The Life of Bon: High School Cruelty

Thursday, April 19, 2012

High School Cruelty

High school is a cruel little world.

This week is student body elections.  Days of handing out suckers, preparing speeches (which by the way, none of the candidates actually gave speeches, they all just showed a video.  What has our world come to?), and trying to convince the intelligent high school population that you getting elected will have anything to do with their happiness.

It won't.

One of my favorite students, an aboslute doll who is always on task and sweet and cheerful, lost the election.

Would it be too dramatic to say it broke my heart?  Because it really did.

I guess I don't really understand student body elections.  "Alright, guys, lets all choose the hottest and most popular kid and have him be in charge of everything important at our school.  The teachers and principal get no sway whatsoever."  Because isn't that how all jobs are filled?  By the hottest and most popular with no regard for what the authorities think?

I suppose I feel high school elections so acutely because eight years ago, in the throes of teenage angst and misunderstood hormones, I myself, was involved in a little student government election.

I was running for junior class secretary against Shayla- a girl I disliked for the mere reason that she had what I wanted:  Will Shane.  He was gorgeous and perfect and I had crushed on him for four years.  The boy was as pure as pure can be- never kissed a girl, never had a girlfriend, straight A student.  And when he finally got himself a girlfriend, it wasn't me.  It was Shayla.  I went on loving him- unrequited, of course- until the day he got married.  (Not to Shayla).

Me in high school.  With that hair do and purple eyeshadow,
I don't know how I didn't have the whole school worshipping me.

With Shayla already as my arch enemy #1, I wanted nothing more than to crush her in the campaign.  To show Will who he should really be dating.  To reclaim some of my lost pride.

After days of draining campaigning, the results were in.   Carbon High, never the classiest, didn't have the courtesy to announce the results to us before they told the rest of the school.  They would announce it at a high school dance.  On a Friday night.  In front of everybody.  No, we couldn't hide from those teens, we would have to face our formidable classmates and show them that we were the failures the thought we were.

Friday night finally rolled around.  I could hardly enjoy the dance waiting for the announcement.  No boy was cute, no cookie was chocolatey, no song was catchy, all I wanted to know is if I won, and wasthattoomuchtoaskforDANGIT!?!?!?

Finally, the advisor came over the P.A.  He announced the historian.  Then, it was our turn, "You guys, for junior class secretary we have something we have never had before.  Never.  Ever!  EVER!  We have an exact tie!  We've recounted four times and it's an exact tie can you believe it?!?!  This is CRAZY! So we'll revote first thing Monday morning, make sure you're on time to school to vote!" Beep.

Then.  Silence.

I felt sick.  I left immediately with my best friend, who had lost the election for president.  We rode together in silence, each aching in our own way.

The weekend dragged on.  I stressed.  I tossed and turned.  I didn't eat.

Monday morning arrived, and sure enough, at 8:20 sharp, we re-voted.  I remember circling my own name, bold and strong.
I wanted to win this.

Thirty minutes later, in the middle of correcting a biology quiz with the class, the advisor came on the speaker.  Beep.  "We have our winner for secretary.  The winner is Shayla Gilman.  Thank you."  Beep.  Just like that.  Millions of possibilities were extinguished with that voice and I sat there, staring down at that biology quiz, fully aware that all eyes were on me and I that I had nowhere to hide.  I was raw.  Exposed.  Vulnerable.  Tears filled my eyes, and I bit my lip with all my might, trying to stop them from rolling down my face.  I had to act like I didn't care.  Like I never wanted it in the first place.  Like I had lost on purpose.

It didn't work, and as thirty five pair of eyes boared into the back of my head, I'll always be grateful for Mr. Bean, who sensed the tension, the awkwardness, and blurted,  "Alright, hurry up, we don't have all day with this quiz!  Number 5 is mitochondria, Number 6 is ribosome..." and took those eyes off of my shamed, red face and back onto a quiz.

This story is supposed to be funny, but I realize now when I reread it, that it reeks of sorrow, not humor.  When I tell this story out loud it's hilarious; in fact I told it in the faculty room at lunch yesterday and one teacher was laughing so hard he cried.  It is funny, but not for good reasons.  It's funny because of its cruelty, funny because of the things humans sometimes do to other humans, funny because that was eight years ago and I have had a full enough, rich enough life that that doesn't matter anymore.

But when student elections roll around at the high school each year, I hurt.  I can't enjoy it, and I wait anxiously for the week to pass and hope none of my students come out injured.  My heart aches for those who don't win, (most of them kids I've never met) for those who want it so bad, for those who are publicly rejected by the cruelest age group.

