Given the frequency of our play dates, some of the kids were almost like siblings, particularly in the sense that whether I liked or hated them on a given day was bound to fluctuate, and ultimately it didn't matter because we had to put up with each other anyway.
However, now we had hit a significant transition period. Elementary school had ended and our parents would no longer be responsible for setting up who we socialized with. In fact, the very next day, we would begin junior high, and several of us who had attended different primary schools would now find ourselves in the same building on a daily basis. I had been wondering what this would mean for our relationships, and it quickly became clear:
"So, are you guys, like, popular?" the pretty, athletic girl asked another girl who went to my same elementary school and me.
I froze. The answer was no. Well, pretty much. In sixth grade (probably the peak of my social life until I hit college, sadly) I was well-liked, well-respected, and considered smart and funny. I was friends with a bunch of the popular kids, even. But in the 12-year-old sense, that's not what makes someone "popular." There's a certain look, attitude, and cliquishness required to be popular, and I didn't fit that mold.
While I was still unsure of how to explain my popularity status, the other girl, who was slightly more popular than me but hardly high in the pecking order, chimed in. "Oh, we're super popular!" she said, without a hint of sarcasm, while giving me a high-five.
My first thought was, "This girl is delusional! We're not popular!" Even if she was lying on purpose, it's not like the pretty girl wasn't going to figure it out. I could already see the incredulous look on her face as she tried to size up whether we were actually popular. This distinction, I could already tell, was going to determine whether she continued friendships with us in junior high school.
Well, spoiler: I wasn't actually popular, and so she never once acknowledged me again, acting as if I didn't exist anytime she passed me in the halls. It turned out she wasn't even super popular herself, she just had the privilege of walking three steps behind the popular girls amongst other vaguely popular girls who were indistinguishable from her.
And while the girl who bluffed about our popularity received similar treatment from the pretty girl, we ended up becoming better friends. That was a turning point for us, actually. I mean, how could I not respect someone who refused to take that elitist girl's question seriously? I lost one "friend", but found a better one.