The Cool Group
I can still picture it—the forbidden picnic table on the forbidden grass, where the cool girls hung out during recess. Note that forbidden and where the cool girls hung out appear in the same sentence.
I spent most of my sixth-grade year inching my way across the forbidden grass toward the forbidden table and those girls. As I sit here writing this post, I still have no idea how they achieved their status other than that they all feathered their hair, had an amazing knack for wearing similar outfits on the same days, and owned large plastic combs before they became common back-pocket accessories. It was sixth grade. At age twelve, all one needs to determine a pecking order is a fashion trend.At age twelve, all one needs to determine a pecking order is a fashion trend. Click To Tweet
Why I wanted so badly to hang out with those girls is beyond my adult comprehension. They were ordinary, run-of-the-mill preteens, not celebrities. I had my lifelong friend Jennifer, who I met at age three and saw a few times a year, and my school friend Darlene, who I regularly cut recess with until our teacher made us go outside like everyone else. I didn’t feather my hair or want to yet, and I followed my own dress code (we won’t talk about that). But again, it was sixth grade.
By April, I’d made it to the picnic table. So had Darlene. My heart raced with dread, anticipating the moment when the yard duty would order us all away from the forbidden area, because when I broke a rule, I always got caught. The Group would hate me forever if that happened. Funny that the possibility of those girls shooing me away never occurred to me. The fact that they let me sit there felt like acceptance. Either I was socially inept or more confident than I give myself credit for.
When they pulled me aside during afternoon free time to give me an initiation quiz, I truly believed that I was in.
Can I just say it—sixth grade girls fall into their own category of EVIL!
Long story short, I flunked the quiz. I wept silently at my desk. In my weakened emotional state, as soon as my teacher asked why I was crying, I poured out my sad tale of rejection and prepared to spend the rest of sixth grade avoiding the razor wire that those girls were sure to erect around the forbidden picnic table.
But the next day, something happened that must have been inspired by a middle grade novel, or more likely, an educational film: we arrived at school to a completely remodeled classroom. Our teacher had scattered the desks belonging to The Group so some were with me and some were with Darlene. The picnic table on the grass was officially off limits. She did everything but post an armed yard duty. She didn’t come out and say, “You will be nice to Jeanette no matter how weird she is,” but it was definitely implied.
Mrs. Upchurch, if I never said it before, I love you.Mrs. Upchurch, if I never said it before, I love you. Click To Tweet
I must give those girls some credit; when they found out that they’d hurt my feelings they softened and let me hang out with them. On Day 1 of the new classroom arrangement, Debbie offered me a marker during spelling, and being offered a marker by any member of The Group was a big deal! Some of them even came to my slumber party when I turned twelve. They weren’t bad girls; they were just… sixth graders.
Last weekend, I thought about The Group while attending my very first West Coast Christian Writers Conference Board Retreat. I thought about all the cool kids and cool women whose attention I’d craved since inching my way toward the forbidden picnic table. I still wanted so badly to be accepted!
Then it hit me—I was accepted. I had been for a long time but was finally allowing myself to believe it. I’d been invited to join this wonderful circle of successful writers and speakers, not because I slowly crept toward their table, not because a teacher insisted that they let me sit with them, but because they wanted me there. My days of fearing the sixth-grade pecking order were over. I was planning a writers’ conference with five smart, talented women who considered me smart and talented too. We spent as much time enjoying getting to know each other as we did planning the conference.
We all need those moments when we find our group—our people. When we do, it feels better than being accepted by The Cool Kids, because it’s genuine. We don’t need to fight our way there, go through a weird initiation, or drive ourselves crazy trying to avoid getting kicked out for breaking the dress code or buying the wrong comb. We’re in, and we’re loved.
When did you find your group? How have experiences with Supposedly-Cool Kids held you back from enjoying the friends you’ve already found? How has growing up made you more accepting, or less fearful of people?When did you find your group? Click To Tweet