For 13 years, I attended an all-girl private school on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. If that sounds familiar to you, it might be because you’ve seen it on television before. This setting served as the premise of the hit show Gossip Girl, which ran from 2007 to 2012. Narrated by the omniscient blogger "Gossip Girl," voiced by Kristen Bell, the series revolves around fictional students living in New York City.
My school served as partial inspiration for the series. The show even goes as far as to namedrop my school various times throughout the six seasons. Low key, my next door neighbor is coincidentally an actress on the show. But no, I’m nothing like Serena van der Woodsen or Blair Waldorf (though a girl can dream).
However, there were definitely some pretty crazy similarities between the lives portrayed on the screen and the things I saw daily. First off, yes, I did rock a uniform every day to classes.
But let’s break down what I really wore to school every day. Yes, we did have to wear an official uniform on certain days, but no, this is not what I wore on a daily basis. You could usually catch me sporting the signature skirt (which was available in plaid or solid hunter green), sneakers, a sports bra, and an oversized sweatshirt. We can’t all dress as fashionably as Blair when we’re waking up for class at seven in the morning.
Other things are true, too, but still super exaggerated. As portrayed annually while the characters are in high school, we had a holiday concert every year around Christmas and yes, it was definitely a BFD. Also like the show, a lot of girls in my grade participated in the debutante ball, which I attended as a guest. Similarly to the series, our social life pretty much consisted within a bubble of private, single sex institutions that would hang out after school and on the weekends.
Allow me to get a few things straight though. The show tends to overlook a pretty essential part of school...you know, the academics. A major part of the reason I'm so appreciative of my upbringing is the quality of an education I received. The majority of my grade was really there to learn and ready for the rigor. It was even "cool" to be a little nerdy — to appreciate books, art, science, history, and everything else. High school was so not about boys and parties, but the reality probably wouldn't make for good TV.
On the topic of the social scene, no, parties were nothing like the dramatic balls that took place on Gossip Girl. I’m lucky enough that I’ve actually been to a gala before, but it was to celebrate my (wonderful) Jewish grandma and aunt for their involvement in their temple — not anything close to as luxurious as the events on the show.
Peep my little sister and I acting like we’re Manhattan’s elite, though TBH this was our first and probably our last gala ever (unless any of you readers have connections and want to send me some invites).
The way I was raised, I had the really awesome opportunity to explore NYC a lot, growing up in the heart of all the action. Though I traveled around by subways and buses, and not by cabs and chauffeurs, I got to see so many cool things at such a young age. I could navigate most of Manhattan and recommend the best restaurants in town by the time I was a teenager.
Maybe the biggest thing Gossip Girl got right is how close-knit the friendships can be amongst the girls at single-sex schools. I don’t mean to suggest that we were never catty and never competitive, but my best friends from high school and I are still so close today. Not a day passes by when I don’t catch up or hang out with my girlfriends, and I’m so thankful for the environment my school created that allowed us to form such meaningful relationships.