The idea of the “in-crowd” was in Vogue in the 2000s, right when I was leaving the gross immaturity of elementary school for the posh and polished world of middle school. It was a Paris Hilton era, a time of Juicy Couture and preppy chic. It was pre-Kim K and pre-Instagram, and I, as the impressionable 10-year old that I was, wanted in on it. All of it. Thus, I did my research.
Starting in the 4th grade, I began reading The Clique series by Lisi Harrison. It embodied everything I wanted in my life: the expensive clothes, the elite New England school, and the grossly lavish lifestyles of the series’ tween-age main characters. Prior to reading these books, I was an average kid, hurling mud at my friends and wearing the same pair of tattered Chuck Taylors until they gave out for good. But, The Clique changed me. Suddenly, I was straightening my hair every day and wearing plaid skirts and ballet flats to school. I didn’t have friends; I procured them. I was a burgeoning elitist, and I was getting a little too good at it.
I guess this was the start of my infamous preppy phase, which only amplified with the dawn of Gossip Girl. I, like so many others, wanted to be either Blair or Serena, or at least to be in their aristocratic Upper East Side circle. I thrived on my singular visit to NYC, munching delicately on my Ladurée macaroons as my sixth grade self strutted down Madison Ave. I had achieved peak 2000s perfection, but it really sucked.
I never finished reading The Clique series, and I never finished watching Gossip Girl. I spent my middle school days in the dark about the true theme of what I considered to be the arbiter of cool. If you ever get to the end of either The Clique or Gossip Girl, you finally understand that the luxury of the Blocks’ and the Waldorfs’ lives is merely a hindrance to their own happiness and a source of contention in all of their relationships. True coolness, as hackneyed as this is, is revealed to come from the “poorest” of them [though “poor” is not an accurate term because everyone in The Clique and Gossip Girl is incredibly privileged]. Because I didn’t finish the books or the shows, I didn’t learn this lesson until several years later when I realized I was being an elitist asshole, when I did a sport, ate a greasy burger, and actually did my math homework for once.
I don’t want to leave you with the cliché lesson of “be true to yourself” or whatever. That’s obvious. I’m not even going to leave you with the lesson not to be an elitist asshole because you can do what you want [though I wouldn’t recommend it]. As the infinitely wise 18-year old that I am, here is my priceless advice: finish the book. If you’re going to completely change who you are, don’t do it until you get through the entire reasoning of why you’re doing it. The imposition of an “in-crowd” rarely should be taken at face value. Think of it this way: that idea of Big Brother is based on the idea of cliques and exclusivity, so every other iteration of it should be a little fishy. Just know what you’re doing.
Abby [See what I did there??? It was a Gossip Girl reference.]