an excerpt from Nerds: Who They Are and Why We Need More of Them, by David Anderegg.
young teenagers are fascists. the whole issue of “popularity” in middle school is a yawning gulf of misery for most people, at least when viewed in memory. that’s because kids in middle school are, in a social sense, fascists. conformity rises to a peak in kids roughly from the ages of ten to thirteen, and desirability of all kinds is rigidly circumscribed by what is seen as “normal.” the reasons for this are unclear, but it may have to do with puberty itself: the physical changes of puberty do not appear at the same time for all kids, and they are all in a state of suspended animation waiting for this to happen. while they wait, and since they cannot impose any regularity on their bodies, they impose a rigid regularity on each other. although this social hazing now starts earlier and earlier, seventh grade is the peak. it is a time in most kids’ lives when being different from the agreed-on norm is an absolute guarantee of social death.