'I'm in with the in crowd
I go where the in crowd goes
I'm in with the in crowd
And I know what the in crowd knows...'
clique: noun \'klek, 'klik\
: a narrow exclusive circle or group of persons; especially: one held together by common interests, views, or purposes.
: a small, exclusive group of friends or associates.
I never really thought about 'cliques' when I was growing up. I guess I was fairly oblivious - I figured people just hung out with who they hung out with - or at least, that's what I thought.
I entered high school when my brother was a senior. He was a fairly good looking guy (or really, really good looking if you're a fan of Zoolander), loved by many and captain of the football team. This played in my favor I suppose, because instead of having one big brother at school, I had approximately fifteen, who sheltered me from the social hierarchy of high school. This also benefited me, because let's face it - I preferred to hang out in a barn, ride horses and play with kittens.
When I think back to social status... I don't really remember having one. I don't know if that's a good thing or a bad thing. I remember hanging out on the outskirts of many different groups, but never really fitting in to one particular one. Yeah, I joined band, performed in plays, lettered in track, spoke a foreign language, tried out for cheerleading, lifted weights, rode horses, passed classes, failed classes, learned how to sew a dress, baked cookies and went to prom. I also remember thinking a lot of my classmates were assholes and couldn't wait until the day came that I left the small town I grew up in.
At this point, I'm sure you're asking: 'WHY?'
Why is this important, and what does it have to do with Emma?
Today we are living in the same type of small community I grew up in - one Emma has been a part of since she was a baby. It makes me wonder... what will the cliques be like - how will they impact her... will they impact her? With Middle School on the horizon, I nervously bite my fingernails, and wonder... Should we watch 'Mean Girls' in preparation?
Cliques are groups of friends, but not all groups of friends are cliques.
'The thing that makes a group a clique is that they leave some kids out on purpose. Usually one or two popular kids control who gets to be in the clique and who gets left out. Kids may act much differently than they did before they were part of the clique. They may even act differently today from how they were yesterday.. it can be really confusing.' (KidsHealth)
As an adult, one would think the world of cliques would be left behind with middle school, high school - hell, with acne cream. Yet I find that I'm surrounded by an entirely new set of cliques. No, as adults we don't call them such anymore - after all, the word 'clique' has such negative connotations. But, they're there if you look close enough: our 'circle' or 'clan', our 'community', our 'klatch', our 'network' - heck... even our 'gang'. Regardless of the synonym one comes up with, when you break it down our adult lives seem to be just as inundated with 'cliques' as our kids lives are.
I never realized my unconscious decision not to be a part of a clique as an adult would influence my children's social hierarchy. Unfortunately for my girls, I am not the 'Captain of the Football Team' paving the way for their social acceptance... rather I'm the somewhat anti-social 'Artsy' girl.
Again, it's the somewhat Utopian (oblivious) train of thought - I just figured moms hung out with who they hung out with.
The Mommy Cliques.
Play Group Moms, Park Moms, PTA Moms, Den Moms, Volunteer Moms, Carpool Moms, Vicarious Moms, Sports Moms...
For better or for worse little girls grew up, became moms and new cliques were started - for some, it's as if middle school and high school never ended. It makes my head spin, this range of cliques... even more so knowing each group has the potential to be lethal to one's psyche. Not only do Mommy Cliques exclude other moms, the poor examples of socializing and tolerance being modeled can have the 'trickle down' effect and influence how their own children react and interact to other children in school.
The idea of Emma navigating the waters of middle school cliques weighs heavily on my mind, as I know how difficult it is for me to form new relationships. At an age when cliques continue to develop and strengthen, I wonder how my daughter will fair.
The 'Right' Clothes
The 'Right' Haircut
The 'Right' Phone
The 'Right' Attitude
At times I look at her, and I see a confident young lady - one who knows what she likes and what she wants. Her 'soft pants' and choices of spring attire (six shirts... all of them: pink. seriously). How she wants to grow her hair to the middle of her back like her sister's. At the same time, I watch helplessly as she agonizes over her lack of friendships... she desperately wants them, but doesn't have the ability to foster them. Her subtle *hints* about a phone... or taking her Ipod to school (everyone else has one or takes theirs to school). As she has gotten older, she has become more silent - and again, I wonder.
Whether we want it or not, our daughters are going to encounter cliques at school and we are going to to encounter cliques as adults. Although we cannot control or predict how members of any given clique are going to interact with us, we can control our own interactions. Here's some advice I've always given my daughters:
1. Play Nice: It's the golden rule - treat people the way you want to be treated, so be nice. That doesn't mean you have to let yourself be walked all over, but at the same time - don't fall into the trap of walking all over others either.
2. Zip It: Be kind with your words - nobody likes a gossip... a betrayer... or a double talker. Although it may be tempting, gossip will only get you into trouble; betraying confidences will mark you as untrustworthy; and, talking behind backs will have your friends walking away quicker than you can blink.
3. Give and Take: It's okay to share your time, your talents, your advice... but make sure to listen to and respect your friend's time, talent and advice as well. Each person wants to feel valued... when it becomes 'all about you', it's no longer a friendship based on equality, rather a hierarchy of personalities.
4. Walk Away: A clique is an extension of yourself and of your friendships. I've always questioned why one would remain friends with someone who doesn't make them feel good about themselves. The same thing applies to a clique that becomes too overbearing or too critical... it's time to walk away.
As for my school days...
In retrospect, I suppose the cliques were always there: jocks, stoners, nerds, drama/band, cheerleaders, popular. Some formed to belong, some out of common interests, some for necessity, and many were already categorized for us... our own little breakfast club.
'We're all pretty bizarre - some of us are just better at hiding it.'
-The Breakfast Club
Dobie Gray: 'The In Crowd'