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Stuffing the ballot box

April 28, 2010

As I was reading my new favorite blog this morning, I was reminded of a particularly hilarious incident my senior year of high school.

Let me back up for a moment.

I wasn’t the most popular kid in high school. I wasn’t even part of the popular crowd. Well, not at first. In fact, my freshman year earned me an address in loser-ville right off the bat when I attempted to ask out a good-looking sophomore in my biology class by telling him I had a dream we were dating. Not only was I  laughed at, but had to wear that badge of humiliation clear until he graduated three years later. I never lived that one down. In fact, I think my neighbor still laughs at me when I walk by.

I was a band geek. And by geek, I mean that I spent almost all of my spare time playing my clarinet, determined to either keep my honorable first chair position or oust my nemesis from the seat.

I was a nerd. As in, I pulled straight A’s and loved every minute of homework I had to do.

And I wasn’t exactly the prettiest girl in school. With frizzy hair and clothes that never fit quite right (or were in fashion, for that matter), I was hardly the girl that guys were falling all over each other to ask to the dance. More often than not, I had to do the asking.

So needless to say, I wasn’t really all that popular in school. And I was fine with that.

Then my sophomore year rolled around. I started dating Jeff Anderson, the tallest guy in school (he was 6’8″ as a freshman). I met him at our school’s annual Welcome Back dance. My opening line was genius: “Hey tall guy, wanna dance?” He said sure, and the rest became history (a long, sordid, off and on history). Jeff was popular on two counts. He was the younger brother of one of the more popular girls in school, and, when you tower over all of your classmates, it’s kind of difficult to blend into obscurity.

Thus became my official launch into the popular side of the pool. I was no longer “Eunice the weird girl who has dreams,” but “Eunice, Jeff Anderson’s girlfriend.” My dating the tall younger brother of a popular girl awarded me instant entry into dozens of social circles I had previously been excluded from. Not that I cared, I really didn’t. I didn’t forget my friends in the lesser known circles at all, managing to distribute my time fairly equally among my friends.

Being part of the “in” crowd changed me though. Suddenly, I wanted to participate in things that, previously, I hadn’t cared about. That spring, I went out for two of the three extra-curriculars that determined one’s social status in school more than any other: Cheerleading and Peer Counseling (the third was Student Council, which I would have gladly attempted to run for, if not for the fact that my mom had a heart attack when I asked for money to make campaign posters). Honestly, I didn’t think I’d make it in to either one. I just wanted to try.

I first applied for Peers, since, if I was going to get one over the other, I would have rather been selected for Peers since it was more than a popularity contest, it was about finding the most genuine and caring people in the school to help others. It just happened to morph into something that meant you were something of a somebody to be selected for this esteemed group. I definitely qualified. I was in math one afternoon when a friend asked why I didn’t show up to my interview that morning. I had been selected as a finalist! I didn’t get the message about the interview, which is precisely why I didn’t show up. Having missed the interview, I was automatically disqualified, but since it was my band director who had failed to let me out of class to go,  they were willing to reschedule. I could hardly contain my excitement. The interview was somewhat of a formality, so unless I screwed it up big time, I was in.

I screwed it up big time. I got offended when one of the panelists (a friend of the aforementioned freshman year crush) started talking about “band fags” and I got a little hostile towards him. Probably not what they were looking for in a Peer Counselor. Major composure fail.

Next, I went out for cheer. I conned several of my fellow band geek friends to try out with me, figuring that I would spare myself the humiliation of getting a second rejection if in the company of friends who all got rejected together. We had a great clinic week; it was a lot of fun. I did not expect at the end of it, that I would be selected for the team, effectively bumping a two-year member of the squad to take her place. I couldn’t believe it. I. Was. A. Cheerleader. The most exclusive of all the popularity clubs you could get into, and I was in!

Except…all the girls on the squad hated me for having replaced one of their friends. They weren’t particularly nice to me most of the year (cheerleaders sure can be bitches), and all of my band friends withdrew because I was now one of them. I rode out the year and decided to quit at the end of it. By the end of my junior year, I knew a lot of people. But I didn’t consider myself popular by any means. I think the popular kids would agree. 

My senior year, I dropped all of my extra curricular activities, with the exception of Peers, since I had finally been accepted, and focused on enjoying the social part of high school. I ditched class with my friends (my schedule was 95% electives), I went off campus for lunch, I went to games and social events. I was sure not to miss a thing.

Still, after four years of high school I was, by no means, popular. I was known.

One afternoon, my friend Chris and I were sitting outside our counselor’s office, waiting to discuss college applications, when one of the student council members came around, distributing ballots for the prom royalty. Chris and I looked at each other with the same twinkle in our eye and asked her to give us several, that we would help hand them out. Being that Chris was a former student council member, she didn’t object, and we proceeded to fill out our names on all 100 (give or take) ballots she had provided us. We had no clue whether or not our prank had worked.

A few days later, the nominations were announced over the PA system, and when my name was announced, I watched with glee as the #1 most popular girl in our class stared at me in disbelief before uttering the words, “Uh. Wow, Eunice. Congratulations.” I knew she was trying to calculate in her brain how on earth I managed to secure a prom royalty nomination when the drill had been the same for the past four years — the same five couples merely traded off the title of king and queen while the remaining couples comprised the court. It was this way every dance, every year. I was pleased. I was more than pleased. I managed, once again, to upset the popular apple cart.

When the final ballots came out, I’m sure that I got a fair amount of votes, but the popular coup that I had tried to create failed. I was not one of the five exclusive couples, therefore, I was not voted in as Prom Royalty after all. So much for trying to buck the system. Chris, somehow, managed to bump one of the guys though, and for that, I considered our prank a success.

So the lesson learned here is, cheaters never prosper. Unless you’re popular.

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