Yesterday, I attended a younger sibling-in-law’s sixth grade graduation. The principal gave the typical speech about “the challenges ahead”, advising them to always think critically, be themselves, and not be pressured by their peers. As an educator and socially responsible person, I’m nodding “yes, yes, of course, sound advice that is”, but as someone who has suffered through and survived junior high, I found myself thinking I could have used an entirely different set of advice before embarking on that adventure/tragedy that is junior high. Oh, the social awkwardness. So this is the non-parent/principal-approved list of advice I wish I had gotten when I was 13. To the adults out there: what advice would you like to have gotten before going to junior high? Feel free to add your own to the list!
The (Alternative) Guide to Junior High School
1. Don’t pop your zits – As satisfying as it is, you never know when you’ll pick the wrong one and just get a bloody mess and scars for your efforts.
2. Yes, it’s true. The social hierarchy does depend almost entirely on the clothes you wear. The sad truth is it is so easy to move up the hierarchy but the kids at the top almost never deserve it and yet the kids at the bottom don’t realize how such tiny, inconsequential, superficial things determine their fate. It’s not a matter of “following the crowd” like your parents warn about; it’s a matter of social survival.
3. That said, it’s not worth caring much about the social hierarchy in the long run. Most of the popular kids end up barefoot and pregnant before adulthood, and the nerds and geeks come into their own and end up being the really cool people you want to know right around college.
4. Avoid being in photographs at all costs. You’ll only want to burn them later because a) hormones and braces are evil, and b) 7th & 8th graders are just not the best judges when it comes to make-up.
5. These are the years you discover sarcasm, rolled eyes, ineffable boredom, the joy of cussing and general negativity. Embrace it with your peers, but realize every one else finds it supremely annoying.
6. To the A students: If the choice is between doing homework and hanging out with your best friends, more often than not, opt for friends. You only need to test well to get into advanced classes in high school (and even without that, you can petition)…other than that, NOBODY looks at your grades from junior high. Fun times and hilarious memories are far more worthwhile.
7. Guys, as much as it might seem cool to act like a badass, you’re not fooling anyone. Except maybe yourself and other wannabes.
8. Girls, ALWAYS have an extra tampon/pad, even if it’s not that time of the month. You never know when emergency or disaster will strike you or a loved one.
9. Eighth grade dances are not like the proms you see on TV. Imagine all the girls on one side and all the boys on the other side, insert awkwardness and music compiled by people three sheets shy of cool, and you have the first half of an eighth grade dance. In the second half, when people start actually dancing, awkwardness increases exponentially as everyone realizes they have no clue how to dance. Successful slow dancing requires being able to rotate slowly in a circle, while weaving from side to side, without stepping on anyone’s feet or dress. This can be hazardous when people’s feet and arms are out of proportion from the rest of their bodies thanks to growth spurts and when boys are a head shorter than girls but girls must still find a way to rest their heads on the guy’s shoulder.
10. Romantic relationships will probably be the most dramatic, soap operatic, and short-lived of your entire life. Two survivor rules: 1) Dating your best friends’ (ex)boy/girlfriend is so not cool. No, it’s not like they’re not going to get married, but it is a code-of-honor issue among friends; 2) Don’t freak out when your friend gets a bf/gf and spends less time with you. They’ll be back eventually when they discover how much of a dweeb their bf/gf was.
And above all:
Nothing that happens in junior high is the end of the world (though it all seems like it), and so remember: This too shall pass.