Innie or Outie?


old school picture

setting sun outside Ft Scott

Is There Life After HS?

Are you an innie or an outie?   The question has nothing to do with navels.

Recently, as the cashier rang up my groceries in the checkout line, I overheard the chatter between the young man bagging my groceries and a younger grocery bagger for the next line. “First, you have to admit if you’re an innie or an outie,” he said to her.

The cashier and I exchanged looks of surprise.

As it turned out, the young man, home from college and working over the weekend, was describing a psychology course that compared high school perceptions with future expectations and achievements.   The course included Ralph Keyes’ 1979 book, IS THERE LIFE AFTER HIGH SCHOOL?  “Innies” in high school were basically popular insiders: “outies” were outsiders who had less popular or well known friends and less public activities.  Briefly, the young man assured the high school girl that ongoing studies revealed that many outies often did better in the long run than innies, but students in the middle of the two were most likely to rise up and achieve multiple successes.   He concluded by winking at the girl and saying, “Be proud if you’re an outie. Think of all the really successful people who didn’t bloom until after high school.”

For 30 years I taught high school students, and while the bagger’s summary was incomplete, he did capture some of the main points. Ralph Keyes’ closing for his book is called “101 Ways To Get High School Off Your Back,” and the examples are a mix of funny, exaggerated, and thought-provoking suggestions.   For both students and teachers, high school is, at best, a mix of the good, the bad and the ugly for “innies” and “outies” and everyone in the middle.

But here’s some good news: the most embarrassing, off-the-wall, funny experiences you had in high school might become winning entries in The Wergle Flomp Humor Poetry Contest. There is NO entry fee, but $2,500 in prizes, and First Place receives $1,000. It’s an open contest, the deadline is April 1, and if you don’t want to write about high school humor, write about any topic that makes you smile, blush, or laugh out loud.

Your poem can be long, short, rhyming or not. Even if you don’t write poetry, use the link below to click on previous winners.  You can have a lot of fun and might be inspired to jump in and give it a try!


One of my favorite greeting cards.  Could be a prompt for a poem about working out, high school angst, or awkward efforts in general.

One of my favorite greeting cards could be a prompt for a poem about working out, high school angst, or awkward efforts in general.





Filed under Dementia/Alzheimer's, just doing the best we can, lessons about life, paying writing opportunities, writing contest with cash prizes, writing exercises

46 responses to “Innie or Outie?

  1. I was all ready to declare, I’m an “innie” in the navel world. As for high school, I was an “outie.” Cliques were never my thing, I hung out with people from all different groups. Thanks for the contest info, Marylin…it sounds like fun!

  2. I could put ‘ditto’ after all your comments, Jill. I do remember how some from both groups closed ranks sometimes, but overall it wasn’t that much of a problem. Was your high school large or small? We had only 200 in our graduating class, so maybe that made a difference.
    If you have any humorous experiences about editing your book or getting ready to publish, Jill, you might have a poem idea! 😉

  3. juliabarrett

    Great info! Sounds like a fun contest. For a time I wanted to be an ‘innie’. But being an ‘outie’ was far more interesting!

    • Think of your Big Foot prints you keep finding at your house. The premise–and your reactions–could make a great entry in the contest! Or one of your experiences helping your daughter on the ranch. You have many choices.

  4. I can see the competition is going to really bring the humorists out Marylin. I daresay the results would make a great book on their own.
    xxx Massive Hugs xxx

    • If you go to the contest and click on “past winners,” David, you’ll find some amazing poems. One of the funniest winners was “Sexual Positions for Those No Longer Young”! You’re right; some of the entries would make a terrific book! Massive Hugs to you!

  5. WithOUT a doubt, you were IN the right grocery store at the right time. And the card humor, spot ON. I too was an outie in high school, the studious type with a cap on her head.

    I marvel at how you transform an ordinary anecdote into a wise reflection – and another invitation for creativity. Thank you!

    • Oh, Marian, I love all the OUT and IN word parts you use! If only we could have thought of all these things and laughed in high school. As I told David, one of the previous contest winners was “Sexual Positions for Those No Longer Young,” which is quite good. But I thought of your reference to being a studious Outie with a cap on your head, and you could write a touching, funny and true poem about being both Plain and Fancy! 🙂

  6. I was a bit of both in high school. I preferred reading to playing sports. I also made friends with the teachers and the not popular kids which was considered uncool. Most of the “in” crowd did not do so well in adult life unfortunately.

    • One of the chapters in Keyes’ book makes that point, too, Darlene. The bag boy was a good looking kid, strong, confident, and though he was an athlete, he seemed like more a team player than one of the big shots. It was interesting to hear him talk about the psychology class and how much he learned from the discussions. Oh, if only we knew then what we know now, right?

  7. Jane Sturgeon

    I immediately thought ‘Mum always said I look good in purple’ ….loved this post and I will have a look at the poetry competition. I do pen the odd ditty for my work colleagues…I was in a huge school in a foreign country and a tomboy ‘outie’. Not much has changed then! Love you Marylin. Xx

    • I think the size of our high school does have something to do with the dynamics of Innies and Outies, Jane. And I’d guess you were a great tomboy outie! Can you write a poem entry about that? Hugs to you! ❤

  8. I love the way you turned an overheard conversation into a broader discussion–and added a link to a humor poetry contest! Fun post. 🙂

    I was definitely an outie, but it was a big school, and I’m not even sure who the innies were. I didn’t care either.

