Friday, 17 February 2012

A high school reunion...

Long, long ago, before Gucci and Jenni Button ever existed in our twenty-several year old closets, there was an outfit so hideous that it came complete with matching bobby socks and monotone panties. From Monday to Friday between 8am and 3pm, this oppressive ensemble was worn with about as much pride as a prisoner who wore shackles, and just like chains keeping the convict at bay, we were also sentenced to a maximum period of uniformity in a correctional facility known as "High School".

A recent run-in with our former prom queen got me thinking about status and the way in which this value has been subliminally forced upon us in high school. Although it is difficult to understand at the time, high school is the ultimate dress rehearsal for life, a preview of the way in which we perceive and understand our ranking in social and economic terms. In high school, popularity and status was the ultimate goal and the sooner we came to terms with the pecking order, the better our chance of survival. There were the popular girls, the jocks they dated, the gangsters that petrified me, the hippies that were all about peace, the nerdy guys and their gadgets, the band geeks and their instruments, the art crowd that listened to Alanis and smelled like Gauloises Blondes...a network of segregated sub-cultures, a micro-society where indifference earned you a wedgie and conformity almost guaranteed an invitation to the Cool Kids Club. I couldn't help but wonder... how much have we really evolved?

I took a look around my current work environment and noticed a familiar trend dating back to the late 90's. They were all there...the bitchy popular girls that made you feel as though they were constantly talking about you, the popular boys beaming with status and rank, the gadget geeks with their i-Tabs running around playing God, the rebels smoking outside in the quad and a small minority group segregated purely because of the colour of their skin. Are modern day work environments the new high school? Is status still the ultimate goal in life, and if so is high school just a practice round? Do we need bullies and popular kids to motivate us to our full potential or should we just settle for the role we were destined to play?

The uniform may have changed but the goal remains the same. Ironically, the geek that used to get bog-washed on a daily basis is now the CEO of a multi-million rand company. The popular boys went off to marry their high school sweethearts who went from size 0 to 18 as quickly as they chose to be stay-at-home moms while their husbands were off cheating on them with boys or suffering from erectile dysfunction. Eventually the only status worth updating is on their facebook profiles. I couldn't help but wonder, when it comes to status, is being too cool for school really that important? 

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