Not Every Girl is Popular

The post on Facebook says, “I have been nominated in the 3 Works for 5 Days Artist Facebook Challenge”.  The artist who has posted these words shows three of his/her art works each day for five days – a mini exhibition.  The artist also writes, “For the next five days I will be nominating some of my favourite artists to do the challenge”.

It is rather like a relay race; each artist ‘runs’ while simultaneously passing on the baton to artists waiting on the sidelines.  I don’t know if the challenge is to post one’s art as we all post our art on a regular basis.  Perhaps the challenge lies in being asked in the first place.

This challenge currently on Facebook recalls some painful memories from primary school.

Two popular children (invariably sporty boys) are picked by the teacher to captain rival sports teams.  Each boy takes it in turn to form his team by picking classmates.  Best friends are grabbed first, then okay kids until finally only leftovers remain.  I know each time that I will be last or second-last because I am bad at sport and shy; consequently, unpopular.

Being bad at sport is the worst thing you can be at a New Zealand primary school in the 1960s.  (Perhaps this has changed in the 2000s?)  The stigma influences every other social interaction in the classroom.

So now we are at the primary school’s annual dance.  I am twelve and thirteen (1971 and 1972 respectively).  Girls sit on one side of the hall.  Boys march across to choose their dance partners.  I may be chosen by the lowest-pecking order boy if I am lucky.  Or I may be further humiliated by a teacher singing out, “So-and-so, come and dance with Julie.  She is still sitting down and we don’t want ANY girls not dancing!”

The roles are reversed once or twice.  Giggling girls flutter across the expanse of floor to deposit themselves at the feet of their desired.  I take my shame with me.  Body language and expression are apologetic as I front up to the hapless boy who has lucked out this time.

In the decades since then I have healed and found self-confidence.  Yet I never want to find myself in the position of waiting passively to be picked by peers – for anything.

Tori Amos sings, “Not every girl is popular/popular/popular/not every girl is a pearl/” *

* “Oysters” from her album “Unrepentant Geraldines”

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About juliepodstolski

I am a realist artist who works in coloured pencils.
This entry was posted in art, artist anxiety, personal history and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

15 Responses to Not Every Girl is Popular

  1. Well, there you go, another thing we have in common! No-one has asked me (thankfully!) to participate in this challenge – I’m not sure of the value of it to be honest. And I was the last to be picked in sporting teams. Thank goodness the dances I went to everyone hit the floor at the same time, I just had fun!

    • Hey Anna, teachers sure tortured kids didn’t they – allowing them to be so humiliated. I really hope they don’t do such things any more. But I suspect they do.
      Hmm, the value of the challenge…yes…

      • I think teachers are much more aware of the effect of what they do and say now, there is so much awareness of bullying. Another thing about the challenge is that it was specifically for old work – I’m not sure how useful that is to anyone.

  2. Robyn Varpins says:

    We are social creatures so am bound to be effected by the choices of others. But this can be tempered by knowing you are valued by those that know you best… including yourself. I wouldn’t be young again for anything. I would rather wrinkles and self esteem.

  3. sylvie menez says:

    It is a pity Julie because I just wanted to choose you.But I read your article and I can understand your point.I love your art, it’s wonderful.You don’t know me, I’m Sylvie Menez from France.Once, we were featured together in Ann Kullberg’s magazine and I can tell you that I felt proud to see my name beside yours.Maybe we could be friend sometimes.Kind regards.

  4. hi JUlie, thank you, that really resonated with me. I hate that “not picked” feeling too. Due to child depression and shyness, I was not popular at all. my schooldays were a misery even though I was academic AND athletic! I dont want my childhood and young adulthood back at all. Rejection is a very primitive emotion with humans I think …we are a tribe animal and have a deep need to belong somewhere. and thank you for yours and other comments about the five a day, when I first saw it, I thought, what is the challenge in that, you just haul out old stuff and post it. if you drew three a day, thats a challenge!! so in this we are not alone by the wall, lol….it all just goes to show, there ARE other people out there like you, to form a bond with, but sometimes life results in us looking in all the wrong places and we go through life feeling so alone. but aside from building our own self worth, we have to keep believing and looking that there ARE others like us.

    • Leonie, thanks for sharing your thoughts. Thinking that I had not been the only child waiting to be picked, I hoped to connect to others who knew familiar circumstances.
      Also glad to see that I was not the only one questioning the ‘challenge’ of the challenge!

  5. Jenny Ras says:

    Great post Julie, and it resonates with me as well. I was the fat, shy kid at school, so I am all too familiar with being the last chosen. I had no desire to participate in the sharing challenge, as I don’t have the time or inclination to do so…still, not being nominated kinda stirred up the old feelings of not being good enough. Your observations are very astute. Much love from one shy kid to another. 😉

    • Jenny, I so appreciate your comment. I think on social media many of us want to look pretty great so it takes a bit of courage to write, “Actually I am a vulnerable human being and some things cause me pain”. Honesty is wonderful and we can REALLY relate to one another when we are showing our real selves rather than an airbrushed front.
      ps I LOVE your art!!!

  6. Alexandra Walters says:

    I, too, experienced the humiliation of being picked last for sports teams, and the social isolation of being the “ugly duckling.” I’d be lying to say it doesn’t still hurt — it still requires some effort to leave it in the past — but, I have come to realize that any time I make a choice based on those memories, I am holding onto pain from the past, and extending my own suffering. By consciously leaving the past in the past, I free myself from that hurt, and become open to happy opportunities of the present. I know it’s not easy; but I encourage anyone struggling with such painful memories to let go and live fully in the present. 🙂

    • Hi Alexandra, I couldn’t agree more with your comment about letting go of such memories. Indeed, I had not thought of those school day episodes for years. It was seeing the facebook ‘art challenge’ which reminded me. Such a challenge is divisive by nature; where is the dividing line? Between those who are chosen to participate and those who aren’t. That is why I do not want to play and have stated that I am not playing. I am thinking about members of the art groups on FB who have not been asked and will not be asked but WOULD LIKE to be asked. This is not me I’m talking about – but others – who I know are out there. You’re in or you’re out with something like that. You see, school yard mentality is still out there in the adult world – and I guess that is really what I’m saying.

  7. Alison Fear says:

    Hi Julie, I am currently working my way through your blogs and learning so much thank you. At the moment I am sitting on the couch with my husband and had to share this one with him. I have told him of this “pain” on a number of occasions, having attended school in New Zealand in the 1970’s/80’s. I used to dread PE for this very reason. I appreciate (especially being such a beginner myself and at the bottom of the selection pile) and agree with your decision not to participate in the challenge. I should mention that my husband is a PE teacher at an Auckland High School (he grew up in England) 🙂

    • Hi Alison, so great to read what you’ve written. And I’m delighted that you are reading many of my posts. Thank you!
      This post got me some flack on Facebook. It was like, “Get over it”. One person wrote, “I’m wearing big girl’s panties now”. However, I knew this post resonated with some people – especially those who wrote comments on this site so I was glad I wrote it. Oh, and I got some private messages as well from people who didn’t want to say in public that they agreed with my sentiments and had gone through similar humiliation – and still do when these ‘popularity’ things come up on Facebook.
      As you mention being a beginner in coloured pencils, Alison, do ask me if you have any questions. I will do my best to answer them.

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