Teens

Paul Bühre (trans. David Shaw)

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Nothing — and I mean really nothing — is as confusing as the many different social groups in my school. Most adults, when they think of their children’s school, imagine a group of happy boys and girls frolicking through the corridors or playing football out in the playground. But that’s just a tiny part of what goes on behind those walls. Every day is a battle for social standing and respect. Pretty much like Game of Thrones. Only with WhatsApp and hundred-metre races instead of swords and dragons.
I can identify three broad groups among the thirty-or-so kids in my class. Anything more intricate than that is beyond me, but these groups are in fact further divided into sub-groups and sub-sub-groups.
So, first there’s Group A. This is the coolest-sickest-awesomest-gangsta-school’s-a-pile-of-shit group, which everybody wants to be in, and which I, to my own astonishment, am a member of. This group’s school’s-shit attitude kicked in about three years ago. Before that — so, into the first year of high school — some of us still tried to do well in tests, paid attention in class, sucked up to teachers, and did our homework, or at least took the time to copy it from someone else. The rest already saw teachers as the embodiment of all-that-is-evil, yet did their schoolwork, albeit grudgingly. All that was long ago. Now we’re all on the same page: the cool kids with bad grades, who hate teachers and school in general, who think their parents are just cringe-worthy, who love to spend money, especially on brand labels, who like sports and gaming (but aren’t hardcore gamers, they’re in a different group), the TV junkies, film junkies, Facebook-video junkies, Facebook-video-likers, misogynist joke-tellers, posers, expensive-smartphone-owners, those who know a lot about music, or think they do, the party people, pubescent people, the mega-mature, the ones who’ve started using deodorant … How I ended up in this group is a story I’ll come back to later.
But first, to Group B. You can imagine the kind of person who’s in this group: basically, anyone who can’t get into Group A. This includes those who still haven’t hit puberty, the wusses, and the geeks. Really, I have nothing against geeks; I like geeks. I’m one myself, just not the physics-type geek. More a kind of superhero-comic-Star-Wars-Lord-of-the-Rings-Harry-Potter-Game-of-Thrones book nut. That’s book nut, not bookworm. It’s a very important distinction, because the two words describe individuals with completely different reading habits. A bookworm is someone who will spend years slowly, doggedly, laboriously slogging their way, week by week, to the end of a book, and who would shrivel up and die if their supply of reading matter ever ran out. A nut, on the other hand, can go for months without books, only to devour just as many as the bookworm, but in a matter of days. A binge like that will leave you with no appetite for reading for at least a month or so.
In any case, the geeks from Group B, the real ones, are useful for explaining some of the trickier aspects of maths, biology, physics, chemistry, or (classical) music. In return, I might sketch them something for their art project, or explain to them how to do the long jump properly (for those who are interested: take off from one leg, not two). Group B has a lot more members than Group A, since the entry requirements are not as strict. But even within Group A there’s an outer and an inner circle.
Group B is also the one for those who still burst into tears when they get a bad grade — either out of fear of their parents’ reaction or due to some kind of disappointment. So, for them, schoolwork is still really important, although that puts them in an extreme minority. I mean, we’re in Year Ten; what do you expect? They’re the ones who still run out into the playground as soon as the bell rings, cheering ‘Foootbaaall!’ excitedly as they go. Showing a spirit of enthusiasm rarely seen among members of Group A. And if it does arise, it usually gets nipped in the bud pretty quickly.
And then there’s the third group, Group X47MKKD­89SY. As the name implies, this group is extremely complex, and rather different from the others. It’s made up of all the female members of my class. If you’re wondering why I lump them all together, the answer is simple: with girls, everything is in a constant state of flux. Friendships can be forged one day, and by the next morning they’re gossiping behind each other’s back or bitching openly. No one can trust anyone, except their best friend, but she’s … you know what I mean. It’s a tangled web of lies, conspiracies, secrets, dramas, tears, angst, anger, and a good portion of action — a real thriller, in fact.

Teens Paul Bühre (tr. David Shaw)