I only fought public tears once during my first day of high school.
It wasn’t when I forgot my locker combination — or when my massive backpack, filled with books that couldn’t go into my locker, whacked a popular girl’s lunch off a table.
No, I found myself on the verge of tears after realizing my friends and I had nothing remotely similar to The Max, the “Saved by the Bell” hangout I worshipped during my preteen years.
Plus, there were no guys sporting thick-rimmed glasses while trying desperately to secure a date.
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The thick-rimmed glasses were intact, but somehow their wearers acquired a “mysterious artsy guy” status that put them outside my league.
So much for high school’s “as seen on TV” label.
Pop culture’s high schools are fun, intriguing and often quote-worthy.
Do they depict reality? Maybe not.
Even the fictional William McKinley High School, the setting for Fox’s innovative and refreshing “Glee,” isn’t a carbon copy of reality.
But that’s why we watch, right? Submitted for your approval, here are the five rules that most commonly govern pop culture’s high schools:
There are only four teachers. At best.
What’s more, these four teachers somehow manage to instruct the lead characters during their entire four-year high school career.
The typical faculty includes, but is not limited to: The Cool Young Teacher Who’s Balancing High School With an Awkward Personal Life, The Old Gruff Teacher Who Actually Has a Soft Side and The Clueless Teacher Used for Comic Relief.
A nearby all-ages hangout is always open for business and employment.
Need examples? Refer to The Max from “Saved by the Bell” and the Peach Pit from “Beverly Hills, 90210.”
These venues function as daily hangouts for the series’ characters, though none of them will ever gain weight from the hamburger-and-fries menu.
You can also expect a jovial manager who unintentionally teaches the teens valuable life lessons.
Admission age is flexible.
Just ask Gabrielle Carteris, who navigated classes and social life on “Beverly Hills, 90210” while playing a character about half her age.
Lea Michele, one of the leads on “Glee,” is 23, while AnnaLynne McCord from the new “90210” is also 23.
Want to create a successful pop culture high school? Fill your hallways with teenagers who aren’t actually teenagers. Bonus points if they use big words like “eradicate” in casual conversation.
Homework is secondary.
A pop culture high school rarely reminds viewers that high school is designed to bolster students’ intellectual growth.
Homework and textbooks must only be shown in situations designed to further a non-academic plot line.
Appropriate scenarios include a tutoring partnership that results in a love connection, or a foiled test-cheating plan that leads to a friendship between the Troublemaker and The Old Gruff Teacher Who Actually Has a Soft Side.
Resilience is key.
Enroll in the school featured on the “Degrassi” TV series and you’ll most likely be subjected to an eating disorder, family tragedy or life-changing relationship conflict. Perhaps all the above.
Many pop culture high schools thrive on dramatic extremes, putting their cast members though almost every teenage crisis imaginable.
But don’t worry. Usually everybody graduates in the end — well, after a massive protest and an emotional goodbye set to your favorite Sarah McLachlan tune.