I absolutely despise the word popular, and I truly believe it is the most meaningless word in the English language.
Its lack of meaning is followed closely by the word “successful,” but popular still tops my list.
Technically, it has a definition, but the way people throw it around, popular is a word with no substance.
But some individuals, even parents, use the word as though it has profound implications.
For example, I recently heard a parent say, “I’m so proud that my daughter did the right thing instead of the popular thing.”
I can’t relate to the father’s choice of words.
If he’d said his daughter didn’t succumb to peer pressure or had made a decision with which her friends didn’t agree, I would have understood.
But “the popular thing?”
When I was in high school, there was a self-proclaimed “popular” group, but, ironically, no one outside the group much respected or even liked most of the members.
Granted, they controlled certain spaces in the school, wore overpriced clothes and were generally considered good-looking.
They certainly didn’t meet the dictionary definition, which means regarded with favor, approval or affection by the majority of people.
Elite? Maybe. But popular? Not so much.
As an adult I appreciate how most people mature, pursue their own interests and broaden their circle of friends and associates.
Which is why I don’t understand why some parents give any weight to the word popular.
Even now, my children don’t care about how their friends are labeled.
My daughter, who loves the musical Wicked, has proclaimed that she doesn’t understand Glinda, who is pretty but obsessed with popularity. Instead, she relates to Elphaba, the unique and gifted lead character who demonstrates love and compassion for the plight of others, regardless of how they look or what others think of them.
I can only hope I’ve raised my children to do the same.
And if those beliefs don’t make any of us ”popular,” I don’t really care.