Quote 1

I try to explain all this popularity stuff to Rowley (who is probably hovering around the 150 mark, by the way), but I think it just goes in one ear and out the other with him.

Greg describes Rowley’s indifference to popularity in “September,” establishing the theme of social status and popularity. Greg obsesses over social status and regularly ranks his classmates by popularity. Greg is extremely focused on his own rank, which he estimates at 52 or 53. Greg feels that Rowley is more childlike than Greg and often embarrasses him. Greg also makes it clear to readers that Rowley is less popular, and he implies that having a less popular friend boosts his self-esteem. The tone suggests that Greg feels he is doing Rowley a favor by being his friend and trying to educate him on the social hierarchy of middle school. Rowley, on the other hand, does not care what people think of him. He is not self-conscious or easily embarrassed. Rowley is a stark contrast to Greg. Rowley is unapologetically himself and not interested in social status. These characteristics make Rowley more emotionally mature and a more loyal friend than Greg.

Quote 2

I figure if I bulk up now, it could actually come in handy down the road. The football unit is coming in the spring, and they split the teams up into shirts and skins. And I ALWAYS get put on skins. I think they do that to make all the out-of-shape kids feel ashamed of themselves.

In this quote from “November,” Greg reveals his real motivation for wanting to lift weights and build muscle is his fear of being labeled “unpopular.” Throughout the novel, Greg equates masculinity with popularity. Greg feels inadequate in P.E. because he is smaller than the other boys. His smaller physique embarrasses him. Greg’s embarrassment shows that he values the stereotypical view of masculinity that correlates strength and intimidation with being male. Greg views strength in two ways. First, the kids who are stronger bully Greg. Next, the kids who are stronger tend to be good athletes. In Greg’s experience, the kids who are physically stronger and athletic are also more popular. Therefore, Greg equates physical strength with popularity and male identity. He thinks he can improve his social status by becoming stronger and better at football. He ignores the fact that he doesn’t really enjoy or excel at football. His illogical choice make sense considering the sentiment suggested in the last sentence of the quote. Greg sees middle school as an antagonistic, unpleasant experience that young people are made to suffer through, not something to be enjoyed.

Quote 3

I WANTED to sign up for Home Economics 2, because I was pretty good at Home Ec. 1. But being good at sewing does not exactly buy you popularity points at school.

This quote by Greg in “January” illustrates his complex view of masculinity and the rigidity of gender roles in defining popularity. Greg learned and enjoyed domestic skills like cooking and sewing in home economics. However, since these skills are typically associated with women and girls, Greg’s classmates made fun of him when they realized he enjoyed and was good at them. Greg’s dad also enforces rigid gender roles, implying that Greg also learned this thinking from his male role models. Dad often encourages more typically masculine activities like sports and weightlifting. Greg’s decision to stop taking home economics shows that masculinity, and by extension popularity and pleasing others, are more important to him than his own enjoyment even when it comes to something as important as choosing his classes. Social status and popularity are constant factors in Greg’s decision making, and his desire to be popular often prevents him from engaging in activities he truly enjoys.