”

    True indeed!

  • Hannahd915 September 5th, 2011 2:01 PM

    As an incoming high school senior, I’d have to say that this pretty much true as anything. I spent my freshman year acting like a pompous jerk because I listened to obscure music. Then in sophomore year I got the Golden Opportunity- I was the new girl! Imagine how shocked I was when I didn’t get a love interest, quirky slightly less attractive companion, and plot advancing rival like I thought I would on the first day. I had no makeover, got no boyfriend, settled in no “clique” like movies told me I would. I’m actually happy though and am really enjoying high school. The key with prom and enjoying it though is to treat it like any other party where you are given permission to wear a dress you would never get to normally wear instead of a night of whimsy and wonder and afasdgghdfsfs.

  • iWantLovely September 5th, 2011 2:07 PM

    So great.
    So true.
    You’re great just as you, even if no one in your school (which makes up what measley percentage of the entire world?) believes how fabulous you are.

  • afabrication September 5th, 2011 2:30 PM

    Love and relate to every word. I really support the rookies! Keep up the awesome work!

  • dreamyj September 5th, 2011 2:34 PM

    Stunningly accurate, apart from I grew my hair waist long, tipped it upside down, sprayed it with half a tin of hairspray so it resembled a bird nest and used it as a forcefield protecting me from human interaction.

  • Laia September 5th, 2011 2:52 PM

    this is so so so real and true and accurate and “nerdiest nerds who ever nerded” is my favorite phrase of the day.

  • Whatsername September 5th, 2011 3:09 PM

    My “clique” in middle school was basically the grade’s leftovers- people who didn’t have good friends just sort of gravitated toward me and my best friend Lilly. We were completely sheltered from the other little groups of friends in the grade, and we were happy with being the bottom of the whole social-food-chain thing. One day I started talking to one of the”popular” girls and was shocked to hear that some groups actually kick people out like that if they think someone doesn’t “fit in”.

    I’m not sure how this will change tomorrow when I start high school, but if it stayed exactly the same, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

    I love this article. It’s good to know what to expect– err, what NOT to expect, more like– for the next four years.

  • georgia September 5th, 2011 3:38 PM

    So right. The clique thing happened to me and I was upset for a while but, y’know – they weren’t worth it, so I went and found some new friends! *and lived happily ever after*

  • Tavi September 5th, 2011 3:47 PM

    I’m glad some people relate and I’m glad some people don’t, because that would be a huge bummer if everyone had to go through these motions. I think I’ve had mini-versions of these experiences but only sporadically…plus I still have prom goin for me so, y’know, there’s that.

    Sam — It is totally okay that you are a boy who relates to this! That goes for our whole site.

    I mean, obviously, anyone can technically look at our site. There doesn’t seem to be a spot online that is designated specifically for teenage girls right now, so that’s the gist. But everyone else is welcome!

  • loess September 5th, 2011 4:51 PM

    Excellent! The other thing I’ve noticed since high school (I graduated in 1998) is that all of us girls who struggled the most and were the most awkward are by far the most interesting adults! Each of us is doing something unique and interesting now and I think that stems in part of not being fearful of rejection or taking risks. All those horrifying, embarrassing high school moments taught me how silly trying to fit in really is.

    Oh and the Winona Ryder thing cracked me up. So true.

  • beccasbox September 5th, 2011 4:56 PM

    I think this is what i am currently living! thank you for assuring me that however much i feel it sometimes, i’m not alone :)

  • Joe September 5th, 2011 5:02 PM

    Sam, I am a boy too! Plus I’m no longer a teenager, and yet you’re totally right. I expect a lot of stuff on this site to transcend a narrow definition of its “audience.” Welcome and please keep reading! Just do you.

  • kelsey September 5th, 2011 5:06 PM

    Granted, I’m in college – but the “you MUST be dating!” thing still makes me tired. And in high school I just wanted to watch movies and write my bad poetry – not spend my time desperately seeking a boyfriend. I didn’t go on a single date in HS – and I didn’t feel unbearable shame and become a hermit in consequence.

    Hurrah for all the “nerdiest nerds who ever nerded.”

