-{Previously on “My History in Popularity”…}-

I previously discussed my relatively sanguine experiences in elementary school where I was guarded by my parents’ position in the community, some athleticky friends that I played sports with, and so on. Meanwhile, there was an undercurrent of factors that would later come to haunt me. I’d gained weight, become friends with some less popular people, and embraced eccentric parts of my personality that were not conducive to young popularity. I had “graduated” from elementary school with a vague optimism that junior high would be a little better since there would be more people that I would get to know. How very wrong I was.

-{Larkhill Intermediate School}-

Junior high is tough in even the best of circumstances. The onset of puberty, for instance. Your own puberty is actually only a fraction of the problem. By far, the bigger problem is all of the aspiring thugs that suddenly have testosterone gushing through their system. The people that left me alone (or were the reason others left me alone) turned on me as they made new friends that they needed to impress.

Unfortunately, ours was one of the smaller schools to feed into our middle school, so we were absorbed into the social structure of Larkhill Elementary. Larkhill was more of a working class sort of place with a lot of kids raised by uneducated boatsmen, mechanics, and things like that. While very far from an inner city school, it was just a more rough-and-tumble place than was West Oak Elementary and Mayne High School would prove to be. Though only about a quarter or a third of Mayne high school was comprised of people fed into by Larkhill, I would say that well over half of the troublemakers were people I knew from junior high.

Aggravating the problems in junior high was that everything that started getting bad in late elementary school was getting worse. My weight was getting worse, Clint was becoming even more of a social liability, and he and I both would continue to go off and do our own things rather than participate in activities that involved other people. Now added to the mix were other friends, though, that were as bad as or often worse than Clint.

But once again, I had my chance. Joining the football team in the seventh grade didn’t help my popularity, but that was partially my own decision. I wasn’t being invited to parties or anything, but the smart kids on the football team were appreciation that I was a lot smarter than a lot of the other kids on the team. And the contingent of bullies-without-girlfriends (the Crabs and Goyles of the world, who are rarely provoked and often feared) seemed ready to adopt me. But in both cases, there was the issue of the kids that I hung out with.

I don’t want any of this to be read as a complaint that Clint (or anybody else) was dragging me down. Clint did come with a cost, but I can seriously say that my friendship with him was worth just about any price. More than anybody but my parents, he helped shape me into who I have become. Though our friendship was rocky at times (mostly my fault because I was agitated at the opportunities it was costing me), it would lay the groundwork for a great friendship and by the time we reach late high school, he was actually my ambassador to Mayne High School – an invaluable asset.

After football ended, I lost whatever chance I might have had. Clint and I were in offseason athletics together and we brought out the social worst in one another. Worse was the presence of Raleigh, a “friend” who was by far a greater liability than Clint ever was. Worse, while Clint was picked on for stupid reasons, Raleigh deserved his unpopularity. But the three of us (and a German exchange student) would hang out off in our corner while the jocks were all playing a game that sort of a mixture between football and rugby. We might as well have painted targets on our back.

You might think that my size would have made me a less likely target. Or at least my height would. But by and large the worst would-be tormentors actually tended to be the smaller kids. Little Napoleons. The good news was that they were the easiest to deal with. If I stood my ground, they did not genuinely have the confidence they depicted that they would be able to take me out. One Napoleon attempted to push me, but I grabbed his hands, pushing them to the side, and spun him to fall onto the ground. Another case he tried to jack my foot (place his foot under mine while jogging and then pull it up to make me tumble) and actually hurt his knees in the process. The bigger kids were less afraid. Never provoking a fight, but giving pants-pulls, wedgies, and body gloves with some regularity.

My luck with the girls was scantly any better. This was actually an area where Clint had notably more success than I did. I was fat and he was scrawny and I was introverted and he was extroverted so he had a few sorta-relationships while I was rejected over and over again by girls I hadn’t the first clue of how to ask out.

Things improved somewhat by the eighth grade. Not only was I one of the oldest kids in the school, but I was also one of the biggest. And no longer in the worst way. I’d sprouted up to about 6′ and though I weighed more than ever, my dimensions mildly improved. Additionally, they had just build Airfield Intermediate School and the student population of Larkhill dropped considerably into something more manageable. It seems that Larkhill had previously been about the worst possible size. Too small to achieve anonymity, too large with too many nemeses to to ever confront them.

Plus, I got smart. Or rather I used my smarts. I discovered this concept called “bribery” and I found it remarkably effective. It actually started out as a profit-motivated endeavor. Compared to a lot of my friends at the time, I had a pretty good work ethic and was relatively smart. I did my homework when they didn’t. For my friends (the ones I liked) I would give them the answers. For people I didn’t like, I would charge them money. I didn’t even need the money. I just wanted it to cost them something so that they wouldn’t ask me to do every little thing for them. Anyway, one of my bullies wanted in on the action. He asked how much I charged. I said “Buy me a coke at lunch and we’re even” (the average rate was $5 for an assignment I’d already done and $10-$20 for one I hadn’t, so he was getting quite the bargain). The money wasn’t as important as the fact that the coke was the ticket to sitting with him at lunch. The guy who was one of my worst same-grade tormentors in the 6th grade actually signed my yearbook in the 8th. He not only became my friend, but he kept other bullies at bay. He introduced me to his friends. I made my first female friend through him.

The other factor was that I joined the basketball team, which was a mixed bag but mostly on the positive. It reconnected me with a whole lot of people that I played YMCA basketball and, though some were the folks that turned on me in the 6th and 7th grade, we worked out way back up to neutral terms.

