Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Stereotypes

It was the second to last week of school. I wore a modest pencil skirt, a bright red "power" top, and 4-inch brown leather slingbacks. A typical outfit for me. I like to command the classroom verbally and aesthetically, I guess. I strode into the school, passed the office. Nod to Mr. Tuffle. Wave and smile to Sue from the copy room. Then down my hallway.
There next to the slab of blue lockers on the right wall was a cluster of "emo" kids. Three boys, and a girl. All with shocks of black hair, combed fiercely over one eye. One boy changed it up a little with a bleached streak in the front and a buzz cut behind his sweeping bangs. The group looked as if they'd all borrowed the same charcoal eyeliner. All were aminme thin. All were wearing black print tees with strategically ripped jeans.
See any similarities of these two photos?

Some of you maybe wondering where my snide remark is going to fit in. What cruel, ignorant thing am I going to say about these "emo" kids?

Nothing.
Rayanne Graff from My So-Called Life.

I don't care what they wear. They're teenagers. This is one of the only times in their lives where their profession won't dictate apparel. Some of them will be able to dress the exact same way their whole lives depending on what they wanna do as adults, but right now they can wear whatever the hell they want (within school mandated dress code rules, that is.)

Besides, when I walked by, that group gave me the world's longest up and down examination; blatant with disgust and scoffs all around. If eyes could flip me off, theirs were. When I was a safe 5 feet way, one boy made fake retching noises. Audible. Unmistakable.
I felt my stomach fold into itself. This group who demands that people don't judge them based on their appearances, didn't practice what they preached.
Morpheus and Death; siblings.
I wanted to tell them how I love Pearl Jam and Nirvana, how I'd seen Smashing Pumpkins in concert twice for grunge's sake! And even now, my MP3 might be known to host a Muse or Fall Out Boy song. I wanted to whip out old photos of me in flannel and combat boots from 13 years ago. I wished I were wearing my "Strongbad" tee or could profess my close personal relationship with Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Tim Burton, and Weezer. If I had my copies of Neil Gaiman's Sandman graphic novels, that would surely attest to my emo-worthiness, or at least would have enough symbolic weight to metaphorically slap the sneers off their pale faces.


To what end? Why did I feel the need to defend myself in 4 teenagers with black eyes? What did I care? I looked professional and damn good that day, and I don't need 15-year-old approvals for my daily injection of confidence. I could self-administer it with one look in the mirror or a lingering kiss from my husband. So, I walked to my classroom, aware and proud of each melodic heel-click on the tile.

But did I also flip my bottle-blond hair and tap my "Disciple of Aphrodite" red nails on the door just for a reaction?
Guilty.

But I made up for later. I taught a chapter of Elie Wiesel's Night, an autobiographical holocaust novel about a teen who survived the murderous and prejudicial practices of Nazi Germany, with more fervor and intensity than I usually do. After all, the seeds of hatred which bloomed into Nazi concentration camps began with judging others. Perhaps it spread almost as simply as a sneer, scowl and mock-puking.

Fortunately, most of the emo kids that I have taught in the past have not shown such outright negative judgement (at least not to my face.) I respect all of my students, and expect the same respect in return.

4 comments:

  1. I'm glad you were able to write this story out and release some of the obvious angst you've been harboring in your soul about it. So, maybe that is a bit of an exaggeration, but just remember if you are ever in need of reassurance that you are the absolute bomb diggidy, just ask me. If that doesn't work, I'll give you one of my therapy sessions. :)

    P.S. When was the last time you heard the phrase "bomb diggidy," I ask you? May the 90s live on forever.

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  2. Great post! I wish I could have been a fly on the wall!haha... Pride really does beget hypocracy doesn't it? and in more ways than one. Crazy how people can be so obsessed with their appearance yet neglect the essence of who they are.

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  3. Great post, but even greater prose. How about if I tell you the story I want to write and you write it for me? : )

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  4. Thanks, Jeff and Angie. Angie, we can trade if you want. Story for family photos. hehehe.

    And Shan, I miss your face.

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