Middle school is a dreadful place to grow a brain. It’s a place full of memories irretractable no matter how hard you try to bottle them up/burn them out. Rest assured, it wasn’t all pizza and pick-up sticks. But you already know that. And you also know that it, for the most part, totally sucked. Here are a mere 25 reasons why.
1. You Needed Permission to Pee. But usually you just peed your pants to save yourself the public humiliation you inevitably received for not knowing the semantical difference (at age 5, mind you) between the words may and can. As in: can you quit being an asshole and just let me go pee?
2. Teachers Never Believed You. Not a word. As a rule, you were just a manipulative little liar at all times, because middle school teachers truly believe children are born evil, and that Original Sin only dates as far back as Adam and Eve’s bratty children. Remember how you tried telling the teacher you were framed for spilling glue on the carpet, and how the teacher just would not hear it. You were just not worth the retrial.
3. If You Liked Something That Wasn’t Cool Anymore, You Were Not Cool. In middle school, trends were microcosmic and just as silly as the ones you’d embrace in high school and beyond. Which is to say Power Rangers, Pokemon, and Yomega Yo-Yo’s were the Gossip Girl, Jersey Shore, and Abercrombie of their time. And you best admit to being too old for that shit the second Barney the dinosaur and Lisa Frank Trapper Keepers are no longer in vogue…
4. Lunch Food Sucked. It was usually recycled, reheated, and loaded with enough preservatives to render it immortal. Carcinogenic risk factors aside, it all tasted as good as the school’s lunch budget — i.e. lousy. Pizza was soggy (the cheese tasted like melted chemicals), the cold cuts tasted like rat meat, and the ice cream came in two varieties: melted chocolate, and not-ice cream. Then again at $1.25, what can you expect from the public school system? Certainly not a mother who cares enough to pack something decent/quasi-nutritious from home.
5. The ‘Hot’ Girl Wanted Nothing to Do with You. The term ‘hot’ here is used in completely relative terms. In prepubescence, ‘hot’ is not an applicable term, and even if it was, you wouldn’t know how to use it. The more realistic word is ‘cute,’ that image of the girl next door with ribbons/french braids in her hair who seemed to have her life so figured out, who was on the cheerleading squad but wasn’t quite reenacting the whipped cream scene from Varsity Blues. She probably was just a nice girl and wanted to support her peers. But girls were (/are) confusing. So her ignoring you seemed to mean that she wasn’t interested in you, while really she just didn’t yet know what dating was (and neither did you).
6. Sports Are the Only Way to Fit In, So Play a Sport. Clearly this is not true, and the closer to college you get, the more you realize that. But all you’ve learned from society thus far is in very broad, gender-normative terms. Male: sports, dirt, Hot Wheels Happy Meal toy. Female: pink, hairbrushes, Barbie Happy Meals toy. Dad made sure you played sports like a good, normal heterosexual male. And this forced identity was what you had in common with all your peers. It’s why you see so many kids sitting on their gloves in the outfield while all the dads in the stands drink beer and shout, “That’s my boy!!!” There’s no avoiding this, and with a lack of self-awareness at this age, you can’t help being absolutely malleable.
7. You Were the Only Kid Not Allowed to Drink Soda. Mountain Dew was elementary school beer. It seemed somehow rebellious and socially-encouraged to drink liquids high in sugar and caffeine content. But your parents were bent on prohibition, or at least inhibition, so you had to sneak 12 oz-ers from that after-school soda machine they left unplugged until exactly 2:40 P.M. You hid it in your backpack and secretly got buzzed in your bedroom as you cranked through another GoldenEye level, all while feeling like you just made some illicit transaction in some liquor store parking lot.
8. If Your Name Rhymed with a Body Part or Swear Word, Your Life Was Over. Thomas was Thom-ass. Pearson was Rear-son. And if your name was Dick, just forget it. Home school.
9. If You Farted in Class, Your Life Was Also Over. Ever notice how little kids always seem to look they’re in so much pain while they’re in class. It’s not that they’re concentrating super-hard, or struggling with the course materials. They are holding in a fart like their life depends on it. And it does. The single thought going through that kid’s head is, “19 minutes, 54 seconds…19 minutes, 53 seconds…19…” Maybe if the social repercussions weren’t so dire, kids wouldn’t have such a hard time paying attention in class. And perhaps we shouldn’t rush to diagnose kids with ADD; it might just be GAS.
