Torn Jacket

A boy at my children’s high school was voted homecoming king this past week.

The entire student body had a chance to nominate.  Finalists were chosen.  Those students where then put on a ballot and the king was selected.

I remember high school.  I remember the kids that were always chosen for these types of things.  They were usually popular or involved in sports.  Captain of the cheerleading squad or quarterback.  It was sort of a given, understood.

Today I was dropping my kids off when they pointed out their homecoming king.  He was…average, maybe a little overweight, glasses, greasy hair.  On the surface, he looked like one of those kids that didn’t have a clique, someone that could  go on to be a billionaire or a criminal.  He looked like he probably hated high school for all the reasons high school can be awful.  I was surprised.  For a moment I thought…Wow, things have changed.  Progess.  Different, interesting, is now celebrated.  

I told my kids I was impressed.  They both rolled their eyes and said, “Mom, don’t be.  It’s a joke.  There’s a group of kids that do it every year.  They find someone that everyone makes fun of and they campaign to get him or her elected so they can laugh.  Last year they chose a mentally challenged girl for homecoming queen.  It’s mean.”  My son, who’s a senior, said, “Yeah, ain’t high school great?”

I sat in the drop-off line for a moment, stunned as I watched this young man, someone’s son, shuffle off to class.  I don’t mean to sound old here, but when did things reach such epic cruelty?

We had kids that didn’t fit in when I was in high school.  I certainly wasn’t popular.  There were all kinds of groups and for the most part they left each other alone.  There were bitchy girls and neanderthals that threw little guys into lockers.  There was always that odd hierarchy that only made sense in the jacked up world of high school, but this…my mind had a hard time understanding this type of ugliness.

For these students to go out of their way to single this person out simply because he doesn’t fit the cookie cutter mold, or it’s been decided by Barbie and Ken that he’s worthless.  For them to campaign and pretend to like this person only to parade him around for their own sick enjoyment.  That seems like the movies kind of stuff…Carrie or Never Been Kissed.

As I drove home, I wasn’t sure who had it worse, the parents of the mean kids or the parents of the homecoming king.  I decided if my son was the outcast, I could teach him about finding love within himself, I could nurture him at home, celebrate what makes him different, and hope he survives the swamp of high school in one piece.  I could even contact the school, vent some of my anger and frustration.  I think I could do that.  I would probably be sad for him, and angry often, but he would make it through.

If I were the parent of a student that campaigned for this kid’s election only to see him humiliated for sport, sigh…well, that kind of behavior is a character flaw.  Ingrained.  I would have to wonder where I went wrong, retrace, and get some help.  It would definitely be harder being the popular kid’s mom.  The disappointment would be overwhelming.

But, then again, kids learn who they are, the fiber of their character, from their parents, so maybe in the popular kid’s home this stuff is okay, funny even.  In that case, I’m sad for all of them and I would ask that they keep their children away from mine.

My thoughts from the laundry room.  Under the Covers.

4 thoughts on “Torn Jacket

  1. Homecoming “kings” and “queens” are antiquated and do not belong in democracy or a society that wants to teach equal rights and equal respect. I wish they gave up these silly customs that seem to have sunk to a new low. That is a sad story you told, very sad.

  2. Thanks for posting this. I’ve had similar conversations on many occasions.
    And even when the kids are serious (ever?) and “elect” as their “royalty” a “king” or “Queen” with, say, Down’s Syndrome–as happens all too often these days–it amounts to reducing these individuals into mere mascots. It’s deplorable. And even the “best” of students all too often elect these kids mostly so they can feel good about themselves. It’s Narcissistic condescension at its worst.
    I try to talk about this every time I see it, but most people just shake their head, tell me I’m crazy.

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