Even eleven years after “Mean Girls,” with many of its original audience now in college or older, the issue of cliques still ring true. It’s a pretty well established fact that in most large, social situations, humans will separate themselves (consciously or subconsciously) into distinct groups. We can all tell the difference between the preps and the burnouts, the wannabes and the nerds. These are just a few of the many packs, each with their own with vague subcategories, that were found in the fictional North Shore High School, but similar groups are witnessed all around in the real world as well. The only difference is that we focus less on navigating high school corridors and more on carving out a space for ourselves, in the world full that we don’t fully understand.
Safety is a heavily weighted word. We use it quite a lot in our phrases; safe and sound, stay safe, it’s better to be safe than sorry. One that most of you should know by know is “there is safety in numbers.” It is generally believed to be true and in the case of our primitive ancestors, a greater number of warriors would certainly prove a challenge for any aggressive foe. But it seems as if this method of assuring one’s protection from threat has lingered in our societal constructs even today, when we are no longer encumbered by wild animals in our living space, but instead by our different cliques. With some variation, most groups of this day are structured around common interests or socio-economic status. We see it everywhere we look. There are the group of girls who have nearly identical fashion senses, H&M jackets paired with dresses from Banana Republic. There are all the boys who watch football religiously, rattling off statistics about their favorite teams like its nothing. In the workplace, it’s usually a matter of economics, class, and type of work. It isn’t very often that you see a CEO sharing a beer with a member of the custodial staff.
None of this is necessarily bad, though it may contribute a great deal to publicly enforced stereotypes, but it does definitely draw some strong lines between groups of people. Even those who don’t fit in well enough with a specified clique wind-up making their own. Misfits and loners are as much of a classification of people as rich kids or geeks. I bet when you think of any of these terms, a certain image or individual (whether real or imagined) pops inside of your head with all the traits that societies connect with them. You know exactly what being a LAX bro looks like, just as well as another person can smell a Weebo from a mile away.
It’s all very animalistic. We, as human beings, are forming wolf packs. Invisible lines that separate alphas, betas, and omegas are similarly drawn for our own species. Crossing these lines, while not always a matter of bigotry or one of the million “-ism”s we use, is still an event that evokes pondering. Look at our films, where teen rom-coms show how wrong (but oh so right!) it is for the prom king to date the art geek. Or how the wealthy actress deigns to woo and be wooed by the middle-class charmer she meets serendipitously. A few of us still gawk at interracial couples, or do a double-take when confronted with the sight of a tall female romantically kissing her shorter boyfriend.
I personally believe that our fascination with classifying each other and ourselves is not about separating each other, but rather about bringing us closer together. Our safety may be in numbers, but we decide if we want our protection to be based on wit or physical fitness, by our loyalty to each other or to the goals we share. Even when there is a mixing of sorts between our societal factions, there is always some reliance on a common denominator and I am not talking about the mathematical term. We coax out similarities between the goth and the hippie, uniting them as two people who write their feelings into poetry and song. Relationships become symbiotic, where strengths are played to and weaknesses are countered by partnerships.
And this all coincides with our need to belong, to be loved and respected by others. We are comforted by the idea that our friends are just like us. I enjoy being around people who listen to the same music I do and have added many a song to my playlists based on a friend’s recommendation. My best friend and I watch dance videos sometimes on YouTube because we both find dance to be an extraordinarily beautiful way to express one’s thoughts and emotions. And this is not just a matter of friendship, humans who are romantic with each other want to know that the person they love shares their own visions of the future. I have friends who don’t want children later on in life and they need partners who can understand and accept that.
So it doesn’t really matter that wolves run in different packs or that they are grouped together by their geographical location, the length of their snouts, the color of their coats. All of them will still be linked by the genus of Canis and the fact that they howl at the moon. And humans are not that much different. We are all people, after all, regardless of gender or creed. We wear different masks, but we all look the same underneath them.