  • blueprint September 5th, 2011 5:29 PM

    This article is so honest and well written! This is exactly what I expected rookiemag to be like.
    Every teenager is in some way desparate from time to time (or at least I was, even if my teens were also quite jolly times). Be it because your former very best friend starts ignoring you, you just find it gross to snog with guys you don’t know on dancefloors even though all your friends are being busy doing exactly that or you are intimmidated by the “cool guys” who are never greeting you but always your friend while you stand next to her, feeling akward and NOT cool.
    However, reading something like this just takes away a great deal of this desparation.
    Thank you!

  • PygmyGeek September 5th, 2011 5:41 PM

    Somehow all of my high school dance experiences involving dates ended up in an awkward night and subsequently an awkward week of trying to pretend that the night wasn’t awkward. Luckily, the first date I had to homecoming is now one of my best friends, and what happened that night actually strengthened our friendship.

  • Amy September 5th, 2011 8:28 PM

    I didn’t really have a teenhood so I’m living it now in my 20s this mag is great!. And yes… I’m afraid I’m another brit invading yank space.

  • hmo91 September 5th, 2011 9:17 PM

    Another Brit here. Just wanted to say how interesting this magazine looks – and that it’s a shame there wasn’t anything like this earlier, while I was still a teenager!

    Had a pretty good friendship group in years 7 and 8, but at the end of year 8, one of those friends left, and the group did keep in touch with her, while at a similar time deciding that I was no longer really part of it. So I was essentially thrown out of that group.

    years 10 and 11 were painful times – occasionally sat with people for lunch, but obviously not wanted and barely spoken to, and I ended up spending most of my time in the library instead. In the mornings, I luckily had a form tutor who let me go in the classroom early to read, and who’d lend me books and talk with me about them.

    Most of the time in secondary school, I just tried to keep my head down and worked hard, which has paid off with regard to university.

    I did actually end up going to prom, but spent most of it wishing I hadn’t – nothing in particular that happened, and I did go in with a group of girls (mostly because a space in their limo had opened up, and they took pity on me), but throughout the evening, I was either standing awkwardly by myself or silently next to people.

    When I got to sixth form, which was at the same school, but lots of people left and many more arrived, I actually had a good time – met people I liked and had things in common with. Bunch of nerds the lot of us. Partly people who I had vaguely known before, partly newcomers – but it’s a group I stay in touch with now I’m at university.

  • notmartina September 5th, 2011 10:59 PM

    I so wish I had read this in high school. Or even shortly after high school so that I could have spent less time freaking out about how awful high school was!

    I never really had the clique issue since there was a grand total of, like, 25 kids in my entire grade and I was the only weird kid somehow.

    I totally had the hair experience right after leaving high school! I was called “sir” a lot and I kind of liked it? But felt like I shouldn’t like it. I was working at a hair salon so all kinds of things happened to my head.

    I cried at prom too! Only my mom picked me up and I spent the rest of the night on the Internet. Probably talking to actually cool online friends though.
    Anyway YES

  • LoversSaintsSailors September 5th, 2011 11:13 PM

    Oh gosh, it’s true.
    You know how everyone says that your high school years are the best years of your life?
    I’ve figured out why. I’m not a teenager anymore (in fact, with some careful mathematical-ness I figured out I’m exactly the same age as Sady) but the thing that makes your teenage years so special is (wait for it, and please don’t gag) the memories.
    Now I’m not talking Hallmark here…what I mean is: The other day I was listening to Don’t Dream It’s Over by Crowded House song and I remembered how a boy sang it to me one time. I had a MAJOR crush on his best friend and he was sort of singing it to me in a brotherly, looking out for me kind of way.
    The thing is. I can’t hear that song without remembering that moment.
    I’m sure I’ve heard that song a thousand times since then but no memory is as poignant as that.

  • LoversSaintsSailors September 5th, 2011 11:41 PM

    Also I TOTALLY second the whole “You really should just never, ever model your life decisions on Winona Ryder’s. ” bit.
    Here’s why:
    I once broke up with a totally sweet, perfectly nice, devoted guy (who grew up to look like Dave Navarro circa late 90′s) after watching Reality Bites because…get this…he wasn’t a troubled artist.
    Excuse me?? What the hell Winona! I’m looking at you too, Ethan Hawke.

