I don't care if you hail from New York City or South Dakota. It doesn't matter if you grew up in an apartment in the heart of San Francisco or a McMansion in a gated community in Florida. All of us share one common thread: We've all endured the fiery pitfalls of high school.
What time in our existence is more emotionally-loaded than those four pivotal years in high school? We're all a collective mess, teeming with whacked-out hormones, deranged by endless pangs of lust, reeling under the thumb of social and academic pressure.
The only way to stay afloat in the dark and stormy waters of adolescence was to find a TRIBE. A teen wolf pack. There's a comfort in numbers, and high school was a time when all we craved was a bit of the ol' c-o-m-f-o-r-t.
So we found ourselves deeply enveloped in tightly-knit CLIQUES.
We were fiercely tethered to our cliques in high school. Our identities were shaped around our lunch tables. Goth kids with hoods pulled over their freshly-dyed hair sat in the back of the cafeteria. Popular girls and their silver Tiffany ID bracelets clanking together in perfect unison sat front and center. Theatre kids and their loud, bellowing stage voices sat on the floor right outside their beloved blackbox theatre.
We stayed up until 4 am on school nights, immersed in intense conversations about love, life and drugs with our friends. We would have rather died before showing up to a party without our trusted teen army surrounding us. We ate, breathed and slept friends.
But high school ended. And then we entered the golden gates of "life beyond." Some ventured off to fancy little private colleges in the Northeast. Some went to big state schools in the Midwest. Others skipped the whole charade and traveled to Europe with just a backpack and a thousand bucks. The rest of us dove into the work force.
At some point, pretty early out of high school, we came to realize we didn't need a clique to affirm our self-esteem. We discovered who we really were outside of our friend cults. We suddenly had identities that were uniquely ours.
Sometimes, we scoff at our turbulent high school years. We look back on the slew of bad haircuts and reckless decisions and roll our adult eyes. "Oh, high school. What a f*cking joke!" we say over a civilized, grown-up cocktail.
But you know what? No matter how hard we try to run from the displaced teenagers we were back in high school, that acne-ridden, insecure 16-year-old will always be inside of us. In fact, she's still alive and well, sneakily informing way more of our adult decisions than we dare to realize.
Our high school clique says everything about who we are now.
The freaky goths
Oh, the goth clique! One of my favorite cliques in this great nation, so imaginative and fearless in style and music taste.
Teen goths were the great, misunderstood artists of high school. Popular kids in their basic Juicy Couture sweats gave goths dirty looks and condescending eyebrow raises as they stomped down the halls in ripped fishnets, blasting Nine Inch Nails in their mega-headphones.
"Raven is so weird," a bitchy blonde would say, turning her nose up as the leader of the goth pack shows up to prom in ghost-white makeup and a medieval-inspired, black velvet dress.
Well, the goth's edgy style might have been too "weird" for Ms. Suzy Q High School, but now the goths are the top designers who inform the fashion world. Their one-shouldered, black sheath dresses are the most coveted garments at New York Fashion Week. I mean, what scene embraces a dark color palette, smokey eyes and an eerie aesthetic more than the fashion world?
Cheerleaders were part of the popular crew, but they never really could indulge in popular crew sins like drinking and smoking because they had a strict honor code they were forced to adhere to. They were good Christian girls. They never f*cked their boyfriends (just gave a lot of blowjobs). They only slugged back beer in secret, and even that was never in excess (calories!).
Plus, they were mega-athletes. Those backflips might look effortless, baby, but it took hours and hours of brutal, back-breaking practice to perfect the art of the flip. The cheerleaders were the under-appreciated athletes, their stunning beauty unfairly distracting the masses from their insane athletic prowess.
There is a pivotal moment when a cheerleader leaves high school and enters the real world that she decides to says a big, giant F*CK YOU to the system. She's spent her entire youth playing by the "rules," and now she is ready to break them into a million little pieces.
The cheerleaders are now fearless, outspoken CEOs. They aren't about to be bossed around by any bitchy coach or manager. Save that for high school, babe. They are THE COACH now, and the coach doesn't like to be messed with.
Either that, or they couldn't let go of maintaining a perfect appearance and now have a "perfect" family but are totally having a hot sex affair with the pool boy behind closed doors.
Let's get something straight: There is no such thing as a "slut." But some of us were deemed "sluts" by the pimply, dick-wad f*ckboys in high school.
