Warning: This post contains the odd swear.
Aah the moshpit of adolescence. A time of looking like a half grown chicken as you foray into a myriad of awkward social interactions and find solace in your chosen ‘group’, underpinned by hormonal upheaval and disgusting skin complaints.
At our high school there were clearly defined ‘groups’. The surfers, the clubbies (the coastal equivalent to jocks I suppose), the library nerds, the music dweebs, the scary death metal group, the 90210 crowd, the arty-hippy ones and then a myriad of other kids whose adolescent uniform was less defined by body piercings and more by simple friendship groups. It was all pretty clear cut. There were people who floated between them all and others who remained stolidly within their circle, only enticed out by the threat of in-class group work or its more attractive alternative: detention.
Primary school on the other hand was idyllic: mine was in a tiny village on the North Coast of New South Wales with around 12 other kids in my grade. Making friends was pretty easy since there were only three girls to choose from and as a general rule, all the girls and even the rest of the boys were friendly toward each other. Personal idiosyncrasies were often overlooked: strange haircuts, weird siblings, odd lunches were all ignored on the basis that these kids were your only choice. Afterall, you can’t play tiggy with yourself.
When we were fed into a high school exponentially larger than our tiny primary sanctuary, it only took a few weeks for the cracks in these friendships of necessity to show. The grommet gravitated toward the surfer group. The nerdy musical kid was shunted into six years of band camp (I never played any kind of flesh-coloured flute nor did I put an instrument in an inappropriate place- soz, I am boring). And the cool kids were elevated to 90210 status, from where they would reign unchallenged for the rest of our high school years.
One girl and I had been besties since kindergarten when Mrs Adamson had looked down her nose at our formless attempts at handwriting. We’d tortured my brothers together. Camped in the paddock. Built mud baths which turned us a dark shade of dirt and wouldn’t wash out for a week. Had countless sleepovers. She was a stalwart at every birthday party I ever had in primary school. And within a few short months of entering Year 7, that friendship was pretty much over. We still shared an hour’s bus ride daily, but that seven year connection, forged out of necessity and strengthened through time and an idyllic childhood, was broken. She had moved into the cool group while the rest of us languished at the back end of hormonal ineptitude.
It was discouraging and upsetting, but just as she was finding her way in a new group, so was I. Of course getting in with the band kids is infinitely easier than the 90210 group: you don’t need to be attractive in any way (totes worked for me and the blackhead infestation on my face) and to be fair, the band was so desperate for members you didn’t really even need to be that musical. We’d found our high school tribes and, happily, off we went on our differing routes of social acceptance until the Year 12 Formal, never to see each other again for fifteen years or so.
And then she popped back into my life. I was less than gracious a complete dick about the whole thing. She wasn’t my primary school bestie anymore: she was just that girl I’d caught the bus with. Why was she allowed back into my core group of forever friends? Where was her old group of friends? I didn’t want to share precious time with these beloved ladies of mine with her. AND she’ll look amazing too, for fuck’s sake!
Yep, here I am: Spiteful Dickhead. (Adulting clearly does not come easy to me.) It’s taken a little while to get over myself and realise that those clearly defined groups, so essential in protecting your vulnerable adolescent self, have been replaced with people. Just people. People who knew you when your hair was shit and your skirts were short. People who have more to offer than a mutual appreciation of wind instruments or hair straighteners. People whose story is so much more than what it was in high school that surely, I should just feel privileged to be involved in it.
In a few days I’ll be spending an entire glorious weekend with her and those other delightfully old friends, not a rushed shitful dinner. I’m glad, redlining with excitement in fact. I’ll be hanging out with someone who’s known me for 90% of my life; a friendship has been resurrected from the ashes of high school dysfunction. And best of all? We will all be comfortably ensconced in a group of girls who have stood the prickly test of adolescence and have emerged as women, survivors, stalwarts of their field, listeners, confidantes, mothers, feminists, leaders, gauges of truth and measure…
I don’t recall a group at high school like that, but I’m glad out of my fucking brain to be a part of one now.
Have you reconnected with long lost school friends?