I know from experience that popularity is a driving force in adolescence. I was not popular in junior or senior high school and even today have bad memories of those who were. But this post is not about me and my experiences. It is about my middle school children and their experiences.
My 13 year old daughter uses the word "popular" at least once a day. She is not popular. She would not mind being popular. She won't wear certain clothes because popular people wear them and she would be a poser if she wore them. She won't wear her hair in certain styles for the same reason. One of the first topics of conversation she has with her Illinois cousins each time she sees them is popularity. It seems her cousins are popular. Her best friend from elementary school is popular, or at least knows a lot of popular kids. That makes my daughter no longer such good friends with this girl.
My 12 year old son seems to be popular. His sister says he is. He seems to think he is. Popular people do not use Chap Stick®. My son has chapped lips. His bottom lip has a crack that looks very painful. I suggested he take a tube of Chap Stick® to school today and put it in his pants pocket. He looked at me as if I just suggested he go to school nude. Then I recalled a conversation my daughter and I had about, you guessed it, popularity (and Chap Stick®):
DAUGHTER: I like lip gloss.
ME: Not me, I like Chap Stick®.
DAUGHTER: Only people who want to be like Napoleon Dynamite use Chap Stick®.
ME: What about boys? What if a boy has chapped lips?
DAUGHTER: They lick their lips. No one but nerds use Chap Stick®.
ME: Oh. That is stupid.
So my son is at school today with a painful crack in his lip because he refuses to use something that will help but is "social suicide".