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The Popularity Contest, Part 2: The Only Black (Guy) in the Village

20 Mar

As I concluded in the previous entry, popularity in primary school often came at the expense of someone else’s inclusion. I was an outsider from the ‘popular kids’, but that doesn’t mean I got along well with all the other ‘outsiders’. Whilst I consider myself a fairly relaxed and friendly person now, back in school, there was another kid I just did not get on with. Like me, he straddled the line between ‘cool’ and ‘uncool’ and we were often in unintended competition for a place on the top spot.

I say unintended because I had a different group of friends whom I was much closer with, and he was for the most part, one of the ‘cool’ kids, but his occasional (and probably intendedly friendly) taunts at my expense didn’t always sit right with his peers. Of course, being a child, I would taunt back, and an endless cycle would emerge. Eventually, we put our differences aside, but this wasn’t until the summer after our final year.

Since then, I am happy to say that I’ve never maintained and real rivalries/enemies, or at least as far as I can remember. Secondary school was a pretty simple affair. I made friends easily; being one of a very small number of mixed race people helped in a predominantly white community. Of course, this also meant I had to suffer the occasional ‘black’ joke, some of which I really didn’t care for for obvious reasons; someone once jested something to the effect that they would “rather be found unconscious by a white person, because a black person would rob them and they would smell”, which firstly doesn’t make any sense if they’re unconscious, and secondly is not the sort of thing you say to a coloured person to get them to like you; but for the most part things were going alright.

But when I look back, getting by on what made me different meant that I was never really developing my social skills. No one disliked me, but I wouldn’t really let anyone get to know me until I was properly comfortable with them. I was close with my good friends, maintained a mutual respect with my (one-time) fellow rugby players, and remained socially awkward around potential girlfriends. The stereotypical television teenager I suppose. Or rather, the old one, where everyone was either a jock or a nerd, as opposed to the new stereotypes, which portray all teenagers as angry rebellious ’emo’ kids with a vendetta against the world. I suppose all of them have some truth to them, but I digress.

This lack of progress meant that I, like many others, didn’t really branch out and befriend other members of my year until the end of year eleven, or the start of year twelve. But in doing so, I now realise I created a mirror image of my primary school days. I had made new friends, who didn’t get on with my old group, and in doing so had been placed in a position where I had to choose where my allegiances lay. Frankly, I thought the whole scenario was ridiculous, so I tried to continue as if everything was the same, not realising that apparently that wasn’t an option. Some of the people I had now been spending time with for several years barely spoke to me anymore; I had lost some of my best friends (although luckily, not for good, a central conflict between some of my classmates eventually was deemed ridiculous by all, and old friends were reunited).

But for about a year, I was stuck in this limbo, and I hated it. Why did how popular you were deem who you could talk to and what you could do? The so-called ‘popular kids’ could talk to anyone, but would also be the ones whose judgement was final on what was ‘cool’ or ‘uncool’. I had seemingly lost some of my best friends because they refused to get along with some of my new ones.

In the end, from my perspective, it all worked out for the best. The whole ordeal allowed me to branch out in terms of who I interacted with, and at the end of it, re-establish old friendships that had seemed to fade away. Nowadays, I try to consort with anyone and everyone I can (sort of), as I said in Part One, apparently I’m the ‘guy who knows everyone’, and why not? It’s a good thing to be. But I’m always stuck with that reminder of what was, and despite my outward growth and progress, to me, I’ll always be the nervous kid who got picked last for football.

Although frankly, I prefer rugby.

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Posted by on March 20, 2014 in Life

 

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