Essay by PaperNerd ContributorCollege, Undergraduate November 2001

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The Harsh Reality of Popularity Every class has one, and every class will have one in the future. I'm talking about the frail, undersized boy that everyone picks on because he is inadequate in defending himself. He doesn't know how to protect himself verbally or physically because his self-esteem is too low and his body is underdeveloped. So he just sits quietly by himself, trying not to make any enemies of anyone, until he can withdraw from this hellish reality. He is separate from the geek of the class that does all his homework and wears glasses. He's just the one that everyone pushes around and teases because they find him an effortless pursue of persecution.

I was that boy once, and I was in the same quandary. From the beginning of elementary school to the end of middle school I accepted my role as the prey and saw my schoolmates as predators.

I could only leave this jungle when school ended, in which case I would return to my vacant island escape where no one would pester me. I was too afraid of people to really have any friends, so when I was home I would usually play a game of Nintendo or watch television alone.

Throughout my early school existence I would always think about why people are cool and what makes them popular, along with why I was beleaguered. I studied and learned the essentials of a popular existence by watching people become popular and watching people who were popular fall through the ranks. There seemed to be a ranking of popularity: by individual and cliques.

This ranking is impossible to define. No one really knows who fit in what rank, but everyone knows that a ranking exists and the approximate location of each individual or group. It is an unspoken statute that everyone within a school system knows, but never really understands what it is, so I have identified it a "school norm", in relation to a "society norm". The definition of this ranking is akin to the definition of technology, no one knows the precise definition, but understands what it means.

Parents and adults always say, "just be yourself and don't think about what others think of you," but what about children who are annoying or lie because its the only way they feel they can communicate. To be popular you don't have to change who you are on the inside necessarily; for the most part the change take place on the outside. Not doing homework is an example of a characteristic that someone should change about himself or herself. Other than negative characteristics, the only things a person must change to become popular are on the outside.

Within this analysis, I came up with a few ways to raise my own ranking by making a few adjustments in myself. I wanted to be popular and reap the benefits of having friends. Getting good grades, changing my communication strategy, the all-powerful changing of appearance, and learning to think quickly are ways that I found to change my status and expand my personal achievement.

The popular crowd doesn't usually associate with the children that fail or get mediocre grades, probably because "you are who you hang out with" and they don't want to be seen hanging out with underachievers. I didn't get good grades in school because I wasn't doing homework, studying for tests, or participating in class. Changing these three activities by completing homework, studying, and actively participating in class were easy ways to improve my grades and show people that am intelligent and dedicated enough for them to associate with.

This also transgressed into making my parents and family proud of me. My family began to take notice of the grades I was receiving. My father said that he was proud of that and as long as I continued to do well in school that I would have a lot less problems in the future. This made me feel good about myself and I began to gain my oppressed self-esteem.

I would define communication strategy as the way to go about talking to others and watching what one says. When I would communicate with others I would say things that others would sometimes resented or thought of as annoying. For instance, girls hate to joke about their weight even if they laugh at the joke, but I would always comment to girls about how much bigger they were looking today. I couldn't understand exactly why what I was saying was annoying until I studied many conversations that ended in the other person identifying the other as annoying and for what reason. I had to listen to how people talked, not just what they said, to understand why what I was saying seemed annoying. Upon understanding how not to speak I also learned how to speak in a way that women enjoy, like a little bit of flirting but with a little tease to it.

Everyone knows that changing one's appearance shouldn't make them more popular, but anyone who wears Abercrombie & Fitch or Gap knows that these are the apparel the appeal to others. I started to work on my own, earning my own money, and spending it on close that I wanted that the popular crowd had. Of course going with the two brand names above is always a stellar choice for attire.

Learning to think quickly is the most important step to me in rising through the ranks, but is also a bad role to assume on the way to gaining popularity, comebacks. The popular crowd is always looking to shoot down the less popular at any time to show their eminence above the rest. This happens many times to people and is one of the dominating factors that separate the popular and the unpopular. I was never any good at defending against these attacks but the comeback technique is learned only through experience.

"Go away Brandon nobody here likes you so why are you still here." This is quite the harsh statement from the beautiful and extremely popular Chelsea Feeney, in which I was on the receiving end. I had planned a comeback for every person that I thought would make an oppressive proclamation towards me so that I would be prepared with a comeback to defend with since I wasn't a very good insulter. When she said this I replied without hesitation, "Sorry I don't choke back up my food to look good and sleep with everyone to fit in with you." Everyone laughed at the time and I didn't understand why at the moment, but now I guess I do. It's like a competition; the first person to generate a comeback that stifles the other wins and everyone sort of applauds that person by laughing. This is a very childish act and I think should never occur, but it does plane and simple.

Children want acknowledgement and want to be popular which is a concept that parents and adults don't always understand. To be in the popular crowd is like being on top of the world. Women want you and men want to be like you. This makes people feel good. This is not a popular concept among critics but can often rule a child's life, as it did mine.

I changed my life and I conformed to the role of a popular individual. I transformed from that small, fragile boy to a strong, athletic man. This transformation took a long time to recognize, but only a year to realize. My study of people and the ideology of school norms have allowed me, not only to become popular, but has risen my self-esteem, curved my grades, and shown me how to overcome objectives that might otherwise be insurmountable. Trial and error is the long way that I took to obtaining popularity, but hopefully this essay will allow some other individuals to climb the ranks in their lives and broaden their euphorical sphere.