  • streetcreature September 6th, 2011 12:10 AM

    I wish I had a website like this to confide in and relate to when I was a teen. I had to suffer silently (somewhat silent) all alone. I really admire this web mag. Keep it up girls! xo

  • Mrs_face September 6th, 2011 1:24 AM

    Ha! I thought that I could become a Winona-Ryder-esque waif by getting a pixie cut too. Too bad that I was actually a chunky, short teen with gigantic boobs and bad skin, who looked terrible with short hair. Those were the longest six months of growing hair I have ever spent.

  • lauren.irene September 6th, 2011 1:24 AM


  • HZurowsk September 6th, 2011 1:48 AM

    This was a great read! I loved all the different aspects of high school you picked.

    What really spoke out to me was the clique stuff. I wish I knew this as a Freshman in High School… I wish everyone knew this now! Cliques are so not cool to be in!!! :]

  • killingofaflashboy September 6th, 2011 6:12 AM

    Haha, this is perfect.
    I live in the UK, am in my second-last year of high school and so much of this relates to me. When I was going into first year, I had these expectations of a ‘perfect’ high school career. The first couple of years saw me in a sort-of ‘clique’ (although there are no real clique issues in my school) and spending most of my time daydreaming about boys I wished would go out with me…or even knew I existed.
    Then in my third year, I somewhat ‘matured’ and realised that this was silly. The group fell apart and went our separate ways – still staying friends, but at the same time knowing that we would most likely end up never speaking again – and the same thing happened all across my year.
    Funnily enough everything fell into place from there; the ‘leftovers’ of all these groups, the ones who had decided to leave those childish mentalities behind and grow up a bit, became my current group of friends. We’ve gone through a lot together over the past couple of years now, and we’ve realised that we don’t need to have a perfect high-school life; we know some people won’t like us, we know some guys won’t be attracted to us, we know some people won’t invite us to their parties, but we don’t really care. I’m glad that we’ve noticed this because I see some people in my school that care far too much about these things and honestly, I feel sorry for them.

  • September 6th, 2011 6:22 AM

    Nice article! About the cliques, the only way I could avoid being in one is being alone. My whole school is in cliques so most of my friends are in one clique or another, but I like to switch up which one I hang in. It’s better culture than staying in one, and I don’t have to be alone! The one about boyfriends, just made me feel so awesome! I feel the same way about it being okay to wait till collage to date! A lot of 4TH graders in my school district have a boyfriend/girlfriend!
    Me (5 years older than the typical 4th grader)? The farthest I’ve gone with a boy is eye contact… I just don’t like chasing boys! Heck, I don’t even like guys in 8th grade, they’re too short, and can’t think/ talk about anything besides sex..
    Jojo;”drinking wine, having tipsy heart-to-hearts with classmates and teachers, and posing for photos” sounds like an awesome prom, but SO different to a cliche American prom!
    Sam; it’s cool to see a guy here!
    hmo90; that sounds painful, but I’m glad you found good friends in 6th form

  • Rabia September 6th, 2011 7:48 AM

    I love how this magazine was HONEST and REALISTIC. I think reading articles like this better prepares you for high school than “How to Flirt With Your Crush!” “12 Great Back-to-School Buys under $50!”

  • JJ September 6th, 2011 12:20 PM

    Just lovely. I was always the weird quiet girl, still am! And I’m proud of it. Never really tried fitting it, I really didn’t care for it much. I don’t see what the big deal is. My sis keeps telling me I’m not normal but I already knew that. :)

  • Stephanie September 6th, 2011 2:12 PM

    Oh Sady, we would have been best friends in high school and I would have never dumped you in the cafeteria! I think I spent freshman year obsessing about why my life wasn’t like 90210/Degrassi/all the John Hughes movies, but sophomore year My So-Called Life came out and ummm that really kind of was my life.

