Boy Bands and Middle School Bullies
I grew up in a time when boy bands were really freaking cool for a few years and then really freaking stupid for the rest of the years. This is the story of how harsh that transition was on me.
When my parents moved from Portland, OR back to Franklin, TN it was the last big move we made (before I left for college). I was 75% done with 5th grade and by the time I started at Freedom Middle, there was only about a month and a half left in the school year.
The transition from the Oregon school to the Franklin school was absolutely terrifying. In Portland, our school was half the size of the Franklin school and the Franklin school had double the amount of older kids. There were fights in Franklin, people got in trouble for drugs, and boy bands were no longer cool.
Back in Oregon, the trend of hating Backstreet Boys and 'NSYNC to an absurd level (at least for boys) had not yet manifested itself. My friends and I thought that 'NSYNC and Backstreet boys were cool. It wasn't just me--oh crap, I hope it wasn't just me.
First day in Franklin at Freedom Middle School
So on day one of middle school I made a mistake. I walked up to my new class hanging out in the gym before the school day began and, in an effort to make friends, pointed out that the tallest guy in the class looked "JUST LIKE ONE OF THE BACKSTREET BOYS!" Unlucky for me, that tall guy did not like the Backstreet Boys and his handler--a much smaller more aggressive stocky kid--definitely didn't like the Backstreet Boys.
I would also come to find out that the reason I had been placed in their class is because there was a student, who apparently looked similar to me, who had been removed from school because of a car accident. Also, I never met my real teacher as she left on maternity leave the day before I got there. All totaled, that was about the worst situation you could put a student in.
My One Friend
Even in that, there was one student (I believe his name was Marshall) who pseudo befriended me. Like a leach, I grabbed onto him as hard as I could because, well, he was my only option at the time. To everyone else, I was the "gay kid" who liked Backstreet Boys. At that time, I'm honestly not sure I understood what the word "gay" even meant. I don't think I took it to mean 'homosexual' but rather just some vague form of badness I didn't want to be.
So one day after school while waiting on our moms to pick us up, I was talking to Marshall about the 'NSYNC concert that had been on TV the night before. For those keeping score at home, this was the awesome concert where the guys flew over the crowd on strings and stuff. Pretty sure is was broadcast on Disney channel. Let's be real--it was awesome.
So Marshall halfway listened to me talk about the concert until stalky bully kid from our class walked up to us.
"Are you guys talking about 'NSYNC?" bully kid asked.
"Yeah I was telling him about the concert last night. It was awesome!" I said.
"Oh man! Are you gay too Marshall?!" bully kid.
"NO WAY! I didn't even want to talk to him. I don't even like 'NSYNC, I was just talking to him because he doesn't have any friends!" Marshall explained.
That may have been the moment when I started caring about what people thought.
I'm sure Marshall turned out to be a great guy and who knows--maybe the stalky bully did too. But I think the point of this all is that I don't ever want to do to people what Marshall did to me and I know I have. Sometimes I'm guilty of holding the lines just until it gets inconvenient for me and then pulling the rug out. Marshall didn't need to like 'NSYNC for me or back my musical tastes, but he didn't need to sell me out.