  9. I was definitely an outie during high school Marylin. I had a close knit group of friends and I can look back and say I’m glad. They were tried and true and for that, I’m grateful. What an interesting post! Thank you!

    • I think most of my friends were somewhere in the middle, Joanne, neither true innies nor outies. Just average kids trying to figure out high school and do the best they could. When you look at baby Penelope and imagine her in high school, you probably wish for her what you had, a close knit group of good friends. ❤

  10. It is amazing what people do to one another, esp. in high school. It is hard to explain to students that being an outie is not a bad thing; they can’t see it. Several students in my own class come to mind. One fellow was SO out of things, but he ened up being a successful engineer in aircraft and became much less shy, more outgoing in his adulthood. It has been a pleasure to watch him at class reunions.

    • But you’re so right, Claudia, when you say it’s hard to help students understand that being an outie isn’t a bad thing. We had several in our class like your friend, who came into their own in college and careers of engineering and technology. And when I was teaching there were so many that we as teachers could see their potential and knew they would find their way and do extraordinary things, yet they couldn’t believe it about themselves then.

  11. This made me laugh. We people who were more “outie” than “innie” can laugh now! Not so much at the time . . .

  12. I love this post, Marylin! I am going to share the “innies” and “outies” concept with my children today…I would say my two teens are both in the middle – a good place to be! But I remember all to well how I wanted to be an “innie”. XOXO

    • And for so many other things, Robyn, being in “the middle” (ie, of the road, on the fence, etc.) is not a good thing. But in the middle between innies and outies is a good place to be, a balance. You’re right, this would be a good discussion to have your children. 🙂 ❤

  13. Interesting debate – innies or outties. I’m always delighted when I meet an ex pupil who struggled at school with academia to be told that they are doing well, running their own business or or King their way up in one company or another. And perversely, I’m also quietly interested that those A star kids who showed so much early promise are stuck at home having returned from university with no job prospects.
    Thanks for the heads up on the poetry competition. I love humorous poems. I might have a go😉

  14. I was an outie, but I don’t think I want to relive any of my high school experiences – it’s great to have left it so far behind 🙂

    • One of my high school students once asked me if I wished I could go back in time and be 16 again. I answered honestly that I’d only go back if I could know then what I know now.
      Like you, Andrea, I’m glad it’s behind me. ;(

  15. I was definitely ‘out’. However, over the years I have come to accept that ‘out’ is good.

  16. Another wonderful post Marylin! being in or out wasn’t a problem in my school in Germany that I was aware of. We were not Angels and did a lot of other things. It was along time ago.

    • Sounds like angels with dirty faces? 😉 Getting into trouble as a group sounds a lot more healthy and desirable, Gerlinde, that having two groups getting into trouble against each other. High School (as a student, not as a teacher) was a long, long time ago for me, and I don’t remember it being a big problem, either.) 🙂

  17. I never could understand when anyone said that their high school years were the best of their lives. I couldn’t wait to leave. But then I think that ‘high school’ in my 70s UK was very different to the American version. I was definitely not an ‘innie’, no time for cliques, ever, can’t stand them now. So it’s great to know that ‘outies’ and those in the middle go on to succeed later in life. I didn’t start my writing career until I was in my early 50s so I take great comfort from that! Your posts always give me hope! Thank you too for the link. I’m trying to focus on finishing my memoir and vowed not to enter anything else until then, but I’m tempted with this one! Happy Sunday dear Marylin 🙂

  18. Innie or outie? I did think your post was going to be about belly buttons which I would have read because I’m sure it would have been a hilarious read. But this innie and outie post was just as interesting. I would say I fell in the middle of these two camps. And your greeting idea is great. Thanks for another informative and fun post, Marylin. 🙂

  19. Okay, Tracy, I’ll jot that down on a card to remind me: Tracy thinks it would be hilarious to have a post on innie and outie belly buttons! 🙂 😉
    I’m glad you found the h.s. group angle interesting, though.

  20. Jim

    Fun and funny post. Like other readers, I probably was both as a high schooler, sometimes residing on both sides within the same day. I always cherished my close high school friends, many with whom I am still in contact though distance separate us. Any idea which Mary might have been?

  21. Hi, Honey. My mom attended a very small rural school–with her brothers and sisters–and they got along with everyone. However, if one of them got picked on, they backed each other even if it meant being on the “outs” with another student. My grandmother told me that my mom was sweet and kind of quiet, but also creative and friendly and happy. I think she loved school. ❤

  22. Definitely an outie. I’ve always been odd and different and never fit in but I quite like it that way. It makes me unique.

  23. Interesting and funny! I guess I was a mostly outtie. I gained some recognition for athletics and some for having good grades but I was still that awkward, pimply girl on the sidelines of the social scene. I am glad that the person who told me, “Enjoy high school! It will be the best time of you life,” was WRONG!

  24. Looks like Outies are well represented here already. I too was an Outie although I always had a small group of other Outies to play with. So I was an Innie where I wanted to be.

    That contest looks intriguing, Marylin. My high school class celebrates 50 years next fall. I’ll have to contemplate. . . .

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