1. Food > dating
That obsessive, determined energy that would normally be focused on dating and relationships becomes almost entirely directed towards food. Eating becomes a serious sport — revered and approached with a Sochi-level intensity. A friend’s birthday at my high school was no joke — brownie bake-offs were a real and serious business.
2. Uniforms break you, then become a part of you
After initial resistance, you soon embark upon a clingy, codependent relationship with your uniform. It’s just so simple! No more fashion decisions necessary, ever! It eventually becomes such a crutch that when Free Dress Day rolls around, you stand paralyzed in front of your closet for a half hour, then breathe a sigh of relief when you realize that “Free Dress Day” technically means you can wear whatever you want, including your uniform. You put it on, chuckling at your earlier attempts to dress yourself like a normal person. Did you really try and put on a non-uniform today? Silly.
3. Can you define “dating?” I’m not sure what that means
Enrolling in an all-girls school is like stepping into a dating vortex for four years — a black hole void of menfolk and the experiences you should be having with them. That part of your life freezes in time, and when you do catch a glimpse of a guy, it both confuses and terrifies you (much like Free Dress Day). Speaking with one is like being forced to take a test you neither understand nor were prepared for. The only thing you’re sure of is that you’re failing, and need to exit the room as quickly as possible.
4. There are always endless, new ways to amuse yourself
Regardless of where you are, high school is monotonous. Hobbies are essential, and creative ones that utilize your environment are always more fun. A favorite pastime of mine was waiting until break time when the hallways were crammed with girls and then shouting things like “Megan, you dropped five dollars!” or “Ashley, I have your phone!” and watching the inevitable chaos ensue. Girls in my year also founded a “Juanes Appreciation Day”, during which we honored the sassy Colombian singer by blasting his music in boom boxes around campus and eating way too many tamales at lunch.
5. Your excuses become very… inventive
Sometimes you just need to get out class, and I am proud to say that the girls in my year came up with some impressive ways to escape presentations, pop quizzes, and incredibly boring lectures. I saw girls faint, cry, and, in truly inspired moments, utter what I’ve found to be the perfect class-bailing phrase: “I’m having some…feminine troubles.” It truly is the perfect excuse in any situation, and I highly recommend trying it out if you can deal with the awkwardness that will inevitably follow. Male teachers feel too uncomfortable to challenge you, and most female teachers find a way to empathize. Obviously this excuse might not work as well for guys, but you could always try it out for fun.
6. You become a rule-breaking pro
There’s always a way to circumnavigate the rulebook. This is true in general and very true at a strict all-girls school. In an environment so structured and tightly run (at least mine was), you realize that there have to be people operating outside of the rigidly structured ecosystem, and there are. You quickly learn which rules aren’t worth breaking and which ones are easy loopholes to maneuver through.
7. “Hygiene” becomes a relative term
Time management is crucial in high school, and I often found that fastidious personal hygiene tended to get in the way of things. Haircare, makeup, tweezing, etc., were all great weekend activities, but during the week they fell off the to-do list. When it’s a question of washing and straightening your hair in the morning, or making coffee and eating a breakfast burrito, the latter is always a better choice. Phrases like “I just washed my skirt!” become less common and more often replaced with “I spilled icing all over my skirt last week, so I rubbed it in, and now I smell like a bakery!” Obviously, not all girls felt this way, and there will always be the beautiful, made up girls with perfect hair running around campus. I just wasn’t one of them.
8. Caffeine isn’t just a drug of choice — it’s a way of life
I’m still trying to kick the outrageous caffeine habits I picked up in high school. Thank goodness our bodies are so resilient, because if they weren’t mine would have imploded (or whatever bodies do, I’m not a doctor) from caffeine-overload years ago. Most of us woke up around 6am, or sometimes 5am for the girls who had a long drive or got up early to finish homework. Then it was on to seven hours of class, then three or four more hours of extracurricular activities (which were basically mandatory at my school, to impress The Colleges), then a few more hours of homework, then maybe a chat with your family members if you had time, then bed. For four years. There is just no way to pull this off without caffeine, and I fell hard into the dangerous, addicting world of daily Starbucks runs and energy-drink-shotgunning. It’s a slippery, wild slope, and when someone offers, it’s crucial to Just Say No!
…I’m totally kidding. Always say yes, or you won’t get anything done. Seriously, drink the coffee.
9. You learn to prioritize and eliminate
My school was unbelievably competitive and homework-heavy. After a certain point, I realized that there was no way to get finish it all, and some assignments were just not worth losing precious sleep over. Eventually I’d hear a teacher assign something and my brain would automatically sort it into either the “Important Homework” category or the “Useless Homework” category. I also found that my day was full of random five-minute breaks that were ideal moments to finish off assignments that fell into the latter category. This skill actually becomes incredibly helpful later on, when you realize that much of life is about eliminating unnecessary activities, projects, and habits from your life so that you can focus on the ones that will actually benefit you.
10. Stereotypical “high school” isn’t really a thing, and that’s a huge relief
Whether you love or hate your girls’ school, you can’t deny that your experience is inherently different from the cliche ones you see in movies and on TV. While every high school has its cliques, the groups in my year were much less defined because, honestly, no one really cared. We were all too busy trying to handle our insane workload and still function as human beings. Petty things like clothes, gossip, and who’s-dating-who just weren’t as important, and the girls who did focus heavily on those things were by no means the “popular girls”. While this (and other items on this list) may not be the case at every girls’ school, it’s what I experienced, and I’m very grateful for that.