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I am a retired English teacher and department head, the mother of three, grand mother of three, and have been married to the same man for 42 years. I subscribe to Dr. PM Forni's concept of Civility. I was born in South Philadelphia and grew up in the 'burbs. I love soft pretzels and cheesesteaks, the Phillies, the Eagles, and San Diego. I love being Mom, Aunt Kathy, Nona Kathy, and Teacher. I spend a lot of time in my gardens in the spring and summer, and in the winter I plan what I'm going to plant. I also am an avid reader and photographer.

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Tuesday, March 4, 2014

They Weren't the Best of Times

In 1966 I was a sophomore entering public school for the first time.  My world had always been one of uniforms and standing before we spoke to our teachers - mostly nuns - and quiet submission at the fear of a tarnished 'permanent record'.

The vast majority of the Class of 1969 of Upper Darby High School, my alma mater and the inspiration for Tina Fey's (she, too, is an alum) Mean Girls, had been together since elementary school; friendships had been long formed and alliances recognized.  Enter an interloper -- one who wanted to belong...badly.

So in addition to ubiquitous cliques, one of the traditions at UDHS were  'sororities'.  (These were held outside of school and allegedly non-sanctioned by the school board). Candidates attended teas, were looked over by the sisters of these long existing clubs, and eventually chosen or denied entrance in the sorority of her choice. Most girls chose three, hopeful they'd get into one. 

I chose one:  TOT, attended the tea, spoke to the members, and tried not to appear too desperate.  Evidently, I did not make an impression, or if I did, it was not the impression I had hoped.  And then spent the next three years suffering the rejection.

Not to be misunderstood, I had a few friends, and was active in choir, chorus and clubs, but spent much of my high school years feeling alone and always on the outside.  I graduated from one of the largest high schools in Pennsylvania with a very clear understanding of how students can become and feel dis-enfranchised.  


12 comments:

Bilbo said...

We didn't have fraternities or sororities at North Allegheny High School, but we had all the standard cliques ... none of which included me. It has taken until now - 45 years after graduation - for the people I admired back then to decide that I'm not such a bad guy after all. Such is life.

Retired English Teacher said...

This breaks my heart. It is so high school. You know what mean. High school can just be awful. We also had those sororities. In our school they were called 'service clubs.' I was also a bit of a newcomer. I didn't make the cool club. I did make one, but even today, I remember the meanness of it all.

Linda Reeder said...

I have found that the early bloomers do not fare as well as the late bloomers in the long run when it comes to who's who in high school. And after all these years, who gives a damn.

Kay said...

Sororities in high school?!? That's plain awful! We had clubs after school at the community center but anybody could join, were encouraged to join. I'm so sorry you were stuck in that sort of situation. It makes me really sad to even think about it. I can see why some teens go into depression or consider suicide. I know my kids didn't have that when they went to high school either. THANK GOODNESS!

forsythia said...

Our older grandson is about to enter this jungle--as a fifth grader, he has one foot in it already. Our poor little "late bloomer" is largely clueless, I'm afraid. I won't be around when the "after all these years" rolls around for him, but I hope he's able by then not to give a damn, as Linda says. You've touched a very sensitive nerve with this post. Why must people be so mean?

beachgirl said...

We didn't have anything but clubs. I was in the band, choir and drama club. In today's world that makes you a freak.
I was the new kid in 4th grade and kept on the outside all thru elementary school, bullied for sure.
High school did not bring more friends. I still have several friends from High school.
Growing up was tough for sure. But we all survived. I hope my kids never bullied anyone or made them unwelcome because they were new.
I have to say I am still a loner today, but by choice.

Cheryl said...

How awful to go through school feeling like less of a person because of the decisions of others. Had they gotten to know you, their lives would have been filled with a lot of laughter. They never got to see your talents.

Mage said...

I completely understand. I am grateful today that not only did I have great art teachers in public school, but when I transferred to a private school for my last two years, I had some friends there from childhood.

From then on, life got better.

George said...

My introduction to high school was also quite an experience. I attended two-room country schools through the 8th grade. The high school was in town and had several hundred students. It was quite a change!

Betsy Adams said...

How sad for you... I'm sure there still are many schools where some students just don't fit in. But--since my situation was SO different, it's hard for me to relate.

I graduated from a public small town high school --where everyone knew everyone else and most everyone was treated fairly nice (at least i thought they were).

BUT--we all have had different situations in our lives where we don't fit in. I look back at so many times this happened to me.. Much of it was brought on totally by me though...

Interesting topic --and one which we all could discuss over and over..

Hugs,
Betsy

Gilly said...

That is appalling! It seems so wrong that a perfectly normal girl (well, I assume you were normal ;) ) was denied proper friendship and a feel of belonging for 3 years of schooling. I've never met anything like that in British Schools, but then I only had my school, and my daughter's school to judge by, and other schools that we heard of through friends etc. I really feel for you Kathy, and I bet the sororities were proper snooty and snobby!

I hope you didn't have to battle that feeling of notfitting in throughout the rest of your life.1

Purple Flowers said...

Hi Kathy - Through your words I can hear sadness. So sorry about your bad experiences. We had clubs and organizations in my high school, and they were cliques - all of them. Not all, but some kids can be so cruel.