This morning after the girls were off to school my wife Suze and I were talking about the social aspects she witnessed the day before, their first day of school. After a rundown of how the girls chose their seat assignments I had a sudden flash of memory about the differences between elementary school and junior high school.
In elementary school it was easy: you paired up with your friends and closed ranks — openly — against those you didn’t want. Eventually there would be a misfit group huddled off in the corner, usually consisting of at least one nerd, one social misfit and a kid who just transferred to the school. By the time we hit seventh grade I remembered how the news spread quickly in the passing periods about which teachers allowed students to choose their seats, and how we’d all rush in and claim our places as quickly as possible.
The difference, I noted to Suze, was that while we just wanted to be paired with our friends in fifth and sixth grade, by seventh grade we were positioning ourselves in the most advantageous configurations. You wanted at least one good friend (natch) and one supersmart person (to copy your homework from) and an amiable joker (who would take the heat from goofing off, sometimes referred to as the goat). Of course, some people filled more than one role, and everyone’s perceptions of who filled which role was fairly elastic, but in the end it created (I thought) a pretty democratic spectrum of people across the room.
“That’s not how it was with girls, we didn’t put that much thought into it,” Suze pointed out. “With us it was grab your friends as fast as possible and close everyone else out.” Proving that when the rubber hits the road the girls don’t need the boys half as much as the boys need the girls.