10. Mom Picked Your Clothes. And they were awful. There was no designer ‘by Armani’ tag to accompany your wardrobe. Your second-hand Old Navy soccer ball t-shirt and khaki cargo shorts were without question ‘by Mom.’ And that confused fashion sense to follow — until you could finally afford clothes of your own (i.e. not bought at a consignment shop) — shares the same byline. How else could you perpetually explain that sandals, white socks, and bright blue jeans combo?
11. Mom Was Also Your Hair-Stylist. The kitchen doubled as a barber shop whenever mom saw herself qualified to do what people actually get certified to do. Equating hairstyling to lawn maintenance, she would hack away at that cranial foliage thinking it totally worth the artistic compromise for the all-of-20 dollars saved each month. And you would keep on going to school looking like Beaver Cleaver. And who needs pomade; that’s what saliva and the ‘family brush’ is for.
12. You Had to Read in Class. And stuttering is an epidemic. Do you know how much pressure that is? Public speaking isn’t for everyone, certainly not for that kid whose brain seized up on him as he kept reading the the same line in circles; each paragraph read felt like a monologue performed, and even if no one was watching (or actually listening), stage fright happens. T-t-t-take th-th-th-this as a clue that the kid doesn’t want to be the next Tony Robins.
13. If You Puked or Shat in Your Pants, There Was Always a Spare at the Nurses Office… But those pants were clearly the shitting-in kind.
14. Sex Ed Explained Nothing. It just made things real awkward between you and the gym teacher for the rest of the year. For some reason this was a 6th-grade mandate, to observe penises that don’t look like yours, and do things yours doesn’t (not yet anyway). And you never actually get to the ‘sex’ part of Sex Ed. You are forever stuck on Chapter 1, ‘You’re Body and You,’ and that was already incredibly confusing. Also, you were not allowed to laugh, or express your discomfort in any other manner that’s completely natural for someone your age.
15. Lice Checks Every Month.
16. Scoliosis Checks Every Week. (No weight checks though.)
17. Fire Drills Every Goddamn Day. There has never been a fire in a school. Ever. But you, I, and everyone-we-know are veritable evacuation experts, should the occasion arise.
18. Every Time the Phone Rang, You Thought You Were Going to the Principal’s Office. Grade school is an institution built on fear and resentment. Kind of like Stalin’s Soviet Republic, only less conducive to a quality education. And the assistant principal was definitely a former stormtrooper.
19. Writing Was Not to Be Enjoyed by Any Means. It’s no wonder so few decide to pursue writing careers after a decade+ of learning that writing ability is solely contingent upon research, works cited, catalogued note cards, and inexorable organizational structures (exactly four sentences/paragraph and five paragraphs/essay, no prepositions at the ends of sentences, etc.). What’s neglected is the fact that writing is an art, and an exercise in creativity akin to painting pictures and writing music. Words are actually paint and piano keys.
20. You Didn’t Relate to Anything You Read for Class. And wouldn’t until you got to college, when you started reading things on your own. Of course, when you’re in 7th grade, you aren’t thinking about the human condition nor are you engaging in socioeconomic discourse. Just read some Edgar Allen Poe and Charles Dickens… and appreciate it!
21. You Were Forced to Sell Magazine for Some Reason. And you only got paid in Weeples. They have no resale value.
22. They Were Always Trying to Get You to Buy Their Books. And all the books were about dinosaurs and boogers.
23. You Had to Wake Up Hella Early. At like 6 AM. And to do what? Eat M&Ms in math class, and attend assemblies, the sole purpose of which was — let’s face it — to make the principal feel like the president.
24. There Were Computers, But You Couldn’t Use Them. Why were they there then? And there were insane blocks so the only sites you could access were the retro/boring/academic ones. Do you think people actually went to the library to do anything but play games and read web comics?
25. You Literally Just Figured Out What Life Is, and You Already Know It Sucks. It was a kind of preparatory school. Just none very rewarding. Simply put, how many jobs call for the kind of deep-rooted cynicism you learned at so early an age, and maintained to this very last sentence?