News & Politics

Secret Life of Teens: Youth Culture

Kids From Nearly 50 High Schools Told Us What They Won’t Tell You.

Editor’s Note: To protect the kids’ confidentiality, pseudonyms and photographs of models have been used.

Who’s Rich?

“If you go to the McLean or Langley parking lot, it’s depressing. You’ll see the teachers’ cars, Hondas that have 120,000 miles on them. Then you see a kid pull up in a Ferrari or Corvette. They’ll drive dad’s Beamer, crash it, and buy another.

—Mike, 18, McLean High

“At McLean, everyone is rich. There are certain people who are richer than others, but it’s not like there’s one person out of the entire school who’s super-rich. It’s like everyone is super-rich. You can’t ride the bus if you’re a senior or a junior. That’s really bad for your social status. Completely against the rules.”

—Michelle, 17, McLean High

“The girls who are super-rich are all so, so tan just because they have tanning beds in their houses.”

—Name withheld, Good Counsel High, Wheaton

“A lot of girls who are rich are the ones who are trying to humble themselves and really don’t want people to know.”

—Samantha, 17, National Cathedral School, DC

“This school’s $10,000 a year. To some people, that’s a lot. But I think that’s a big misconception about private school—that if you go to private school, you’re rich.”

—Jason, 17, Paul VI, Fairfax

“There’s a lot of financial aid, and that causes huge tension. You have the girl with her tinted pearls and dress of choice, then you have the girl who comes with $10 in her pocket. When girls take it for granted—that’s what makes the other girls really mad, and they’re not afraid to say it. This one girl has Diane von Furstenberg wrap dresses—they’re $200—and leaves them on her floor.”

—Amy, 16, Madeira School, McLean

“The lost and found at Churchill is a gold mine. It’s a bunch of Tiffany jewelry, North Face jackets, and TI-83 calculators. People go in and say, ‘Oh, I lost a Tiffany ring. It has a heart on it.’ That’s every Tiffany ring. People just take stuff and sell it.”

—Brooke, 18, Churchill, Potomac

“Wealthier kids don’t have a full sense of life. All they know is Montgomery County or Northern Virginia, and it’s just like a fairy-tale land.”

—Ben, 17, Gonzaga, DC

“The majority of cars at my school are SUVs or BMWs. It feels like you live in a bubble. That bothers me a little because I feel like I’m not as cultured and worldly and I don’t experience as much as if I went to a public school and encountered different types of people.”

—Leslie, 17, Stone Ridge School, Bethesda

“We definitely realize that money does afford the opportunity. It’s important. Kids who tell you it’s not important? They’re lying.”

—Carrie, 17, Thomas Jefferson, Alexandria

Mean Girls

“Girls can backstab. Girls can gossip. That’s awful and really shouldn’t happen, but it’s healthier than being really mean to someone’s face.”

—Samantha, 17, National Cathedral School, DC

“There’s like the popular girls who are really preppy, but it seems like half of them hate each other.”

—Zack, 16, Georgetown Day School, DC

“You hear that guys like women with curves or ‘Girls are too skinny,’ but we don’t believe them. They’re just saying that. Girls want to be skinnier. There are no overweight people in my school—two people who are sort of overweight. At some schools, girls are like, ‘I’m not gonna eat that.’ It’s a competition.”

—Lucy, 16, Maret, DC

“It’s something I think about every day—I don’t wanna blow up. I know at least five girls with eating disorders. A lot of kids say they have to ‘control something.’ I think that’s a load of crap. A lot of girls do it for attention.”

—Carrie, 17, Thomas Jefferson, Alexandria

Clique Clack

“Our school is divided by race more than money. You’ll have the white girls at one table and the black girls at another.”

—Meredith, 16, Elizabeth Seton High, Bladensburg

“The stereotypical magnet student doesn’t know how to dress, doesn’t know how to act socially, can’t pick up women. I’m pretty much the atypical magnet—I like to dress well, I go to parties, I don’t value my TI-83 over my other possessions.

“I was really mad when they instituted the ID policy here because your ID is color-coded by what program you’re in. I had to walk around with a white ID, which means everyone knows I’m a magnet.”

—Name and school withheld

“Field hockey is really elitist. They’re like, ‘We win everything, so we can only talk to each other while we win everything.’ But they’re nice people. If you get one alone, they’ll talk to you.”

—Carolyn, 17, Bethesda–Chevy Chase

“People make fun of marching band, which makes me so angry. We practice throughout the summer, outside in the heat, marching and doing drill. When the football team wins, there’s a big announcement. But when we win our chapter championships, people are like, ‘So?’ ”

—Christina, 15, Broadneck High, Annapolis

“Nobody cares whether you’re gay. It’s not that prejudice you heard about ten years ago. I have tons of gay friends.”

—Andrew, 18, Wakefield High, Arlington

“Alcohol has unified everyone—it’s the glue. I’ll be at parties like, ‘Weird. I’ve never been with these people in my life. I never thought I’d be standing here with so-and-so.’ Everyone’s like, ‘I love you, man.’ ”

—Liz, 17, Bethesda–Chevy Chase

“There are people who are like, ‘If you don’t come to our parties and get drunk with us, you’re not our friend.’ ”

—Julie, 17, Langley, McLean

“The most popular girl in our grade? People think she’s gorgeous. She comes to school wearing probably at least $1,000 worth of clothes. I’ve never seen her wear the same shirt twice. Diamond necklaces, diamond earrings.”

—Kate, 18, Churchill, Potomac

Melissa, 16, T.C. Williams, Alexandria: “There’s a small group of girls who are popular—”

Alexis, 15, T.C. Williams: “It’s more like they think they’re popular. It’s not like anybody else likes them. Everybody else hates them.”


“Without my cell phone—I would die.”

—Kate, 18, Churchill, Potomac

“What’s a land line?”

—Mark, 18, Churchill

“I can drive and text. Half the time I don’t even have to look down—you just know where all the buttons are. I won’t do it on the highway because that requires a lot more concentration.”

—Heather, 17, Seneca Valley, Germantown

“I’m a texting fiend. I had a plan with 100 text messages outside Verizon, but I went like 500 messages over. So then I got 500 outside Verizon, and that wasn’t enough. Then I got 5,000. I can stay inside 5,000, but I was keeping count and it was annoying. Now I have unlimited to everyone.”

—Hilary, 18, Loudoun County High, Leesburg

“I have certain cell-phone rings for people I have to pick up for, certain rings I don’t pick up for. If it’s a boy I’m interested in, I put on the same ringer as the alarm I wake up to—so I know I’ll wake up to it.”

—Kim, 17, Seneca Valley, Germantown

“This girl’s mom was getting on her instant-messenger log and reading her messages. I used to be really good friends with her, but I stopped talking to her after that because I didn’t want her mom reading my personal life.

“I talked to her at school, but talking online is such a big part of everything that when you stop talking to someone online, that relationship tapers off.”

—Jason, 17, Paul VI, Fairfax

“People worry about what they could be seen doing because of camera phones. There was a guy today in my math class showing people a video of his girlfriend when she was drunk. She was rolling around on the floor in her bra and underwear.

“I was like, ‘Honestly, if she was here, I think she would slap you.’ He was like, ‘She’s not.’ ”

—Kate, 18, Churchill, Potomac