  • Illusen September 6th, 2011 3:26 PM

    I have also suffered from the Winona Ryder haircut syndrome, exept i ended up looking like Elvis. That was my actual nickname, Elvis.
    The worst thing was that my teachers actually told my colleagues to stop calling me that, like: “Leave the poor kid alone, it’s clear that even I have laughed at her but come on leave her alone!”
    Obviously, it only made it worst, my curly hair is waist-long now (i now have a haircut fobia) but i still ocasionaly get called Elvis…
    Teenagers are so lovely… :)

  • db September 6th, 2011 5:48 PM

    oh GOD, does this bring back memories. i cut my hair short freshman year (wanting that drew barrymore-spiky-daises look) only to have my mother’s hairdresser butcher it horribly, rendering me some sorta awkward boy/girl. i was devastated. my senior prom was also shitty and involved me, a friend-date (who was a freshman with leukemia who told me, “what if i never live to see my prom?” tear. he was in remission. forever. and a jerk to boot.), an awkward group of kids who were in the literary club i ran, and a limo which i was told i could NOT smoke the cigarettes i smuggled in my beaded purse in (DUH!). i had my older boyfriend (a dyslexic diesel mechanic) come pick me up half-way through. we helped my friend unlock his car with a coat-hanger and made-out in the back of his suburban. lame!

  • Angie Bitchface September 6th, 2011 7:35 PM

    I did have a “clique” in high school, but it was really more like a collective because we were open and friendly, not bitchy and exclusive. basically all my friends were originally the super nerdy girls who had trouble making friends, and then later on we all blossomed into the arty, cute nerdy girls.

    my favorite memories from high school are: random trips to Chinatown on half days; ridiculous conversations in the cafeteria and the library during lunch and free periods; sleeping on the upholstered chairs in the library during exhaustive junior and senior years; track practice in every weather condition and state of exhaustion and making odyssey-like trips to upper Manhattan and the Bronx for track meets and practices; having a picnic in Central Park with all my friends on a cloudy but still-beautiful April day in 10th grade; and cutting class with my then-best friend to go shopping or just because we were both too upset to go to class. those memories make me more nostalgic than any John Hughes movie. oh and I didn’t go to prom, but I had a great time having girl bonding time and wandering Manhattan with my 3 other friends who didn’t go, then riding in our other friends’ limo to their afterparty.

    this website is making me mega nostalgic….

  • Elizabeth September 7th, 2011 12:27 AM

    The sentimental prom night memory reminded me of my own in which my friend and I stood outside and talked about Doctor Who, and sat outside and talked about Doctor Who, and danced to Born This Way, and before prom went to DQ and on trails and were just anti-prom. We were only in it for the dresses anyways.

  • delirium September 7th, 2011 2:56 AM

    I love this post. I especially identified with the “it’s ok to not have a boyfriend until college” bit. Because it is. My high school was really small–like 60 people per class small. Out of that pool of 30ish guys, there just weren’t any that rang my bell, and/or I just wasn’t emotionally ready to be in a relationship at the time. I don’t remember feeling bitter about it per se. If I had, I certainly wouldn’t have chosen to attend a women’s college, which I did, and *loved*x infinity. I remember feeling slightly embarrassed about not having my first real relationship until college, but in retrospect I shouldn’t have. Everyone figures things out at their own pace.

    Also, it’s definitely ok to not attend prom if it’s just not your thing. High school dances were really not my thing. I did, however, attend my senior prom with a bunch of my best friends. I had fun, and never felt like I needed a date to enjoy myself. Best night ever and all it’s hyped up to be? Meh. It was fun, but I don’t feel like I would have missed out on some giant milestone by not going.

  • all-art-is-quite-useless September 7th, 2011 4:46 AM


    Trying to hang out with the cool kids and failing? check.
    Trying to be waif-like and alluring and failing? check.
    Trying to hang out with the “alternative” kids and failing? check.
    Discovering that no one else likes talking about feminism and the news and gay rights? check.
    Discovering that no one else likes Hole and PJ Harvey and Everything Everything and X-Ray Spex and Bratmobile and The Smiths? check check and double check.

    Failing at prom? To be checked.

  • Nic September 7th, 2011 1:48 PM

    Yep, this is very similar to my experience in high school. But I gotta say, when I look back on it now, I only seem to remember the good things. Maybe it’s because life has become so much more interesting and I have no need to dwell on bad moments.

    I wish I had had something like this when I was younger. Keep up the good work!

