Real life isn’t high school…..
I come from a small town. The cool kids were the rich kids. Born with silver spoons in their mouths. One of the popular girls had driver’s ed with me. The teacher fell all over himself to be nice to her. She drove first, the boys fought to open the door for her, the teacher gave her perfect scores.
Me not so much. A total nerd, shy, quiet, intelligent and straight A grades but too damaged to look at anyone popular, much less converse with them. That was high school.
Imagine my surprise when I decided to go to community college and saw Ms. Popular in my class. Seems she got pregnant senior year. Married the popular boy who also had rich parents. Had the kid and was in early childhood education classes with me.
Of course her mom was the teacher. She got all straight A grades on each assignment and so did I. One day, she was talking about poor single moms with disdain again, and I guess her mom just had enough.
After Ms. Popular went on a rant about how “People on food stamps should only be allowed to buy the necessities. Beans and rice should be the limit. They’re poor and don’t work for anything anyway.”
“I’ve even seen people use food stamps to buy dog food,” she continued. “Why would you have a dog if you’re too poor to feed yourself? It should be illegal.”
Her mom (the teacher) turned to me and said, “Do I have your permission to talk about your last paper and ask you some questions? It is worth extra credit if you say yes, and I promise not to say anything too revealing. We can stop at anytime.” I said yes.
So the professor began telling the story I had written about.
“Last week the police chased a criminal through Nancy’s neighborhood. About 2 am she was woken to a man rattling and banging on her door. Her German Shepard freaked out and when the dog began barking, the man moved on. He was shot in the steps of the apartment next door. The police told her if he had gotten in he would have held hostages so it was a very good thing her dog scared him and delayed his entry into an apartment. The dog probably saved her and her daughters’ lives that night.”
Then she turned to me: “Nancy, are you on food stamps?”
“Yes,”I said, somewhat embarrassed.
“Are you trying to fix your life, by going to college to get a good job and to set a good example for your children so you can provide for them without government assistance?”
“When was the last time you didn’t have dinner so your children would?”
“Breakfast,” I said.
Her mom (the teacher), turned to Ms. Popular.
“You have led a charmed life. I say write your greatest challenge and Nancy writes me the story you just heard. You write about eating rice and beans on every other Wednesday night to show your parents you can help them buy you your first house. I’m so glad you lived the life you did, but you should realize how lucky you are, and stop judging others who have it harder than you. You all want to be teachers? You’ll need some compassion.”
So that’s what happens to pretty, rich, popular girls — they grow up to be pretty, rich, popular adults, who judge without shame because they never had a truly hard day in their lives.
This is a true story. It happened 30 years ago. Ms. Popular and I are now friends.