Thursday, May 07, 2009

The Popular Girls

I'm sorry to say, today's blog isn't about us Fictionistas, even though everyone already knows we're the coolest group of gals around. No, today I'm blogging about the phenomenon that any female who has gotten through middle school is very familiar with.

The Popular Girls, and how they rule the school.

I was not one of the Popular Girls. I certainly had a lot of friends, and straddled many groups. But I didn't fit in any one particular group. I was a cheerleader, and a dancer, and a drama club actress, and in choir. I was also in National Honor Society and Student Council. I worked on the Yearbook. I was voted "Most School Spirit."

But I had my first and last boyfriend (until college) in junior high. I flitted from one social group to another. Everyone liked me, but I was nobody's best friend. And later, when one of the girls who I was pretty close to in junior high decided she didn't like me senior year, I was on the outs with the original group of girls I hung out with most. I started hanging out with others -- after all, I had lots of friends, although few really close friends -- but by that point, it was too late to be very close friends with this group of girls.

Because these things are set in middle school. Whereas we all invite everyone else to our birthday parties in elementary school, somewhere around 6th or 7th, suddenly the cliques form. Some girls become the Queen Bees and the others all want to emulate them.

By the time you get to high school, if you weren't a Queen Bee, you probably have stopped wishing you were, or at least were her best friend, but they're still there. They still rule the school, and they can make life miserable for the ones they don't like.

Yesterday, I started reading Kathleen Gilles Seidel's novel, A Most Uncommon Degree of Popularity. Kathy's in my local chapter, and this has been on my to-be-read pile for a while now, and I can't believe it took me so long to get to it. It's GREAT!

It's the story of former-lawyer-turned-stay-at-home-mom Lydia Meadows, who is shocked on the first day of middle school to discover that her daughter is one of the popular girls. Lydia has always thought that popular girls were manipulative little "blonde bitches", yet her own daughter is decidedly brunette and unhighlighted and sweet and kind. One thing leads to another, of course, and eventually the moms become more obsessed with their daughter's social lives than they are. Set in an exclusive DC private school, this is a heartfelt and funny story about raising a daughter. (Would make a good Mother's Day gift, as would Kathy's mother-and-sons novel, Keep Your Mouth Shut and Wear Beige.)

Anyway, I just thought it was interesting and refreshing to read a book about Popular Girls in which they weren't manipulative and scheming. (Actually, that behavior is left to their moms...) Because while I wasn't a Popular Girl, and there certainly were Popular Girls at my school who fit the mold, perhaps the truly most popular girls at my school seemed more like Lydia's daughter and her friends. Nice, friendly, and well-adjusted...and just happened to be the Girls-Everyone-Else-Wants-to-Be. And the ones who made my life most miserable back then weren't the Popular Girls at all, but rather, the girls who were supposedly my friends.

But you never see this in popular culture. The Popular Girls are always portrayed exactly like Lydia's stereotype: manipulative blonde bitches. (Or brunette...or redhead. But you get the point.)

Probably because it's so much more fun to write a Mean Girl rival for your heroine than a Nice Girl. We love to cheer for the hero and boo the villain. We especially love when she gets her comeuppance, particular if she's extra evil. We love to hate Penelope Hayes Schoonmaker in the Luxe series. We cheered when Veronica stole Heather Duke's red scrunchie in Heathers.

Who are some of your fave Mean Girls?


  1. Wow, that sounds like a really cool book, and I'll have to check it out. Middle school is RUTHLESS--my daughter is in 7th grade and could tell you some stories. *sigh*

    I never was a Popular Girl, either. And I'm totally fine with that. :D

  2. Amanda Brice10:45 AM the Jane Austen reference in Kathy's title. (Yes, Kathy has a PhD in Literature.)

  3. that book sounds pretty good!

  4. The book sounds great.

    I was not one of the popular girls in school. Though I was known, but it was more for my brain and writing than anything else. I was a nerd. And I'm okay with that.

    Even though my nephew is only 8, he can tell you some stories about the rowdy kids and mean girls.

  5. Mel's seen my HS pic so she KNOWS I wasn't popular :D (not with those eyebrows baby).

    The book sounds fab! I'll def check it out.

  6. The book does sound great -- I adore Kathleen Gilles Seidel's books, though I admit I'm several behind in reading them! I'll have to pull this one out of the pile...

    I was an extreme outcast in junior high (middle school.) Definitely one of the bottom four kids in the entire seventh grade. I could probably have achieved a more middling status if I'd really wanted to -- I would just have had to conform totally, but I refused to do that. I felt I had far more integrity sticking to my guns and being harassed than trying to do the things the mean kids wanted me to do.

    In my seventh grade class, BTW, the popular girls were not the main harassers...the boys were. But they did it to attract the attention of the popular girls -- who would giggle at the mean things the boys did. So in my estimation, the girls were fully as culpable.

  7. I wasn't a popular girl in high school, but I'm making up for it now. ;o)

  8. Amanda and I were the same girl! I was a cheerleader, yearbook staff, friends with everyone girl. But I thought I was unpopular. I moved for the first quarter of senior year (bad parenting that I never forgave them for, btw)and a lower classman ran into me at my job in the new town and said "I know who you are! You're that popular girl--I voted for you for cheerleader last year.)

    I was stunned.

    Anyway, my favorite mean girl is Cordelia Chase from "Buffy the Vampire Slayer". She was seriously the only mean girl I ever wished I could be.