  • serena September 7th, 2011 3:28 PM

    It was good to read this because I still, after being graduated from high school, have times where I’m like “well, what if I had been friends with these people” “what if I hadn’t dyed my hair blue and had left it shiny and long” “what if I had had the ‘normal’ high school experience”. Well I’m glad I didn’t and I’m glad I didn’t have to suffer through any attempts to be a “regular” high school student.

  • Claire September 7th, 2011 5:52 PM

    Thank you! So much! I’m a junior in high school, and I’ve experienced most of these things at some point or another. When I was younger, I thought adolescence would be monumental – I thought I would change into a completely new person who didn’t like cracking her knuckles or wearing fuzzy socks all the time. Last year, I bought my dream prom dress, even if I won’t be able to wear it this year, or next year. This summer, I cut off all my hair because I was tired of it and I didn’t care if anyone else hated it. I’ve spent my weekends doing the sorts of things that someone in their 30s would enjoy – going to Bed, Bath & Beyond with my mom, experimenting in the kitchen, and having ’90s TV marathons with my best friend – and I don’t really care. If being A Teenager is all about drinking crappy beer in someone’s suburban basement, making out in the back of someone’s dad’s compact car, and spending a ridiculous amount of time on clumpifying one’s eyelashes and ironing one’s hair until the fire alarm goes off, I’m really not interested.

  • judYth September 7th, 2011 6:48 PM

    I love how these conversations relate to icons from my youth in the nineties… when we didn’t HAVE internet. I think I might have had a very different experience had I been isolated in my bedroom (which is where I spent most of my school days when I wasn’t at school), but with a computer, an internet connection, and maybe a cell phone.

    @AMY I wonder what you mean by “didn’t really have a teenhood,” because I came online here to make a similar comment–that I was fortunate enough to catch up on all those missed opportunities and much of the fun self exploration stuff when I was in my twenties…and a little beyond that.

    Now I’m happily married, getting ready to have a little girl baby. My first was a son. I feel that this website is helping me go back to that blotted-out part of myself and my consciousness, that pit of despair and isolation, the misguided self loathing, the distorted ways I had of seeing myself and the world. To embrace girlhood again. HURRAH!

  • natalie September 7th, 2011 9:19 PM

    Thank you for this, so so much.
    I’m seriously printing this out and putting it on my wall.
    You’ve helped me more than you could know.

  • justjessica September 9th, 2011 7:16 AM

    Such an interesting post (- and I love the magazine!) I spent years expecting my life would turn into a film (it still hasn’t!) and that a knight in shining armour would save me (nope, that hasn’t happened either, but I am learning to save myself – and that my friends are better than any silly knight!)
    I’m putting my teenage diary online – come, share my pain!

  • elin September 10th, 2011 4:20 AM

    This is hilarious, I am just about to chop my hair off partly based on my love for beautifully Winona (and yes i want to date johnny to!) guess i might find out first hand about that young mister stuff…

  • Deb September 10th, 2011 10:44 AM

    I’m not sure why or how word of this mag got to me so quickly. I’m usually the last to know. But I love it.
    Hooray for all involved!
    This set of posts says it all. Glad to see the exposure on hidden expectations. We all have them and they’re all ridiculously misleading.

  • Julia September 11th, 2011 2:12 PM

    I really think that some of these expectations and stereotypes depend on the country where you live and the school that you go to. I’m going to a montessori school in the Netherlands, and everyone just kind of accepts each other. It’s not perfect, but we don’t have a lot of cliques, and bullying almost never happens. Prom is also not such a big issue here as it is in America: it’s not like if you don’t have a date you’re a loser. Lots of people do not have dates and just go with a group of friends. Come to think of it: even transgender and/or gay teens are being totally accepted at my school. On top of that, I have always had a really outspoken personal style, but I have never been bullied because of it. Of course there are awkward teenagers and girl fights and gossip and all, but I know that I have been very lucky with the people around me.

  • annagracie September 11th, 2011 7:04 PM

    I’m newly in eighth grade, andI’m hoping I have a relatively okay high school experience. Same goes for this year… ah! What sucks is that I’m in a clique, sort of along the lines of the “popular girls”, and so far I don’t really know how it is anyway else…but I would like to find out. Maybe I’ll make that happen this year. Just stick to my two best friends.