Insider's Guide to High School The Tattoo

Clique your heels: there’s no place like high school

Bristol Eastern High School students Colin Cummings, Theresa Degan, and Kayla Smith at a Bye Bye Birdie rehearsal. (Rachel Glogowski/YJI)

BRISTOL, Connecticut, U.S.A. — It’s wrong. It’s horrid. But it’s true. Now that you’re in high school you will inevitably be hurled headlong into a world of
fierce (if not always impenetrable) divisions.

You may have noticed the distinctions beginning in middle school. Now the differences will be glaring, the boundaries clear. You will find yourself traveling in groups, circles, and “cliques.”

Know where you stand and where you don’t belong.

The following is a short sketch of what you can expect. My statements are approximations and should not be assumed to be absolute. Individuality still counts for something, you just can’t get a credit in it.


The great myth about jocks is that they are irresponsible, insensitive Neanderthals whose primary obsessions are video games, alcohol and other nasty stimulants, date rape and plowing over any guy on the playing field who’s not wearing the same colored jersey.

While there are scores of everyday students who will present evidence supporting all of this, I’d have to say (though it pains me) that this just isn’t true.

It’s important to know what it means to be a jock. You have to understand that while there are people at every high school who are faster, stronger and with better hand/eye coordination than 90 percent of the general population, not all of them are jocks.

For easy reference, remember this rough but generally accurate rule of thumb. It’s hard to find a jock on the following sport teams: tennis, golf, track, cross country and swimming.

It almost makes sense when you think about it. These are sports that don’t ask you to be an automaton, knocking people down and stepping on their faces, but force you to do your personal best, often racing against records, clocks, or a single, well-matched opponent.

You should also remember that however muscle bound or vulgar they seem, there are jocks who, largely due to the discipline learned in their sports, have a higher GPA than you do, even if you’re on the chess team.


The most important distinction between a jock and a band nerd is that the band nerd isn’t going to pound you for calling them what they are. They are, in fact, proud.

You don’t have to be in the band to be a band nerd.

If you’re in the chorus or a singing group or act in the school play, you should get used to the idea of being what you are. It’s not so bad. Really.

The training, action and stigma are at least as exhausting as that of any jock, but the field trips and performances are a blast, the group encourages diversity and there are chances to meet interesting people, get applause, and win awards and scholarships.

What may be the downfall of the band nerd (more so the chorus variety than the band) is the constant struggle for the spotlight, and feeling of  competition.

While this group can be a tight knit family, they’ve also never had a thick necked guy with a whistle barking in their faces that there’s no “I” in TEAM, and it can get messy and emotional.

What some people will do for art.


Meet numbers One, Two and Three in your class. Their success consumes them.

They whiz through math, decipher Shakespeare, memorize obscure battles in great wars, and somehow manage to find time to play the piano, surf the net, and volunteer at a hospital or soup kitchen.

They always know where their homework is, when the test is coming, and where they stand academically.

They can’t wait to get their report cards and, though, they talk about how horribly they’ll probably do in every subject, their grades will always be higher than yours.

In fact, they’ll always be higher than anyone’s you know.

You’re convinced that they’re vulnerable to Kryptonite, that there’s something they can’t do, some sort of secret. Here it is: they’re really bad at watching television.


Not every cheerleader is self-centered and vain. Not every beauty queen spends hours on her hair.Not everyone with perfect hair and teeth, designer clothes and a seamless, carefree strut is without substance.

But you’d never know it from going to high school with them.

The telltalel signs are the following names: ABERCROMBIE AND FITCH, NIKE, GAP, TOMMY HILFIGER.

While anyone might buy these name brands, the Beautiful People will make it a point to have them screaming visibly from every available stitch of clothing as though they were being paid for endorsement, walking billboards.

There are genuinely good people behind all of that armor a lot of the time, so make an excavation of their tragically hip facades.


If you want to learn how to play “Magic: The Gathering” or “Dungeons and Dragons,” find these people.

They’ll usually be reading a fantasy novel, with an elaborate cover, wearing dark and distinctive clothing, sometimes a T-shirt endorsing a band you’ve never heard of.

Don’t be afraid of them. They’re usually the warmest, most considerate eople around, and will welcome you into their fold without question.

They’re usually good with computers, probably great at sculpture, drawing or painting, and just don’t fit into any of the other categories.


Oh, they can’t spell nihilism, but they’re passionate adherents nonetheless. These are the students who not only espouse but truly believe every destructive, disenfranchised teenage cliché you’ve ever heard.

They honestly believe that the meaning of life is to get drunk and or high, get laid and get the hell out of high school.

Everyone feels this way at times — but the Nihilists just don’t come out of it.

They can be good for a laugh, just pray you don’t pull them as research partners.


They play three varsity sports. They’re at the top of their class. They just won an award for their art project and have the lead in the fall play.

They defy classification. Every time you think you have them pegged, they reveal a side you couldn’t have expected.

They are living proof of how ridiculous and juvenile this list really is.

These are the kids who are going to your college of choice on a full scholarship, the elusive “well rounded students.”

Get friendly with them, quickly.

Joe Wilbur is a Reporter for Youth Journalism International.

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