02/10/2017

Surviving an all-girls school

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There is nothing quite like being hauled off to a new school. You get to meet new people, experience new things, and get a new set of school uniforms. All of this was exciting at the time, but I have to admit, I was scared of going to an all-girls school. My only knowledge of girls school was from TV and movies. For some reason, the images of Blair Waldorf and Serena Van Der Woodsen from Gossip Girl were looming over my head. They were frenemies at best, so I used them as a cautionary tale while entering my new environment.

To be able to cope and understand my classmates better, me and my newfound friends decided to classify them into categories: the overachievers (those who always get called onstage for an award); the artists (they love anime); the choir members (First Friday Masses were their shining moment); the normies (those who just exist to get the whole thing over with); and of course, the “popsies” (popular, pretty and rich with a hint of sass). All the other personalities we had no problems befriending; it was the “popsies” we were scared of interacting with.

You’d think that studying in an all girls school would be a breeze. There weren’t any cute boys to distract you from your history reading or ask you about the math lecture. I had the assumption that it would feel like a giant slumber party: everyone supporting and building up each others’ strengths, all while having the best time of their lives. While that was partly true, our school wasn’t completely rid of mean girls. Some would make fun of girls who had crushes on anime characters, some would steal lunches and entire pads of paper from our bags, and some would even go as far as painting the back of our skirts red to scare us for having our periods. They got away with it because they were popular. Who knew that monsters were hiding behind their pretty, made-up exteriors?

It was a messy, messy world back then, and maybe that’s why I don’t remember most of it.

What I do remember is one particular choir practice in junior year. All of us were tired from singing Mariah Carey’s I’ll Be There for the nth time, and we all just wanted to go home. All of my friends went ahead of me because they rode the same school bus. I was left alone with this group of “popsies,” who I assumed were on their way to Cantina (a bar in Katipunan, R.I.P.) after school. To avoid interacting with them, I opened my history notebook and started pretend-reading my notes. The group was discussing things quite loudly, and, in my annoyance, I glared at them. Instead of telling me to beat it, to my surprise, they apologized and went back to what they were doing. Here’s what made me woke: they were studying. You know, like normal students. Who knew that behind their tough exterior they weren’t just monsters, they were academically aware monsters? Because of the lunch break bullying happening, I almost forgot what we were all in school for. We were there to A) get out alive, and B) get good grades along the way.

After that afternoon, I started to understand them better. During lunch, I stopped hiding at our usual table and started hanging out in the classroom with all my other classmates, “popsies” included. While there were still some bullying incidents, I noticed that not all of them participated. Some of them were even brave enough to defend the girls. Just like most of us, they were just trying to exist and make the most out of their time in school. The only difference is they had better handbags and better makeup skills.

In my short time attending an all-girls school, I learned the biggest lesson of all: never, ever stereotype a woman. This isn’t just about looks, social class or grades. It’s about opening your perspective on what a woman is. And most of the time, she’s not just one person. She can be popular and be a genius; she can be a good singer and a lover of anime; she can be shy and a good public speaker. There is no one classification on how a woman should be, and that’s pretty kickass.

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