Hot topic Tuesday: Judgement


To say I was sort of a goody goody in high school would be like saying Justin Bieber’s mop is sort of floppy (Dear Mrs. Bieber. Your kid is making millions. I saw 99-cent scissors at the dollar store yesterday. Just a thought). I didn’t kiss a boy until I was 16, and don’t think I even understood the mechanics of, er… intercourse until well after that. The more experienced girls were an enigma to me. Okay, enigma wasn’t the word I used. Slut would be more accurate.

So when a girl from my church and high school got knocked up, my first thought was, well, that’s what you get for doing the deed. I was firmly rooted in Camp Abstinence, and figured anyone who made such a choice was a Bad Girl.

Harsh. I know. Don’t hate Old Lindsey.

This girl, well, grew. Her perky cheerleader body blew up. She dropped out of school. She had all sorts of baby’s mamma drama, not to mention that heavy scarlet letter branded on her chest. And belly. My friends had a baby shower for the girl. She wore an oversized green shirt and overalls. I remember watching her open the presents--someone got her baby a tiny blue onesie and she held it up while we cooed. That moment was so vivid for some reason—still is. She looked tired, excited, young, scared… but not bad.

Where had I gotten the bad? She was a 16-year-old girl carrying a heavy lode, and the last thing she needed was my condemnation stacked on top. Who was I to judge her choices, her life?

Did I join hands with my schoolmates and sing “We Are The World”? No. But I did go home that day with a satchel of baby blue mints and a new conviction to be more kind, more understanding, more open. And anytime I feel myself getting catty now, I try to think of the pregnant image of that girl.

This is something I love about my favorite contemporary YA literature. Through fiction, we’re able to get into that girl’s head, to walk in her shoes and understand her choices. And as a writer now, I think of naïve, judgmental me and try to take that girl beyond her limited black and white perception to the beautiful greys of the high school battlefield.

So what about you? Did you ever wrongfully judge anyone in high school?

And while we’re on the topic, two wonderful books that deftly address teenage pregnancy:
JUMPING OFF SWINGS by our own Jo Knowles
TELL ME A SECRET by Holly Cupala

12 comments:

Pam Harris said...

Great topic! I definitely wrongly judged people in high school. One of my biggest offenses was toward this really pretty girl. You see, I always thought I was a DUFF (quick plug!), and I used to hate the really pretty girls in school. But there was one in particular that guys always swooned over, so I just assumed that she was a little, um, "frisky." I had to seat next to her in one of my English classes and we eventually became the best of friends. I felt guilty for thinking she was such a snob--to this day, she's one of the sweetest people I ever met.

JenPick said...

Thanks for such an honest post. I'm sure I did wrongly judge someone during high school (I was a teenager, I was judgey).

There were always at least a few pregnant girls at my high school (and a few at my middle school), but I don't remember the masses paying much attention until it was one of the "popular" girls that got pregnant. Then I heard all this, "Oh...can you believe it? She was such a goody-two-shoes!"

She got whispered about so much, it was like people were secretly pleased she'd "fallen from grace" or something.

Claire Dawn said...

I was that girl that got judged.

I wasn't into keeping up appearances, because I figured I had nothing to hide. And I got a reputation for it. ie, oh, she's 13 and she's talking to that 19 year old guy. She must be having sex with him. (She wasn't, but she -me- got a reputation anyhow :()

Micol Ostow said...

I just read TELL ME A SECRET and loved it! Looking forward to JUMPING OFF SWINGS.
In high school, I put a ton of pressure on myself to look a certain way (ie: to weigh a certain amount), and I think I was very critical of other girls' bodies around me. It was totally a function of my own messed up body image, and as I got older, I learned (with a lot of effort) to refuse to acknowledge judge-y thoughts about other girls' physical traits. Being more accepting of other people has really helped me to be more accepting of myself, too!

Denise Jaden said...

Great post, Lindsey! And I admit, I fall into judgementalism (is that a word?) way too often. My biggest "revelation" moment was the first time my son had a tantrum at the grocery store. Yep, all those moments when I'd ever judged other mothers came rushing back at me!

You are so right about being able to walk in another's shoes through fiction! What a great privilege!

Lisa Schroeder said...

We are the world.
We are the children.
We are the ones who make a brighter day...

Oh, sorry. Just takes me back, you know?

Great post. I loved JUMPING OFF SWINGS and I'm so excited to read TELL ME A SECRET.

Candace said...

This is a great topic. I would say I was more of the one getting judged. I didn't get pregnant but my best friend did BEFORE 9th grade. So I was with the group of kids that took the brunt of teasing and I was more the open minded one. But I think we all need to think about things before we do any judging, for sure!

Sam said...

This is interesting to me -- I'm sixteen right now, and I know there's judgement in high school. The weird thing is trying to figure out all of it. It's almost impossible to think of someone and separate them from a snap judgement.
I'm in the 'smart group' -- debate, honor society, advanced classes -- and have heard the synonymous 'stuck up' 'brat' 'know-it-all' more times than I can count. And quite frankly, it kind of sucks. But I can think of jocks or such that I have labels on -- people I've never talked to. It's interesting and a little bit disconcerting to think about.
Wow, that comment rambled. Ahem. My apologies.

brave chickens said...

I've made a snap judgement.
I didn't really get along with a class mate. Didn't talk to her much, nor see eye to eye with her. But after being in a class with her, where there are only seven students, I now know her a little better. Although we're not close, I see many similarities between us (which is kind of creepy, considering I didn't agree with her much before).

Melissa Walker said...

I was SO judgmental in high school, and I still have to fight it sometimes. What brave chickens said is really interesting. I always look at people who I'm prone to judge and think, "What about that person is like me?" because usually we have a LOT in common and I'm actually judging parts of myself. Does that make sense?

Great post, Lindsey!

Mindi Scott said...

In high school, I was sometimes judgmental--until it happened to me big time. My senior year (and even beyond) was just awful because of all the rumors about me, etc.

Ever since then, I've found myself unwilling to believe gossip because I know how awful it can be to experience. And honestly? If someone makes choices in their life that don't affect me, what business is it of mine anyway?

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