Here is the first guest post on my blog, written by Leo Reich (@leoreich_ on twitter).
Having read and seen numerous accounts of the terrors of (‘high’) school, I am assuming that most 14-year-olds are investing their efforts into their futures rather than the horrible present, seeing a higher-education utopia on the horizon, where life will be like an episode of Community and your career in film will be handed to you on a plate by Emma Stone, who happens to be your girlfriend. I know I am. However, recently I have been wondering about the likelihood of this happening, and although I'm sure it will, should I be investing more time in being nicer to people and more fun to be around? To be honest I'm quite content with onlooking and offering a mean, sarcastic comment once in a while, or quoting a TV show that I feel smug about being the only one who watches (being sole viewer of "Girls" in my all-male friendship group is cool, right?) and would rather be that guy than the guy who tells racist jokes or the guy who gets high and listens to The Smiths.
What I have failed to mention thus far (I rarely get the opportunity to say 'thus' so I thought I'd take that one) is that I go to a private all-boys school in central London, where the stereotypical social groups don't really exist- there aren't any "cool" people to envy/hate/ love, no one cares enough about themselves for that, mainly because there are no girls around to degrade, or impress with masculine tales of football and other sports that aren't badminton. Whilst this is obviously a good thing (I like badminton), going to a single-sex school presents social difficulties that are awkward to overcome, maybe even more so than usual. The only way to meet new people, for example, is to go to painfully awful parties, and while this has given me the opportunity to learn new things about myself (I can't do an impression of Christopher Walken, I can't do improvised rap, I'm not funny), it has also exposed me to having conversations with people in person, something nearly everyone seems to agree is extremely uncomfortable and largely unrewarding.
Having said that, the ‘socially awkward’ thing is apparently what’s popular now, and with teenage girls singing/crying to Taylor Swift songs about rejection and still watching Glee even though every line feels like a parody of itself, it creates a space for people to be open about their ‘individuality’, even if that means they like One Direction ‘ironically’ or they think Epic Movie is funny. And as much as the whole ‘be yourself‘ routine makes me puke, I think it’s probably a good thing that the whole ‘jock’ trend is being replaced. As far as other ‘normal’ teenage activities are concerned, I think I’m missing something. Going to parties isn’t fun. Why is everyone drinking alcohol suddenly? This wasn’t happening last year. Since when does beer taste nice? I feel like I’ve been left behind on certain important issues, such as the general acceptance of having friends who smoke, and the apparently uncapped amount of times that you can use the word ‘like’ in a sentence. If making friends with people from other schools means I have to ‘have less opinions about stuff’ maybe making new friends is a pointless pursuit. I like my already-friends friends.
It’s extremely doubtful whether any of this actually matters. The paranoia and insecurity that has always plagued high school students is the reason there’s such an obsession with secrets, relationships and social hierarchies- it’s the reason that I’m trying so hard to come off well in writing that the writing itself will probably suffer as a result, and I’ll still seem whiny and immature. But it’s so hard not to care what other people think, to not be self- conscious, that anyone who pretends they aren’t looks like an arrogant asshole, which is probably even worse than a self-obsessed teenager. Probably. Slightly.
But is there a coping mechanism for this overwhelming hardship that we, as youthful citizens of the Western world, have to endure? I don't think so. I hope not, at least, because for all the self loathing I quite enjoy feeling like a character from Freaks and Geeks. But back to the non-existent point. As much as school is awful and unexciting and talking to others is awkward and difficult, watching box sets of 30 Rock and eating ice cream out of the tub is both a satisfying and enjoyable way to counter it. And it’s not even that hard to find other, strange people to share it with.