JEFFERSON, MO—Contrary to what he had been assured about adult life, local resident Mike Glick, 24, reported Monday that he is even less popular than he was in high school.
"One of the biggest incentives to endure high school is the idea that the misery will end once you graduate," Glick said. "What I wasn't told is that people are basically the same dicks, except with more money and fewer opportunities to say 'Smell my finger.'"
Glick, a part-time clerk for a Jefferson law firm, added that he has not advanced in status or self-fulfillment in the six years since graduating from James Monroe High School. In fact, he said he believes he has regressed considerably.
"At least in high school, teachers cared if you didn't show up for class or weren't paying attention," Glick said. "And in retrospect, being slammed against the lockers helped shape my identity. At least I had something to react to. Now, I just feel adrift."
Glick paused to check his e-mail inbox, where he found a company-wide e-mail from a law partner whose billable hours he had itemized that morning.
Glick was one of the least distinguished members of Monroe High's Class of 1998. Too timid to rebel and not confident enough to be well-liked, Glick was at least noticed long enough to occasionally be mocked. Once known by such names as "Glicklicker" and "Suck My Glick," he said he is now more likely to be referred to as "the guy in payroll. No, the shorter one."
"When high-school graduates enter the world, they meet people with whom they share common interests," said Dr. Sharon Kesselbein, a Kansas City-based psychologist and former public-school guidance counselor. "While being cast into a wider world can be disorienting, it can also be liberating and enriching. The young person discovers that he isn't so strange or misbegotten, as he's opened up to friendships with people who are making similar discoveries and experiencing a similar openness. So none of this happened to [Glick], huh? Really?"
Glick said he thinks his lack of social status can be traced to decisions he made right after graduation.
"Maybe it's because I stayed in town rather than going away to school," said Glick, whose stint at Jefferson Business College resulted in a two-year accounting degree and no real acquaintances, save for a brief friendship with his evangelical Laotian-American seating partner at freshman orientation. "Maybe if I had gone to South Dakota State like my friend Ted Carpenter, or to North Carolina like Sean Rudy, things would have been different."
Carpenter and Rudy were friends—or perhaps more accurately, lunchtime buddies—of Glick's. Carpenter, Rudy, and Glick shared an interest in science fiction and a tendency toward unpopularity, but when Carpenter and Rudy left Jefferson, Glick lost contact with them.
"In the lunchroom at work, I usually sit alone," Glick said. "But a few months ago, I tried sitting down with a couple of paralegals, just to see what would happen. They didn't groan and scatter like my classmates would have in high school. In fact, my coworkers didn't appear to notice me at all. Their conversation continued uninterrupted, and no one seemed ill at ease. I didn't even get a single wayward glance. After about five minutes, I got up and walked off. Now, I just eat at my desk."
The working life has given Glick certain material advantages denied him as a jobless teenager, such as his own apartment and new clothes. In high school, Glick was teased about his sparse and shabby wardrobe, and this led him to believe that an opportunity to purchase a larger wardrobe would lead to increased popularity.
"I quickly realized that no one cares what I wear," Glick said. "This pair of khakis I have on and one or two dress shirts are basically enough to get me through the week. I have a tie in my desk in case a senior partner calls me to his office, but that never happens."
At that point, Glick's phone began to ring, offering a ray of hope to the lonely man. On the other end was a misdirected client seeking a tax lawyer whose name Glick wasn't familiar with.
Kesselbein, however, offered hope for Glick.
"Popularity may be the most sought-after and wished-for thing among young people, but high school doesn't last forever, and adults have to fall back on other things, like knowledge and common sense," Kesselbein said. "The content of your character is more important than whether you can throw a football or how much you weigh. Really, it's true. I'm an expert, and I spend all day and night studying these things."