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The VICE Guide to School

Spit out that gum, put your phone away and pay attention.

by Lucy Grace
01 August 2012, 8:00am

School is the worst thing ever, but it's something we all have to endure. (Unless you're homeschooled, but then you have to spend all day with your mega-weirdo parents, and that's way worse.) Old people will constantly tell you that "your school days are the best days of your life". But all that means is that they've somehow fucked up so bad that their life since school has actually been worse than school. Can you fucking imagine? Eugh.

Going to school in the 21st century is much like it's always been, i.e. like walking a horrible, horrible tightrope of anxiety and embarrassment. The only difference now is that if you fall off that tightrope, everyone will know about it a lot quicker, because we have the internet and mobile phones to help us spread information about who in our year has a 7PM curfew and who's the only virgin to have ever lived, ever.

Luckily, I'm a wizened, old sixth-former, so I possess the authority to help guide you through this terrible time. So spit out that gum, put your phone away and pay attention.


I hate to be the one to break this to you, but no amount of tactical ripping or oversized safety pins is going to prove that you're the last living punk or Sylvia Plath's natural heir. For now, try and appreciate the homogeny of it all, because pretty soon you'll have to dress yourself. Every. Single. Fucking. Day. Just know and take solace in the fact that every school uniform in the land is ergonomically designed to make perfectly adequate looking boys and girls look like sacks of baked beans.

GIRLS: Contrary to what old dudes on the internet believe, no one looks sexy in plaid or skirts that weigh more than a wet dog. Attempting to sex things up in any way is futile, and means you'll be spending your mornings grooming, when you should be spending them sleeping. Also, covering spots with excessive Maybelline matte mouse doesn't hide them; it makes you look like Mars (as in, the planet).

BOYS: You may think having one of those weird stubby ties makes you look like a straight-up G, but girls aren't impressed by them. And in fact, schoolgirls aren't generally gonna be impressed by much that you do, because you're a boy, so you're going to spend lunch either a) smoking, or b) running around kicking footballs and getting so rosy-faced your spots will vanish into the red lump where your features normally are. Basically, you're going to stink. Oh, and you're going to get lots and lots of boners - remember to hide these securely behind your waistband. It doesn't matter how old you are, no one likes a guy who stinks and has a boner.


Obviously, you should try as hard as possible not to attend. Feign a four-year period, repeatedly break your own ankles, pack an offensive double-sided T-shirt as kit. Anything. But, if you do have to attend, do as little as possible, as badly as possible. Eventually your teacher will give up trying to motivate you when they realise you have the hand-eye coordination of a two-month-old baby and you'll get to be that person who holds the stopwatch during rope climbing forever.


Just don't. This isn't Notes On A Scandal; you won't end up in bed with a sexy art teacher. This is Lolita, you are being raped and you're going to end up with your face blurred out in The Daily Mail. Then there'll be a tribunal, crying parents, bullying, a creeping sense of shame, moving schools etc etc. So just do your fucking maths homework, K?


Nope. I don't care if the kids at your school look like the kids at the school in Gossip Girl. JUST DO NOT GO THERE. Really. Eventually, your year will hear the siren's call of cheap booze and, before you know it, it's basically mandatory to give at least one BJ to a classmate. Sure, it'll seem like a great idea, part of life's erotic tapestry, but what are you, 30? EVERYONE HAS A VIDEO CAMERA! TRUST NO ONE. Believe me, as soon as some power-hungry tween is scoring points from footage of you with a throat full of disappointing, hairless dick, you'll wish you'd listened to mum, not Kim K.

Fortunately this never happened to me because I am approximately three-feet taller than every single person alive and discuss my menstrual cycle in public. I am repellent. I have, however, listened eagerly while classmates describe other classmates' genitals in great detail (and then texted everyone I know about it, obv. And NO ONE has a big penis once a giggling girl's describing it).


How drunk can you get beforehand in the car park sharing a bottle of Sprite and Vodkat with six of your friends? How many Cheesy Wotsits can you eat? How many arses can you slap to "Party Rock Anthem"? How indiscreetly can you finger a girl in a room of 150 people? How depressed will you be two years later when someone tags the photos on Facebook and then they are there forever and ever and ever and you realise that you can't make up a character for yourself at college like your parents did? School discos exist to provide answers to these questions. Make sure yours are the right ones.


Girls, your periods will sync. No joke! And nothing is more fun than being trapped in a building with 2,000 menstruating teenagers. Also, every fight will be blown way, way out of proportion with no dudes there to temper your ridiculous drama. Be prepared to ignore someone for two years for saying your GHDs are fake. Boys; just so you know, those weird same-sex masturbation games? Nobody is ever allowed to talk about those ever again (EVER).

