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I’m a fresh-faced sixth grader getting used to the rigors of junior high. Middle school, being that terrible, awkward time in life when you experience all the newfound joys of puberty, wasn’t exactly the easiest transition for me. It was especially tough since I went to a school that was about 50 percent, lower-class white sociopaths, 40 percent lower-class black sociopaths, and 10 percent really stuck-up rich white kids who got the shaft during the last county rezonings.
There weren’t a lot of cliques on campus, but of the few that were, what intrigued me most was how the groups seemed to exist sans the grade level boundaries. If you were a sixth-grade jock, you hung out with the seventh-grade jocks and if you were a seventh-grade spoiled princess, you hung out with the spoiled eighth-grade princesses. The in-group mobility always fascinated me … especially since I was pretty much relegated to exist outside any of them. I was to bourgeoisie for the self-described “rednecks,” too proletariat for the nerds, and too saintly for all of the bad kids – you know, the ones that were in that weird interphase between making kids involuntarily eat Play-Doh during elementary recess and getting arrested for trying to rob a liquor store with a Super Soaker while ditching high school.
It was in the sixth grade that I was introduced to a certain – Fashion? Lifestyle? Fetish? – that has since become my premier aesthetic quirk. All guys have a type – some are into your standard breastaurant waitress mold, others are into the tatted-up neo-pin-up template, and others are all about the artsy-fartsy nerd chic – and it was here, I suppose, that I developed mine: the all-American goth chick.
Now, at the time, we didn’t call them “goths.” In fact, we didn’t even have an applicable term for the people, of both genders, who wore all black, donned spiky jewelry, and wore three pounds of eyeliner to school every day. Some called them “the alternative kids,” some called them “skaters” (that none of them owned skateboards, seemingly, meant very little) but by and large, the other students referred to them as either “the freaks” or “the weirdos.” All the other kids – even before Columbine – were absolutely terrified of them. Rumors spread quickly: they were all part of a Satanic cult that ate babies. They hung out together on the weekends and did needle drugs and practiced black magic spells. They all chainsawed hobos to death behind Costco while blaring Marilyn Manson. Granted, the worst things they actually did was smoke cigarettes outside the movie theater and maybe shoplift a few malt liquors, but they embraced the paranoia and fear the other students fostered for them. In a way, it made them above the junior high totem, making them a more powerful caste system force than even the preppiest of preps. Sure, everybody made fun of them behind their backs, but nobody had the chutzpah to do it to their faces. Hey, we had all seen The Craft, and we knew what was in store for us if we pissed them off.