Written by Rose
“I hate the cafeteria! Our middle school cafeteria is like some kind of, like, silent conspiracy!” my 11-year old vented.
“How did this happen?! All the sudden, there’s the Cool-Girl table (and apparently they’ve decided their ‘badge of honor’ is a different color bow in their hair each day. God help you if you approach and actually try to talk to them or if you wear a bow in your hair, not that I would, without being part of their group!); there’s the Jocks table (the guys who are in whatever sport or are just so funny the Jocks like to hang out with them); the Giant Table In The Middle (which is literally everyone who is friends with people from all groups and we sit at one freakishly-long table that runs down the middle of the cafeteria); and then there’s the Geeks table (which personally I feel terrible about because those kids are somehow left out and a lot of them are really nice…) And today, one of our friends went over to talk to Joanie-with-a- Bow* and Joanie told her ‘You belong over there. Go back to your table.’ Do you believe that?! Joanie was one of our best friends…”
And just like that, all the memories come flooding back. As my daughter was talking, my stomach literally knotted up and I remembered that, to me, walking into my middle school and high school cafeterias was the equivalent of walking out on stage at Carnegie Hall with your fly down.
The middle school cast system emerges this time of year in most schools and can turn something as mundane as eating lunch into a safari during which you cannot let them smell fear. Fangs suddenly appear where friendly smiles were before.
It’s, of all places, in a middle school cafeteria that our 11-year old is navigating her latest test of her own self esteem, the hard-knocks School of Friendship and learning that knowing the philosophical answer to the question “A bow in your hair and you’re suddenly too good for me?! Really?!” doesn’t make living through it every day any easier.
Bows. Who would’ve thought they could hurt?
“It’s so stupid; they’re huge bows!” she continued to me later at bedtime. “I’m not gonna be the one to tell her, but I hope she realizes how many of her friends she’s hurting… and how RIDICULOUS she’s gonna feel when she looks back at pictures of herself 10 years from now!”
That’s my girl. Bruised but still maintaining course, taking the high road, sense of humor intact.