I guess I don't understand why student government elections are necessary in high school.  I suppose you could say it prepares kids for the real world, the rejection and all, but nowhere in my life since losing that eleventh grade election have I felt a sharper form of rejection.  Not getting stood up by own boyfriend, not having doors slammed in my face in Argentina, not being denied a job at the school where I student taught.  Nothing equals the pain of having an entire school of your peers and friends say, "Nope.  Sorry. Not good enough for us."

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  1. I agree.. student elections are awful.. just like the "buy someone a flower" for valentines day! And you sitting there.. one of the only girls in your class that didn't get one.. and others had five and six.. High School is cruel. I don't know why people say its the best time of your life... I never ran for student body.. not because I didn't want to.. cause I did.. I wanted to be involved, but because I knew I would lose.. so I never did it! Now I wish I could go back and re-do things and prove to people that I am good enough! Thanks for your your post!

  2. You're an amazing writer. Thank you for finding my blog.....I'm a new follower. This story reminds me of why I really hated high school. I mean really! :0

    dear life from a mom of boys

  3. We don't have school elections here. The captains are chosen by staff and the principle. But gosh - those posters are awesome!

  4. If there were such a thing as school elections at my high school, I would have definitely voted for Justin. Just saying.

    But in Holland, there is no such a thing as a student body (mind you, I was in high school a couple of years back and moved to another country in the mean time, so things could have changed), but if there were, I think it would be the same thing; the popular kids would get the most votes.

    And thank you for your comment and follow :) I'm definitely following you too!

  5. I TOTALLY agree!!!

    You are an awesome writer too...I love it!

    Kelly :)

  6. I lost all my student government elections too, usually against the same girl. She was nice and a friend of mine, but she was popular and the star runner on track. I was well-liked, but not popular (huge difference).

    But I did end up with most leadership roles when the teachers/coaches picked us... like being captain of dance team and editor of yearbook. :D

  7. You are certainly in the right profession! Your care and compassion for kids is deep and true. Plus, you can commiserate with the best of them! Thank goodness they have YOU!

    In 3rd grade(!!!) I ran for treasurer and my campaign slogan was "Kari Cares For YOU!" but they didn't care that I cared...I lost.
    Yup, that one hurt.

  8. I was in charge of Junior officers last year and for SBO elections two of my juniors ran against each other for SBO pres. I was so torn about who I hoped would win. As much as we know it wont matter in 10 years, it matters very much right now and that is hard to ignore.

    When I was in middle school all of my friends made it to the school television network (a HUGE deal at my school) except for me. They all had that in common and would talk about it all the time. Being a kid is rough!

  9. I cringe in sympathy! I never ran for elections in high school- I learned in grade school that everything involving gathering the opinions of our classmates came down to a popularity contest. Picking people for sports in PE? Popularity contest. Student elections? Popularity contest. Even the science fair was rigged, the judges being some parents of a popular kid clique who were also school officials). Corruption and personal focus is at the heart of every election, I think. And even though that student of yours didn't win, congrats to him for an ad campaign that makes me wish I had known him in high school. Seriously- dry wit, geekness, humility, AND he wants to coordinate high schoolers? This guy rocks.

  10. I ran for Senior Class President because I wanted to actually get a say in what was happening at my school. I was very motivated, very opinionated, and I campaigned like a beast. "AIM HIGH, VOTE LOWE" signs were plastered all over the school. There was only one other candidate, a football player whose mother worked at the school and who preached on the weekends when he wasn't getting drunk at field parties. (I'm not making this up.) I still had a good shot. I had a reputation as an opinionated young woman who would do whatever it took to make things happen.

    I had a shot until my SGA leader(s) decided to take the positions out of the race and just say that whoever got the most votes was president, second most was VP, and the last three would be representatives. That upped the candidates from 2 to 5 and split the vote. I came out as VP, a crushing blow to my fragile ego. I cried as I took my posters down. I had never wanted something so badly as to be SGA president for my senior year. It also made me bitter for the rest of the year, serving as VP to a self-serving, royal asshole of a president.

    SGA elections kind of suck. It's just a popularity contest, you guys.

  11. I love the way you tell a story. Great post!

  12. Anonymous10:01 PM

    I actually think that elections in high school is important. However I think some of the things they do to go about it is not right. These elections prepare us for the world around us especially with the 2012 Presidential Election around the corner. In the hall when there throwing stuff left or right at you trying to get you to vote for them, I don't just grab the thing. If its spirit and pride I ask them if they can sing our schools fight song. If its the president I ask them about what makes them so sure they can make next year better than years past? Other questions I've asked is how much do you enjoy presenting in front of others? Why should I vote for you? Have you ever been in a leadership position before? Do you care about the whole student population or just your little group? Whats your GPA? what kind of classes are you in? I drill them and if they can't answer or such then my vote doesn't go to them. I care about the school enough that I want to vote and make sure some bozo isn't taking over my school leaving it off worse than before they got in "office". Just like in the real world....