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7th Grade Boy Achieves Popularity by Betraying a Friend

Right after I finished 6th grade, my family moved to a new town. As I started junior high that fall, I suddenly found myself in a school I didn't know, in a town I didn't know, with people I didn't know. I felt very alone. Nobody knew me, and nobody wanted to talk to me.

Each day I would walk home alone, wondering, Is there a friend here for me?

Then one day, a kid named Earl invited me to his house after school. I jumped at it. Earl was kind of like the other kids, but he had shiny hair (he wasn't particularly concerned about personal hygiene). Near his house was a parking lot where the electric company parked its trucks and heavy equipment. Earl knew how to sneak in there, and we clambered all over the big rigs and the augers and had a lot of fun. Earl and I began to build a friendship.

After a couple of months of sizing up this 7th-grade classroom, I made an important realization. The kids who seemed to be the most popular, the kids who were really good at sports, the kids who had the best clothes, the kids whom the girls whispered about and blushed over—were not Earl. They were two guys, Mike and Eddie.

So when Mike and Eddie finally invited me over to their house, I was exhilarated. This was my ticket to the big time. But I had one problem. Wherever Mike and Eddie were, Earl was not; and wherever Earl was, Mike and Eddie were not. And if I was going to hang out with Mike and Eddie, I could not be seen with Earl. I knew it.

So I made a decision. I went over to Mike and Eddie's houses, and I struck up a friendship with them, and I became "in" with those popular kids. When Earl called me, I kept putting him off by saying, "I'm, uh, kind of busy."

All those years since that time, there's still a shame around that betrayal, because the truth is, I betrayed Earl. I handed him another rejection in his life, when he'd probably had so many. But I wanted something: I wanted that "in," I wanted that popularity. If I had to hurt him, I would do it. That is the essence of betrayal: I am willing to hurt you to get something for myself.

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