Thursday, June 11, 2015

Freshmen Vs. Seniors

I did not have the best of experiences in elementary and high school. It's not that I delusionally believe that attending a different institution would have a better result. The more I grow, the more I know: People are people all over. 

Neighborhoods can possess different hashkafos, and most get along better with those who share their same outlook. But personalities, how humans emotionally operate? That's pretty much the same, no matter where one goes. 

Back to high school. Yeah, it sucked. I was ecstatic when I graduated. I didn't even realize then it was because I would be free of my classmates, not my "insisting that the sitting and learning lifestyle as the only way to be a proper frum Jew" morahs.
It was a number of years before I met up again with a large force of these gals. Some had changed, for the better; these were usually fellow introverted or cripplingly shy individuals who also found their voice and way. With rare exception, the "popular" girls, and the "popular" girls posse, were unchanged. 

Most of us are what we are from birth. The education system shoves various types into one confined area—a crucible, if you will—which can bring the worst qualities to the surface. We all exhibit a motley of behaviors, depending on the circumstances; when we have backup, when we don't, when we are assured of public acceptance, when we don't.
Then we graduate, achieve adulthood, marry. The steady gang of five to ten have their own lives; the royal clique disbands. A lone person needs people. She'll be nice, polite, considerate, if circumstances warrant. 

But what if, one day, she'll be back in that same situation? Cafeteria. Cronies. Control. Cattiness ensues.
Jonny Negron
Jane Weiner wrote about her poor Nana's experiences in a home, sorry, uh, "independent living facility" ("Mean Girls in the Retirement Home"). We're back to high school, ladies. 
The notion that a threat to seniors is their peers is somewhat new, and usually played for laughs. It goes against a truism handed down from mothers to daughters for generations: This, too, shall pass. Mean girls are not girls, or mean, forever. High school doesn’t last forever, everyone grows up. But Nanna’s experience suggests otherwise. It says that the cruel, like the poor, are always with us, that mean girls stay mean — they just start wearing support hose and dentures.
Surprisingly, I'm not completely disheartened by this news. It is upsetting to discover that despite the multitude of opportunities we are given to become better, we can trip and go flying in a moment. That by a certain age, the senior population may choose not to have morphed into elevated beings. 

But it also means I wasn't overreacting to my unpleasant time in school. It wasn't that these girls were young and didn't know better, and would one day "grow up" and be nice. We are what we are by high school. "Growing up" has nothing to do with it. 

It is, however, about bechira. We can choose when we're younger. We can choose when we're older.  


Daniel Saunders said...

I couldn't wait to leave school either, except for the threat of leaving home to go to university. I couldn't wait to leave my peers, then. On the last day, everyone exchanged contact details, but I refused. I knew my friends' phone numbers; I didn't WANT to be in contact with anyone else. I boycotted the year book and the prom, and not just because both were American imports.

Princess Lea said...

Luckily, in NY, one can stay at home and go to college.

Daniel Saunders said...

Oh, I could have studied in London. Lots of frum Jews do. But my heart was set on Oxford and Mum thought living away from home would help my shyness (it didn't).

lirehagi said...

Why do you think I've already arranged that I'm going to the nursing home with my friends? I don't want the Mean Old Lady cliques to pick on me!

I always would argue about this with my mom. She'd say they were kids and they'd grow up, and I'd just say that they were evil people who might change when they were older simply because it is better to be known as a nice person, but that they'd still be rotten at the core.

At least you're done with the grade-school chapter of your life and you have a long time until the nursing home.

Princess Lea said...

DS: I watch "Inspector Lewis," so I can understand the appeal. Oxford is gorgeous.

lirehagi: It's a stupid, frustrating stage of life. What doesn't kill you makes you stronger, I suppose. Blah.

Daniel Saunders said...

I never had you down as a murder mystery fan! I've never seen Lewis, but I've read all the Inspector Morse novels in which he first appears (as a lowly police sergeant). They're good, but rather bleak in their outlook.