We Were Promised Hoverboards: The Popularity Crossover

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The Myth: If your friend ditches you to become popular, he or she will forget all about you for a while before eventually realizing how shallow popularity is and begging your forgiveness.

The Perpetrators: Can’t Buy Me Love, Mean Girls, Never Been Kissed, Whatever It Takes, Little Big League, Rookie of the Year, The New Guy, Revenge of the Nerds II, Heathers

The unpopular life, for most young scholars, is one that is lived on the periphery. Nobody reads your blog. You suck at sports, unless manga is considered a sport. Members of the opposite sex are Gryphon-like mythical creatures to be imagined but never experienced. (This is all conjecture, by the way — my nickname in high school was “Tommy Lee” because I resembled the Motley Crue drummer in every conceivable way.) For these reasons, and so many others, it’s completely understandable that some nerds would opt to switch up allegiances for a more popular crowd if given the chance. Most would sever their outcast roots fast enough to break land-speed records, relegating their past existence to some vague Before Time in the cobwebbed vaults of personal history. An unfortunate side effect of such a crossover is that some friends will inevitably be left abandoned in the former nerd’s wake.

If being unpopular is tough already, how difficult must it be to have one of your only friends drop you like a hot single (specifically Snoop Dogg’s “Drop It Like It’s Hot”)? It would be an absolutely crushing experience, detailed in full on your blog that nobody reads. If movies are to be believed, though, getting abandoned this way wouldn’t be all that hard to bear. Your friend might ditch you to go do Jaeger body-shots off the quarterback’s hairless abdomen for a minute, but after a while that friend would come back to you like some kind of flighty sheepdog with a GPS chip surgically implanted in its jowls. In movies, sudden popularity is eventually won out by nostalgia for the friends dropped by the wayside, and the uncontrollable urge to win those friends back.

Unfortunately in real life, if someone has metamorphosized their way into Butterfly Country, they’re not going back to Caterpillar Town. Anyone hoping otherwise is just asking to be disappointed. “Let’s save a seat for Nathan, you guys. Maybe he’ll show up to Settlers of Catan night this week.” But Nathan probably won’t be showing up ever again. Nathan is dead (to you). His body and soul have been commandeered by oxycodone and vampire sexplay — or whatever is happening in high school right now — and he likes it.

Freaks and Geeks had it right. When the three main geeks on the show adopted an attractive young transplant from another school into their circle, they knew instinctively that after the popular crew discovered her, she would be lost from them forever. They knew that once she made it across the transom into a life of popularity, consorting in any significant way with those residing on the other side would be unlikely. And then they were proven correct. (Not pictured: the Viking-funereal burning of a hair doll on a pyre in her honor, as is the custom.) That example involves someone who was a new friend, and therefore less was at stake for her, but the principle still stands. Sometimes in high school our friends leave us to become popular, and they do not come back. That is how we learn a key facet of adulthood: “resentment.”

Joe Berkowitz edits books and writes stuff. He also has a Tumblr.