There’s a special time no one wants to revisit whose hallmark is breast buds and nocturnal emissions. In Dante’s Inferno, that time is a circle of hell. In America, we call it middle school.
Middle school is where children are tempered by puberty. There young people are plumped up then slimmed down, flat things get bumpy, faces get poxy. Junior high starts with adolescence and ends with menses (if you’re a girl) and with, I don’t know, boners in sweatpants (if you’re a boy). Both of which are fairly horrifying and at odds with your childhood expectations. But that's good because adulthood is pretty much a lot less of staying up late because you don't have to go to sleep and a lot more of falling asleep because you can't stay awake, so you might as well learn to handle disappointment early.
But it’s not all pubic hairs and acne and ugly crying when a boy turns you down even though it's the Sadie Hawkins dance and girls get to pick their dates, Brian. It's also about defeating joy before it takes root, ruining dreams before they are dreamed, just like joining the adult work force does. Work life starts with a “promising entry level position with lots of opportunity to grow,” and ends with “three years working for this asshole.” Similarly, adolescence starts with hopes of slow dancing with Brian and ends with spending the second half of the eighth grade dance in the girls room with your friend and her epic zit, rejection for you and a potential facial scar for her keeping you from enjoying Salt–N–Pepa on the dance floor. Holla back if you feel me, Lakeside Middle School Class of 1990.
There's a lot of change over the three or so years of tweendom. Middle school starts with Pokémon cards and American Girl Dolls and ends with jock straps and bras. Middle school introduces kids to higher level academics and the fear that failing pre-algebra will make your parents stop loving you. It begins with size-3 feet and ends with mom refusing to buy any more new shoes this year because, damn, that's a lot of rapid foot growth, Frodo. Middle school is when people rock trends that do not flatter their figures and try on personalities that are totally wrong for them.
Middle School, in other words, is an awkward time. A time of growth and exploration as uncomfortable as it is rife with boy bands. It’s for that reason (boy bands) that 100% of the people polled would rather surrender a limb than be forced to relive those middle grades.
Except for one thing: hope. Like Pandora’s Box, middle school is filled with evils such as confusion about identity, fears about taking responsibility, and bra snappers. But it is also filled with the sense that, after surviving the middle grades, you can finally go out and become the person you were meant to become. You’ll have blossomed, as grandma will be happy to remind you, and even if you didn’t turn out to be a rose, at least you weren’t devoured by garden weevils.
So, high five, junior high. Thanks, awkward phase and headgear. It was a pleasure knowing you, B.O. and hormones. Without middle school, none of us would understand humility, the double entendre, or the power of well-timed sarcasm. Those are the tools for surviving adulthood.
I wrote this post as part of Nickelodeon's® sponsorship of The Blog University. They are sponsoring the #MiddleSchoolAwkward party on Saturday night at the BlogU15 conference. I will be wearing a Jesse and the Rippers tee shirt. (Why, yes, Jesse and the Rippers is the fake band in the seminal TV show "Full House.") So, your jealousy is well-aimed. The series "100 Things to Do Before High School" premieres on June 6 @ 8pm on Nickelodeon." You should watch it.