In possibly the most appalling letter Dear Abby has ever published, a woman wrote that her sister brags about how popular her teen daughter is because she gives boys oral sex.
Naturally, this brought a flurry of mail from outraged readers, and among the responses was this, from Barbara in Kalamazoo, Mich.:
In my opinion, that mother wants her daughter to be popular for all the wrong reasons. Mom sounds like someone who sat on the sidelines in high school and never understood that what makes a person popular is the ability to carry on an intelligent conversation, get good grades, provide community service and so on. Pity!
Actually, popularity is a good deal more than that, and not necessarily things to which you want your kids aspiring.
At one time, researchers thought they knew what “popular” meant: being a good egg that everybody liked. It was positive status and power. But as sociologists and psychologists delved deeper into the subculture of adolescence, they realized that “popularity” among school-age kids is far more subtly shaded, with some dark sides.