Unfortunately, by the 8th grade my head was kept so low that I never noticed things were improving. I remember the relief of not being under the constant weight of bullies, but there was no real sense of optimism. I was oblivious to the opportunities that were starting to open up. And I was still clueless how to get along with these entities called “people”. If one of the big advantages of public education over homeschooling is socialization, it’s possibly a mixed lesson.

-{Next: Mayne High School}-


Category: Ghostland, School

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10 Responses to My History in Popularity: Larkhill Intermediate School

  1. ? says:

    My luck with the girls was scantly any better. This was actually an area where Clint had notably more success than I did. I was fat and he was scrawny and I was introverted and he was extroverted so he had a few sorta-relationships while I was rejected over and over again by girls I hadn’t the first clue of how to ask out.

    Honestly, I would tend to put more weight (sts) on extroversion rather than the scrawniness in explaining Clint’s relative success, given my own experience (or, more precisely, lack of it) as a tall scrawny introvert. OTOH, Sheila once pegged you as a relative extrovert (at least compared to Clancy) so I dunno . . . .

  2. trumwill says:

    You know, I wonder if there is a generational or geographic difference in the stigma attached to weight. Very few overweight guys I knew, even popular ones, had much luck with girls. They could usually get prom dates (and not unattractive ones), but rarely seemed to have actual girlfriends.

    My introversion definitely hurt. Maybe more than the weight. It’s hard to say since both started changing at about the same time in my life. My social-phobia started going away before the weightloss, but it was only a year or two after the weightloss that I gained that thing that people call “confidence.” Not much, to be sure, but enough to no longer be socially paranoid around people that I didn’t know.

    As far as introversion/extroversion goes, I am comfortable in smallish groups. Particularly if I know them, of course, but even if I don’t I can hold my own. In larger groups, though, I retreat into my shell. I’m in a much more extroverted place than I was back then, though. Back then not only was I big into the “I” of INTJ, but I had not-unfounded fears that they were all laughing at me.

  3. ? says:

    I should also say that not all fat is created equal. For instance:

    Bill Clinton fat: Doughy, but not disgusting (physically I mean).

    Football fat: Lots of muscle mass to balance the fat mass.

    Diabetes fat: Distended gut, serious health issues. Ew.

    When I propose that “fat” isn’t a romantic liability, I’m referring to the first two categories.

    Very few overweight guys I knew, even popular ones, had much luck with girls. They could usually get prom dates (and not unattractive ones), but rarely seemed to have actual girlfriends.

    “Girlfriend” is a pretty high bar. Few guys I knew in high school had them, and they were all varsity letter winners, I think. So yeah, I see your point.

  4. Peter says:

    I should also say that not all fat is created equal. For instance:
    Bill Clinton fat: Doughy, but not disgusting (physically I mean).
    Football fat: Lots of muscle mass to balance the fat mass.
    Diabetes fat: Distended gut, serious health issues. Ew.
    When I propose that “fat” isn’t a romantic liability, I’m referring to the first two categories.

    Well I was in the last category for many years, with a distended abdomen but not really large (though still too heavy) elsewhere. It certainly was a romantic liability. Getting rid of all that abdominal fat was not an easy process, but I’m very glad that I did.

    As far as introversion/extroversion goes, I am comfortable in smallish groups. Particularly if I know them, of course, but even if I don’t I can hold my own. In larger groups, though, I retreat into my shell. I’m in a much more extroverted place than I was back then, though.

    I’m a bit different. While I’m not particularly good at initiating conversations with people, in groups of any size, if someone else starts I can do just fine. Once again, group size doesn’t really matter.

  5. trumwill says:

    I went from the last category to the first category. I wasn’t obscenely heavy, but it was more than dough and it definitely wasn’t muscle. When I popped up to 6′ in the 8th grade, that helped even things out quite a bit.

    Having a girlfriend wasn’t as big a hurdle at my high school. What you describe as high school was more-or-less the case in junior high. I was very self-conscious when I was starting as a junior and had never had a girlfriend.

  6. trumwill says:

    On a sidenote, I’ve rarely carried much weight in my abdomen. That was the biggest problem in elementary school, but the rest of me filled out in due course. Even last year my stomach wasn’t terrible with most of the weight being on love handles and legs. My weight sort of hides in various places. Some places, like the legs, are preferable to other places.

  7. Peter says:

    Trying to think back to high school … as best I recall, some guys had girlfriends and some did not, having one would help boost your social standing but not having one didn’t necessarily mark you as a loser. It also didn’t seem as if those with girlfriends were necessarily much more Alpha (a term not then in use) than those without. I can’t recall if the athletes were more likely to have girlfriends, though probably not, as my high school wasn’t very sports-oriented.

  8. Sheila Tone says:

    while I was rejected over and over again by girls I hadn’t the first clue of how to ask out.

    Wait, if you didn’t ask them out, how did they reject you?

  9. trumwill says:

    Wait, if you didn’t ask them out, how did they reject you?

    Sometimes I asked them out in the same way that one that doesn’t know how to drive drives. Technically, you get the car moving… but right up a curb. I guess technically I knew how to say the words, but I didn’t know how to say them right (or the legwork involved or that there was legwork involved).

    Sometimes I didn’t have to ask them out to be rejected. They got the message and returned one of their own.

  10. SFG says:

    Ah, high school. I guess I should wait until the high school post to chime in, but I’m rarely around anymore, and it’s comically stupid enough to be enjoyable, so:

    I actually had a girl ask me out, but I turned her down because I wanted the only computer chick in the high school to go out with me. She said no.

    So I wound up going stag when I could have gone with someone. Shows the danger of snobbery.

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