7th grade in all its glory
2004-10-10 @ 10:38 a.m.
The other day galaxyrabbit talked about childhood competition and friendships that made me recall jr.high with sickening vividness.
In 7th grade I had a pretty successful year. 7th graders have the opportunity to try out for the varsity team in Basketball, (all 8th graders are on varsity automatically) and everyone who played basketball tried-out, but I decided I was going to try really really hard.
And I did.
I had recently read a series of books by R. Rozanne Knudson; (descriptions from the card catalog)
Zanballer-Zan Hagan, whose principal opposes her un-feminine activities, leads her dance class onto the athletic field to form a girl's football team.
Zanbanger-Zan Hagen separates her shoulder playing baseball and finds cross-country running a very satisfactory substitute
Zanboomer- Zan Hagen separates her shoulder playing baseball and finds cross-country running a very satisfactory substitute
Although I liked being on teams, I never thrived on competition. And although, I still find this to be true, I discovered determination somehow in the try-out process.
Only 3 7th graders made the varsity. I was one of them.
It could have been because I was very tall, and there was a shortage of tall 8th graders.
I was also one of the 3 7th graders who made the cheerleading squad. Being a cheerleader for the Boys’ Varsity Basketball team mainly involved being able to yell coherently for an hour. I ruled.
So I got to be good friends with a lot of 8th grade girls. That was nice since one of my best friends, John Schultz, was dating an 8th grade girl, and we didn’t hang out a lot that year.
This was mostly because hanging out with John always eventually led to John deciding we should make out and fool around which, admittedly I was usually interested in. He was fun to hang around whether we were kissing or not, and he seemed to be very drawn to me in the summer and after-school. Of course, I was not the most popular girl in the class, and since he was definitely the most popular boy in the entire Jr.High (this was picking from what must have been a grand total of about 20 boys total) we never “went together”. This was noted by me, but not really focused on. I was inevitably included in everything and the fact that I secretly got to practice kissing with the cutest boy in my class was more important than holding his hand when we walked to school.
For some reason I figured out that when you “went with” someone there was such a focus on what you were doing, as a couple, that you kissed a lot less than you did if it wasn’t an expectation.
John used to stop by a lot when I was babysitting. Usually my own sisters, who were 10 and 11 years younger than me (hey-25 cents an hour!) but sometimes at my other babysitting jobs too. He spent most of that year hanging out with his 8th grade girlfriend Julie and I thought that made sense, rather than the ridiculous scenarios we’d come up with as a class, more or less deciding people made a good couple and convincing kids they should “go together”. It was usually short-lived and incredibly awkward, and John and Julie seemed to genuinely like each other and it was something of a relief to see.
So one Spring night John showed up where I was babysitting, and I was surprised and inviting him in and we hung out laughing and watching TV, and at some really serious point John wanted to kiss me, and after I felt terrible and he told me that it would just be a secret. We didn’t make out. I couldn’t figure out why it happened, and it seemed to follow me like a cloud.
He ended up telling Julie (who never would have known!) that I kissed him, and I just knew I was due for trouble.
That weekend we rehearsed for the graduation mass/ceremony and on the way home I found myself SURROUNDED by all the eighth grade girls on a corner. They never asked me for confirmation if I had even done what they accused me of. I was just called a slut repeatedly until they felt better. Of course, the girl who was the meanest, was not only NOT Julie’s closest friend, but was more of a slut herself than I had ever been.
Apparently none of the 7th grade girls wanted to join that clique, because I never heard anything from any of them. It was never mentioned at all.
Except by John the first day of 8th grade, because he wanted to be friends again. He walked me home specifically all by himself to apologize to me.
I only vaguely felt this whole episode was any kind of injustice. Because although I respected the fact that John and his girlfriend were the real thing, I knew that I was in love with him, and just because I never manipulated or tried to lure him into any kind of kissing games, well I knew that I lived for the moments when he decided he wanted to kiss me. I don’t beat myself up over it, I was 12.
I’ve always known, in my heart, since this happened, that there really is no such thing as a SECRET. Once anyone else knows anything it’s bound to come out.
And in reflection, this was one of the biggest events in my life. It really taught me that loyalty is more or less a fantasy, that there is ALWAYS the possibility of complete and utter betrayal no matter what. I can only think of about one person (legalbeagle) who this was never in evidence for me. So although I’m not bitter at all when thinking about this, probably due to the fact that I don’t remember feeling any shame over it, ever, it was pretty cathartic writing about it.