Basically, your parents hate you and are punishing you. Soz about that!


Oh I'm sorry, is your superior education and head start in life getting you down? Just kidding, I bet you're actually really down with the proles, your dad probably has Hogarth's Gin Lane on his wall. I don't really have any advice for you, pretty much everyone I know who's been privately educated says "hilair" and wears Jack Wills and has a personality disorder they pay people to ignore. Either that, or they will go the other way and develop a sense of shame about their privilege. Which leads to them shaving their heads, starting to talk like low-end drug dealers, possibly even becoming low-end drug dealers and generally trying to ape the people who rob them on Saturday nights in Clapham. This will either be permanent, or they will snap out of it at 18 when they realise no one is falling for it and, more importantly, no one likes low-end drug dealers.

(Brushes chip off shoulder, flicks hair.)


Sort out who you'll sit next to the day before, steal something from the giftshop, don't eat your sandwich on the coach or in a manner that will repulse people. Easy.

Also, I know a girl who let her boyfriend eat her out in the toilets at a petrol station on the way back from a school trip to Center Parcs. Don't do that.


Better start thumbing your rosary with sheer, wanton gratitude, because if your faith school is anything like mine, you're in for some golden moments. For me, the high point of secondary school was sex education, which consisted entirely of us watching a VHS of a foetus being aborted in year nine. Thanks to this, I only found out what a urethra was when, aged 16 (16!!!!), I asked a sexual health nurse why I didn't have to change my tampon every time I pissed, because obviously girls piss out of their vaginas, duhhh! Excuse me, what? Another hole? Mortifying.

The only way you can deal with faith school is to GTFO. Honestly, it's so lame. Once you've sat through weekly mass for a couple of months, the prospect of attending a shitty school with metal detectors, or a boarding school filled with children called Dionysus Casablancas-Hull, becomes the stuff of wet dreams.

Fascinating and Fun Faith School Fact: I was confirmed by a priest who is now in jail on 23 counts of child molestation. Get some brochures for secular learning institutions NOW.


If you are too awkward/slutty/stupid/clever/fat, there are things you can do to amend this, but quite frankly, I wouldn't waste your time. Ninety-nine percent of the people you go to school with will disappear into the ether never to be seen again beyond an FB timeline of underwhelming Christmas parties and unplanned pregnancy. When you leave, you will only stay in contact with two people. True story. I know it sounds lame, but just put your headphones in and try and stay out of the way of anyone that could beat the shit out of you.

Oh, and try to remember that almost everyone you don't like will probably end up working with their mums selling stuff door-to-door. You will develop, out of necessity, a personality. Looks fade, especially when you're hot enough to get impregnated at 16. When you've got a great personality, the sky's the limit. Kinda. I mean, a shitty middleclass job is the limit. But you'll be able to stay up as long as you like!


Bullying is basically the same thing as sleeping with prostitutes: Fun, but really, really bad for everyone involved. You're basically ruining someone's life and unleashing the potential of complete, ironic karmic comeuppance upon yourself. In fact, the very best you can hope for is that your victim will be so spurred on by you pointing out their weight/poverty/race/virginity/dead mum that they become an unholy success, return to your life and crush you financially as retribution. Far more likely is that you'll have helped a self-harming alcoholic along their path to early death. Well done, you fucking arsehole.


Ooooooh. Ouch. This one's horrible. Cyber bullying is the absolute complete and utter worst, because unlike normal bullying, the scratched-knees and eating-lunch-in-the-toilet type of bullying, it will follow you home, squirrelled away in your phone, and travel with you everywhere. It is also where parents' and teachers' advice excels in terms of uselessness. They basically grew up in a simpler world, and no one ever bullied anyone by fax. It's very, very, very easy for them to tell you not to use "social networking sites", but frankly, you're 16, most of your life takes place on one. If you are being shat on by goons on Instagram, there's a four-step programme you can follow to minimise it:


What I mean by this is: Give them two chances to get out of it, then printscreen that message from Sarah saying that you "stink of farm animals, and blow caretakers", present it to her in front of all her friends and then kick the living shit out of that bitch.


All homework is to be done in the first ten minutes of the class immediately following the one in which you were assigned it. Or just copy it, the teachers don't read it and you have better things to be doing out of school hours, thanks.


