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Students play the popularity game

Graphic by Jackie Cope ’15 and Larissa Lieberson ’15

Popularity: the state or condition of being liked, admired, or supported by many people. Maybe this defines popularity in the dictionary, but in high school it’s defined by party invitations, priority seating in the cafeteria, and recognition by all 2,000 students.

But how did the select few achieve the highest status? Well, it began before anyone knew what the term “popularity” meant.

The Glory Days:

Elementary school: lunch seats are assigned, and best friends are the 23 people who sit nearby  in class, along with the scattered rec sports and dance friends. But with middle school lurking like an ominous shadow ahead, the grade size will triple, one classroom will turn to four, and the comfort of knowing all classmates will disappear.

From the “Big man on Campus” to a Small fish in a Big pond:

In middle school, the cafeteria is full of new peers. Survey the bustling room, and try to find familiar faces; ditch the musical chairs to land a spot at a decent table. The cliques have already begun to form: sporty, musical, academic, the list goes on and on. The biggest groups from each school gravitate toward each other as if they had received the rule book for surviving middle school along with their class schedules.

You have some Chutzpah thinking you’re going to be invited to my Bar Mitzvah:

Seventh grade excitement revolves around the contents of a mailbox and the guaranteed goody bags to come, containing the proof of being invited to the year’s most exclusive events: Bar Mitzvahs. Because sporting the logo-wear from the weekend’s affairs will earn social immunity to the competitive middle schoolers mind. Duh.

The Race to the Frienducopia:

The amount of people will double yet again, and with all the new stress of high school, worrying about where to sit at lunch shouldn’t be at the top of the list. Let’s admit it; it would be much easier to just concentrate on school, but teenagers are programmed to race to the cornucopia. Well— frienducopia. Where, instead of weapons, as many friends as possible are acquired. Lunch is the epicenter of social activity, as the senior tour guide warned, all “fresh meat” is exiled to the Freshman Ghetto to scavenge the tables for someone recognizable, hands full of admittedly-better cafeteria food.

Reaping the Rewards:

The dizzying maelstrom that is freshman year has calmed to a steadier, non-cannibalistic wave. High school brings an automatic craving for friends who can’t be earned by having the newest Webkinz toy or wearing a bar mitzvah sweatshirt. Popularity becomes a concept based less on objects and more on finding real friends— making social skills a tougher task than ever before. While there is still consideration over who’s the most popular person school wide, the focus is spent more on settling into groups of friends.

So Webster’s dictionary, I’d like to offer this alternative definition to the social climbing we all know but not all love.

Popularity: a political term used to describe teenagers and their vigorous, sometimes extremist, attempts to be queens and kings of the social pyramid.

And it doesn’t stop in high school, because as Glenda sang it in Wicked:

“It’s not about aptitude, it’s the way you’re viewed, so it’s very shrewd to be very very popular!”

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About the Contributors
Talia Hendel, Web Managing Editor
Normally when thinking about the typical high school the athletes don’t really mix with the kid of the newspaper staff. Talia Hendel ’16 defies these expectations. Not only does she write for the paper but she also manages to play on the Girls’ basketball team and teach special needs students how to play with Circle of Friends. “It was the perfect opportunity for me, I love kids and I love playing basketball. So it just fit,” Hendel said. When Hendel decided to take this class she quickly learned that she would only be taking the class for the course credits. She has developed a passion for journalism and hopes to continue with it into her college career. So next time you see a story with her name under it, drop what you are doing and read it. You could be seeing the first works of the next buzzfeed editor.
Jane Schutte
Jane Schutte, Breaking News Managing Editor
Now in her third year, Jane Schutte ’16 is one of the leaders of Inklings. She started Inklings her Sophomore year as Instagram coordinator, then rose to a web features editor and is currently the breaking news editor. Along with Inklings, Schutte’s other main activity is dance. She dances at Westport Dance Academy, taking classes in jazz, ballet, modern and other dance genres, but says her favorite is ballet. Although Schutte is a veteran journalist and dancer, she is also a newbie to other activities at Staples. After having taken 5 years of singing and acting lessons, and having been dancing intensely since the age of 3, Shutte decided over the summer to join Staples Players. She participated in the summer show Godspell, and is cast as the Grandmother in the upcoming show Fiddler on The Roof. Schutte says she is, “excited to do something I’ve never done.”

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