Were you one of the popular kids?
I am reading Kuro5hin. Of course I wasn't one of the popular kids!
I'm interested in what you experienced in school and what effect this had on your life.
Man, where to start? From Robert M. Sapolsky, "Beelzebub's SAT Scores," The Trouble with Testosterone:
A fondness for thinking often carries a cost. Sure, everyone had their adolescent miseries, but there is a characteristic type for the ones who were eggheads. This is the adolescent world of being picked last for sports teams or, worse, being picked first when some displacement aggression was in order. A world of always being a suitable source of answers to homework questions but never a suitable date. The ludicrous array of deflective personality twitches meant to cover up the fact that you were smart and into school or really obsessed with hermit crabs or topology or plate tectonics. And even decades later, even among those who metamorphosed into happy, fulfilled, secure adults, there is often still a necrotic core of anger somewhere down there at how bad it was back when. These are the stigmata of geekdom.
He has it right. The rest of this consists of my experiences that support this. I'll show you my necrotic core of anger. You have been warned.
OK, I was at Pine View, which at the time was the only Federally-funded program for "the gifted" in the United States. In order to get in, you had to pass an upward-modified IQ test with a minimum of 140. My number was 187. Most of the kids were rich; in fact one of them failed the test twice and only managed to get in after his father gave the school a hefty grant. I was lower middle-class.
I don't know if this disclosure has an immediate impact, but think about it. If you think isn't fun to be the smart kid in a school of normal people, try being the really smart kid amongst a bunch of smart kids. Not only do you get to play the same role, but it's amongst kids who are accustomed to thinking of themselves as the smart ones and who actually are smart enough to oppress effectively.
One of the fun games was this. On the rare occasions that any girl decided that she "liked" me, two girls (Carrie Surfus and Amy Currin) went to the target, "befriended" her, and told her that I had an extra Y chromosome and was therefore not male at all. (Of course, this was and is untrue.) They did this so skillfully that I did not find out about it until age 33. They may have been acting under the guidance of a ringleader, but I don't have any conclusive evidence against her, so I won't mention her name.
But anyway, that and other information caused me to go through a rebellion. Instead of believing that things would just get better and if they didn't it was my fault, attitudes ingrained into me starting from when I was too young to defend myself or even be aware of what was being done to me, I threw off the common platitudes and set down methodically to solve the problem of attracting women. I succeded completely, but only about 20 years too late.
I think the term "the gifted" should be stricken from the language, to be replaced with "the cursed." The thing is that everybody feels justified in making their lives a living hell because they're so fucking gifted that they deserve to be kicked at every possible opportunity. What they don't realize or, more likely, don't give a wet slap about is that it doesn't feel like a gift at all when everybody's kicking you. Besides, what gift? The world is run by C students.
Yeah, it's affected my life.
What do you think makes someone popular?
Every human society is defined by the people it excludes. People become popular according to how effectively they keep others unpopular.
Were you driven to succeed because of how you were treated by others?
Good question. No, not at first. I spent about until 1994 trying to Do Good, specifically as a research scientist in an unclassified computational research institute, studying the weather and oil spills and fundamental problems of physics and Alzheimer's disease and quantum chemistry and whatever. Yeah, I know that was naive and stupid. When the institute began its self-destruction, I spent until 1998 trying to accrete and keep a semblance of a family. When that was ruined by my wife running off with a Mayo clinic doc with a security clearance, and I was broke and alone, and had to move in with my mother, who seemed to need me most to change her dressings and give me displacement aggression. Then my only human friend who didn't vanish when I went broke wanted to see me, as long as I would defend her from her ex-boyfriend against whom she had a restraining order, who was only there because she had invited him back after he had been convicted of abusing her, and something snapped in me.
As a result, I spent more than two years in Atlanta doing little but make money, though I did have a girlfriend who, after a couple of months, spent most of her time displaying contempt for me. So, yes, I was driven to success. I was good at making money but not very good at fitting in with the universal plutocratic sociopathy of Atlanta culture, yet determined to grit it out. But then a stray dog adopted me, and all those irritating positive emotions like love and honor and the desire to be decent come flooding out of the recesses of my brain, and I'm now getting out of Atlanta to an insecure future as a consultant. We'll see how that goes.
What can we do to help our children succeed socially?
As the old joke goes, "what you mean 'we,' White Man?" Unless a miracle happens, I don't get to have children. My body is fine, but it is a 40-year-old body. I can have all the divorcees with tubal ligations that I can eat, but that doesn't help me have children. Oh well, money may change that, and if I'm fierce enough, I just might be able to get enough before it's too late.
So, I'll address the question of what can you do to make your children popular. That's easy. Teach them to make other children unpopular. That's how it's done.
Nobody wants to encourage the situations that would make everyone reasonably happy without hurting others. They want the zero-tolerance policy so that the school administrators can pick on the kid that has fewer than average friends. They want schools to hire as counselors the people who have the most empathy with bullies, who are the Real Victims, not that bloody pulp in the schoolyard, who deserved it because he was an egghead. They get the bumper stickers that say "My Child Beat Up Your Honor Student" and think it's a great joke. The only lesson they learned from Columbine is that it's a really good idea to do unto any kid who likes Ramstein first, because they're all a bunch of evil kids.
I can just smell the fingers poised to type responses putting me down for answering your questions. But remember, you were warned.
The truth may be out there, but lies are inside your head.--Terry Pratchett