My thoughts as I travelled to prom went something like this: "Why am I the third person in a two-seater? Why is this jumpsuit threatening to dice my labia in its steel vice? Why did I pay £30 to spend the evening eating potato dauphinoise with people I hate? How so sweaty?" Basically, prom is BALLS.

Prom is a disgusting concept; the Americans blessed us with many truly glorious things (Michelle Obama AKA Dream Mom; KFC; Scarlett Johansson nude pics) but prom is not one of them, and you are going to pay the price in sweat, blood, fake tan and acres of Taffeta. Unless, of course, you're a boy, in which case you just have to rent a suit and douse your ballsack in Lynx Africa.

It's not some "last hurrah" to celebrate your school days, it's a competition to see whose parents can spend the most money with the least taste. And every single one of you who chips in for the limo, dances to Flo Rida, buys the corsage, stands there, fixing your parents with a starry-eyed, slightly Oedipal stare for the camera, condones it. So just don't.


Unless you go to school in any of the locations namechecked on "Still D.R.E.", it's likely that any gang you'll come across in the corridors of education are going to be a bit more West Side Story than Boyz n the Hood. Even if you do go to the kind of school where your classmates make grime tracks calling out people by their street names, chances are it was probably filmed by a well-meaning, over-liberal young Media Studies teacher. But if you are unlucky enough to go to a school with a real, genuine, scary gang presence: Good luck! Probs don't bring a knife to school; I can't imagine that ever ends well.


It works like this: boys who use BlackBerries probably also wear those offensively beige chinos and sexually harass 13-year-olds via BBM while claiming they were "totes up on the riots gossip last year, yo". Girls who use BlackBerries use them solely for tweeting unpleasant things about their friends and taking pictures, but NEVER EVER for phone calls. I don't know why.

Meanwhile, pretty much everyone with an iPhone only uses them for taking grachewitous (geddit, "chew") pictures of their lunch on Instagram, or their Supreme snapbacks, which incidentally, still look ridiculous in sepia. If you don't fall into any of the aforementioned camps, then well done! You have better things to do than stick rhinestones onto electronic devices, or send pictures of your cock to people. You can rest easy in the knowledge that no one will steal your phone during PE and that you are exempt from conversations about tariffs, 3G access and "going over my minutes".


School is in some respects like every TV drama depiction of prison. Well, only really in one respect, which is that if you win a fight on your first day people will probably leave you alone. That is unless it's a school full of cunts, in which case it might just queue you up for a few years of getting hit in the face. Another thing to bear in mind is that it's far easier than you think to kill someone. Think about that when you're stamping on someone's head or hitting them in the face with a protractor, because society has no sense of humour when it comes to dead kids and you could end up in a Youth Offenders Institution; and it's really hard to get out of PE in those schools.


It's happened. Someone has sauntered into class, with an awful, enigmatic, self-satisfied smile playing on their lips. They are probably pretty attractive, with exciting older siblings. To a whispering and excitable audience, they divulge that they got "pretty fucking blazed" at the weekend, and you immediately start to hate them a little bit. Unless you are indescribably posh, and were raised on ponies and parental cocaine contact highs, this is how your year at school gets interested in druuuugs. Cheap, low-quality weed, pilfered from an elder sibling. What an anti-climax.

The first thing you need to know is that half of your year is bullshitting: no 15-year-old smokes an eighth to themselves and "just jammed to some Gold Panda, man", so tell them to drop the hippy bullshit, because you know they were really white-faced and puking in a sink. Secondly, there's no pressure to "do drugs". Really! You may have an amazing night, but you might have a breakdown because your brain is full of weird chemicals already.

It's probably wise to try out your illegal substances with a wise older cousin to see if it's really for you. Otherwise you'll end up buying some horrible pills from a sociopath at a festival, then chewing your gums to slithers and disappearing into a black psychological hole in a field full of people who neither know or care for you.

Booze though, that's fine and dandy. But you ARE going to puke. In public. And your parents WILL know. But it will be funny for about a month afterwards.


Just because the Sunbury Manor lot happen to be based half a mile away from you, it doesn't mean that they're your sworn enemies and you have to Spaghetti Western each other across the train platform. They're just like you really. The ties around your neck are not gang scarves, you're not venturing into each other's endz if you have to run for the bus. You are one and the same. Besides, who wants to get hurt over the honour of their school? That'd be like shanking somebody because you saw them with a Tesco bag in Sainsbury's. There's not enough choice involved to make it worth the beef. Unless you go to one of those ghetto schools which backs onto a private school's vast rugby field. In which case, go nuts! Pick through the pile of debris that used to be your state-funded comprehensive and hurl all the bricks you like.

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