The youth-written stories in Represent give inspiration and information to teens in foster care while offering staff insight into those teens’ struggles.

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Goodbye to the Gossip Group
Carlos Ferreira

Names have been changed.

Making friends at my new high school was crucial. I had gone into foster care at age 13 and didn’t feel like I had a family. Choosing a friend group felt important, like picking a substitute family. I was looking for people who made me laugh and helped me forget about my issues at home.

I didn’t like sharing personal information with anyone, so I didn’t get close to people. That’s why I looked for fun people who could distract me rather than people I could be vulnerable with.

The TV shows Degrassi and Glee and the movie Mean Girls suggested that there was always one group that has the most fun and is known throughout the school. That was the group I wanted to be in. I was drawn to the fun and the popularity.

I observed kids in class, hallways, and at lunch, and saw that the popular group in my grade seemed to be Natalia, Perry, Taylor, and Serena. Everyone said “Hi” to them. Natalia seemed like the leader. As I observed them I could tell I liked Natalia and Serena. They were funny and fun to be around. Perry and Taylor, both guys, seemed annoying.

They were friendly to me. Perry would stop me in the hallway and say I looked nice or give me some other compliment. I would talk to Natalia or Serena in class, and we made each other laugh. Eventually we started hanging out together, and by the end of sophomore year I was part of the group.

I mostly talked to Serena. She’s the only one I told that I lived with my grandmother in kinship care. She shared personal things with me too.

Warning Signs

One connection I had with all four of them is that our parents didn’t care what we did. We did things after school we knew were wrong. They didn’t tell their parents, and I didn’t judge because I didn’t tell my grandmother either.

We were a popular group: We stood out, as opposed to the quiet kids who teachers don’t even remember. Students in higher grades knew who we were. I liked being someone, but there were signs that this was not the group I belonged in.

One sign: I often didn’t like talking with my new group. They gossiped about other people and got them excluded by spreading rumors about them. I didn’t join in this unless I had an issue with the person. Sometimes I would stay quiet or start a conversation with Serena about something else. (But sometimes I would laugh because Natalia could be hilarious when she was being mean.)

I didn’t enjoy criticizing others or starting rumors. I would ask, “Why are you saying that?” or “What did she do?” I started to think of my friends as the Gossip Group.

I had never really liked Taylor or Perry. I felt tension around them when I started hanging out with the group. They would stare me down as if I were their prey; I wondered if they thought I was trying to steal their friends Natalia and Serena.

I had been hanging out with the group for almost a year when I started to want out. It took so long because I enjoyed the joking and fun times with the Gossip Group. They got me to try new things, and I liked the break from my old routine of going home after school and playing video games.

image by YC-Art Dept

In spring of my junior year, my friend Jamar had a fight with Taylor, and that changed things with the Gossip Group. They felt as if I was on Jamar’s side, and whenever I spoke to him I would catch them staring. Jamar was the hot topic of their conversations at lunch and I didn’t care to hear it.

I was tired of the tension and they seemed to want distance from me too. I picked a Monday to break away from sitting with them at lunch. A new week seemed like a good time for a change.

Pulling Away

The lunch room was crowded and noisy as usual. I spotted Natalia, Perry, Taylor, and Serena at a table in the middle of the room. Sophomore year we sat by the wall, but I guess as juniors they felt as if they were the heart of the lunch room. I walked to get my lunch and as I got close to them, they all said, “Hey Carlos.” I said “Hey” back and kept walking. I could feel the question in the air as I continued.

They stared as I sat next to Ravi, a boy I had starting hanging out with after we met at a Pokemon event after school. How geeky, right? Well, we had a lot in common so I went and sat with him. As I sat at his table I turned around and made eye contact with my other friends, who stared back at me in disbelief. I felt like I was in a scene straight out of Mean Girls and it was me against them.

I could feel the awkward tension around the group after I started sitting with others at lunch. We usually left school together and headed to the stores. One March day, Perry said, “You were talking sh-t about me,” and “You’ve been acting fake.”

I responded, “I was not talking about you. If I needed to talk about you I would have said it to you.”

We argued about how Serena, Natalia, and Taylor were his friends first and he told me to stop hanging out with them. He was getting loud and making hand gestures as if he was going to hit me; I had never seen him act this way. He said “Don’t make me slap you.” Taylor laughed, “Perry is on his Nicki Minaj sh-t!”

We came close to a fist fight, but he backed down. I split off from them and went to the train by myself. I was out of the group.

Changing My Focus

I got more into my schoolwork after I began associating with different people. It felt better knowing I didn’t have to deal with people I didn’t like on a daily basis. Meanwhile, my Ex-Group spread rumors that I had no one to talk to. That wasn’t true: I talked to Serena and my other friends. I joined Student Government and started my own club, the Video Game Club.

I enjoy school more now. I’m able to talk about things I care about like video games and science, instead of gossiping about people I don’t know. I feel less worried at school because I’m not associated with a group that attracts problems.

Older people say you drop a lot of friends as you progress through high school. I wish I’d dropped the Gossip Group earlier. It would have made my high school experience better and less dramatic. Arguments, conflicts, and relationship issues affect your schoolwork and add stress to your life.

Now I would say that you don’t really need a group to define you. Twenty years from now in our yearbook I won’t be remembered for hanging out with the Gossip Group, but I will be for the clubs I was in and my achievements. Whether people like me or not, I still have a place there.

My outlook on high school has changed from a popularity contest to a place where I need to work. I’m not trying to impress anyone or to hang around people who only have fun spreading rumors.

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