Maybe it's because we developed boobs early. Maybe it's because we were just sexy creatures. Maybe it's because we hooked up with some big mouth who exaggerated the whole encounter to the entire school, and we were forever known as the "slut." That antiquated label hurts, and it sticks.
A high school "slut," however, develops an incredibly strong backbone. We are fierce adults. We became strong, sex-positive feminists. We write personal essays on the Internet and don't give a f*ck about the mean, trolly comments from men.
The theatre kids
They were loud. They were colorful. They were musical-obsessed. They were the theatre kids.
I think of all groups in the social structure, the theatre kids stuck to themselves the most. They spoke their own language, one that the rest of us struggled to understand. They had their own house parties where they drank boxed wine and recited Shakespeare sonnets and smoked cloves.
And nothing could quite match the unabashed passion of a theatre kid. The dedicated theatre kids became passionate adults who are still trying to make it on Broadway. But in the meantime, they showcase their booming, articulate voices in very specific careers to make ends meet. They are tour guides, waitresses at campy "themed" restaurants, or dress like Snow White and sing at children's birthday parties.
Some of those boys went on to be world-class drag queens, FYI.
The girl jocks
The girl jocks were a fierce crew. They weren't the chicks that dabbled in field hockey just so they could wear the cute skort (that was me). These girls were tough. They had muscles. They were competitive. No one f*cked with a real girl jock.
Their dedication and work ethic and toughness has paid off in the real world. These gals are now power lawyers or Wall Street mavens. They play in the "boys club" and slay their male co-workers with their relentless brilliance and epic resilience.
Some of them are also total power-lesbian babes. I'm NOT trying to stereotype, but I will say from personal experience that every power-lesbian babe I've dated was a former high school jock. Just saying!
The stoners were all super cuties. A hemp oil collective. They lay in the grass on sunny days in their own tight-knit circle. They preached nothing but peace, love and ~jam bands~. The girls had sexy dreadlocks piled on the top of their stoned heads, and the boys had hair longer than the girls.
No one had beef with the stoners. They were too "chill." The jocks often bought their weed from the stoners and were in slight awe of their stoner swag.
So, what are the stoners doing now? If they're not professional Ultimate Frisbee champions, they're finding you organic produce at the local Whole Foods. They run the local vitamin shop. Or they're just living life, not tethered to a job. They're living the bohemian, festival life.
How do they pull this off? I don't know. Let me know if you know. I want to hop on the jobless boho train.
The student council president
The student council president was just under a tremendous amount of horrendous STRESS. Her perfect bob never got frizzy, her nail polish never chipped and she represented the entire crazy high school community with mature grace and class.
Her parents pushed her hard, and she was constantly feeling the pressure to please the masses. She was forever hopped up on caffeine or Adderall or manic adrenaline. And now, she's f*cking tired.
When she left high school, she threw up her perfectly manicured hands and said, "F*ck it. The people-pleasing party is over." She now leads a very relaxed, blissful life. She's gone the complete other direction. She does yoga. She arranges pretty flowers in her free time. She has a dog. She lives in northern California and has a laundry list of adoring lovers, both male and female, who would do anything in the world for her.
The mathletes were always secretly my favorite clique. I wasn't academic enough to ever garner their acceptance. They had their own set of rules and couldn't give a sh*t about who was Homecoming King or Queen and the rest of all of that trite high school garble.
The mathletes had their own hierarchy. Their popularity status was dependent on GPA, not bitches and blowouts.
The mathletes may have been deemed "nerds" in high school, but now everyone wants to date them. They are the most coveted creature alive in business and in love. They run Silicon Valley and are banking BIG.
In fact, all the pretty girls are vying to date the mathletes they once teased now. The mathletes, however, don't care about arm candy. They date their own kind.
The jock dude
The jock dudes were the practical gods of the high school kingdom. They always got the girl.
They got away with bloody murder. Teachers passed them even if they never did their homework. The police pardoned them when they got caught with a bag of drugs at a party. They were the town heroes. Even grown-ass adults knew them by their first names.
The problem with the jock dude is that he hit his prime a little too early, if you ask me. He was a once a mega-star, but he peaked in high school. Now, he's a townie. He dutifully works out and tends bar. He's still cute, but he might have killed too many brain cells from ruthless tackles.
He looks back on his high school stardom with the same fondness of an aging movie star. But he will always have the memories of his glory days to carry him through the cruel, cold, adult world.