The Mittle-man on Campus: High School How-Tos

Illustration+Credit%3A+Sydney+Fener

Illustration Credit: Sydney Fener

Sarah Mittleman

‘The Mittle-man on Campus’ is a satirical column centered around high school clichés and the teenage experience that will appear in The Chronicle once every two weeks. None of the articles in this column are representative of the opinions of The Chronicle staff as a whole.

Firstly, I would just like to offer a sincere ‘thank you’ to President of School Rick Commons, who graciously accepted my criticism of school policies two weeks ago. Even though I have yet to see much improvement, I recognize that things like this take time, so I ask that Prefect Council please step in to assist in implementing my suggestions rapidly and efficiently.

As we all anxiously await those school-wide changes, I have decided to grace you, the student body, with some much-needed advice. Unfortunately, I will be graduating next year, which means another main character will take my place (if possible). Some of you have asked me for advice on how I go about being a protagonist. Even though it is impossible to replace me, I will gladly give you all some tips and tricks for these next few years of high school.

The high school protagonist must have one of two things by the end of their journey: popularity (or a brief experience of popularity) and a love interest. Keep in mind that depending on which of these you choose, you may risk becoming a side character accidentally. For example, if you attempt to create an exclusive clique with two other friends, you automatically fill the Regina George slot. Beware of the Regina George slot.

Disclaimer: These suggestions are only to be used on campus at high school by high-schoolers. Do not try this at home.

1. Fall for Them

My consistently most-asked question is “how clumsy is too clumsy?” While a medical professional would say to err on the side of caution (i.e. avoid tripping to begin with, especially on stairs), I argue that some of the best meet-cutes happen during a potentially dangerous accident. One of our main goals is to achieve a love interest before graduation. Literally throwing yourself at them is bound to make them notice you. Now, you may wonder if you run the risk of irritating your love interest. If that happens, however, you have the makings of a fantastic love-hate storyline. At this point, your aim should be to constantly run into them at inconvenient times, grumble about how much you dislike them and yet slowly find them irresistible.

To facilitate these romantic opportunities, I recommend wearing exceedingly high platform shoes or just spending excessive amounts of time on boats. Once your legs are so wobbly that you can barely hold yourself up, just locate the love interest of your dreams and collapse!

2. Be in an (Isosceles) Love Triangle

The school’s math curriculum (shoutout to President of School Rick Commons) has made me an excellent geometry student, so I am probably the most reliable source when it comes to love triangles. But here’s the thing that most high schoolers forget: not all love triangles are created equal. Of course, let’s just toss scalene out of the window. The whole point of a love triangle is that, for a while, you can’t decide who to pick. If you’re already leaning in one direction, that defeats the purpose entirely. But equilateral triangles are also extremely dangerous. After all, what if your two love interests decide that they’re better suited for one another? So make sure every love triangle you’re in is isosceles, and whatever you do, avoid being one of the legs.

Now, you may be wondering how to achieve the perfect isosceles love triangle. Well, I suppose the best way to do it is just to literally stumble into more than one love interest. Make sure to choose wisely – one needs to be kind and supportive while the other is mean yet ruggedly handsome.

3. Consider Getting Glasses

Whether you have 20/20 vision or not, it is universally accepted that wearing glasses makes you a nerd. In “She’s All That,” for example, when protagonist Laney Boggs removes her glasses and lets down her hair, she miraculously transforms from undateable geek to perfect prom queen candidate. Maybe you’re not vying for prom queen this year, but you can at least appreciate the magic of a dramatic glasses removal. But let’s be honest: this fact of life gives people with bad eyesight a stunning advantage when it comes to high school. While the rest of us have to grin and bear our appearances, they get an automatic boost when they switch out lenses for contacts. Luckily, we’re in an era ripe with technology, and one of our biggest advances yet is non-prescription glasses. So tie your hair up and embrace your inner geek. If you want to be the main character, you need to work your way up from the very bottom. After all, we all have to start somewhere. Even me.

But here’s the thing: a lot of us have been at this school for years now. We can’t just walk onto campus with a pair of glasses and expect to be designated “nerd” by the gods of high school. If you want to be the protagonist, you have to work for it. That’s why I say the best tactic is to disappear altogether for a couple of weeks and return with a complete MakeUnder (the opposite of a makeover). If you’re already above the nerd category, there’s nowhere to go but down. But if you’re the lowest of the low…perhaps a popular boy might decide to assist you à la “The DUFF.”

Therefore, you must first disappear, then become a head-to-toe nerd (avoid wearing overalls if you can help it, but some fashion sacrifices have to be made for the sake of future popularity). To all my loyal fans, I’m telling you: this plan is foolproof. Even if no high-ranking love interest scoops you up and brings you to a special table on the Quad, you have a backup plan. Wait the entire summer and then return in August with a complete fashion change – I’m talking new hairstyle, new outfits and no glasses. It’ll blow everybody’s socks off, and you’ll be swept off into popularity in no time.

4. Take a Stance on Love

To quote the 2021 AP Psychology textbook, “Humans fall into two clear-cut categories: those who are hopeless romantics and believe in fate and those who believe love is simply chemicals in the brain and prefer logic over emotions.” This psychology trick is going to save you some time so you can focus on finals. Simply pick a side: aggressive optimist or obnoxious pessimist. Keep in mind that the former requires you to exhibit lots of air-headed qualities like nativité and poorly-placed trust. The latter necessitates excessively cynical comments and irritability (bonus points if you enjoy math or chemistry). But whatever you choose will be perfectly balanced out by the love interest (of the opposite category) who will fall right into your lap. If you’re hoping to skip the popularity step and go straight to true love, this is by far the quickest and most realistic strategy.

5. Find Your Sidekick

You know what they say: one is silver, the other’s gold. That’s right – friends are an important part of every protagonist’s character arc. This is an important step, but it can also be challenging because it is usually necessary that you and your BFF for life have been BFFs for life since childhood. You sleep over at each other’s houses every night, their parents are basically your own and you tell each other everything. The Sidekick is a worthwhile investment because no protagonist is really complete without it. There are not many immediate benefits to this one (besides, of course, unconditional love and support), but the Sidekick does eventually bear fruit.

If you’re starting from scratch, it’s going to be difficult, but you do have the option of choosing your Sidekick. I recommend deciding based on if they have any attractive older siblings (see the famous documentary “The Kissing Booth” for more in-depth instructions on The Hot Older Brother).

If you’re not starting from scratch, then you’re already on your way to a stellar character arc. Once you achieve popularity, you two will inevitably have a massive argument in which the Sidekick insists that you’ve changed, resulting in a few days of heartache. But don’t worry because it’ll all be resolved before the Big Dance when you will somehow make it up to them during your prom queen speech.

Now, while a couple of these can take time (see 3 and 5), this How-To guide, if followed correctly, will ensure that you have a dramatic high school experience. Finally, before I see you off to become the main character, I have one warning for you. Never, under any circumstances, start out popular. This is an immediate red flag. If you are already well-liked, attractive, athletic or, possibly worst of all, dating the quarterback, you’re absolutely doomed: you are without a doubt the mean girl. The mean girl rarely gets any love by the end of the story. For the easiest route to popularity and true love, stick with the unsuspecting, clumsy protagonist role.

Good luck, and remember: don’t be too safe on those stairs.