Friday, January 21, 2011

Wisdom From My Seventh Grade Science Teacher

When I was in seventh grade, my science teacher gave us a small speech on what she called the "crap trap." She said you had to think of the crap trap like a large gaping hole in the middle of your road to success. It was filled with wonderful things like makeup, boys, gossip, everything that would make a steryotypical high school girl squeal with joy. But once you fell down into it, it was really quite hard to get out. As I've progressed through my school years I've seen girl after girl tumble head over heals into the crap trap, and I think I know why. You see, when you go to middle school so many things are different. You're given more responsibilities, you have more teachers, and the world around you is changing so fast you feel like you have to change as well. You feel so much more grown up than you were before, and some people believe that this means you are officially grown up. So suddenly it's okay to date, and wear make-up, and wear playboy bunny pajama bottoms to school (sadly, I've seen each and every one of these.)

This all came to my mind at my yearly Northfield Youth Choir snow days retreat. See, I love choir. Not only do you get to sing, but I feel so comfortable with myself there that I don't mind letting myself go and being the wacky geek that I am. Anyway, it was a fun retreat, and I found myself not wondering whether I should wear my awesome nerd glasses but where they were, because so many people wanted to try them on. Then, right when I was feeling most confident, the eighth graders hosted the talent show.

See, every year at snow days we have a talent show hosted by the eighth graders. If you've never met the eighth graders in our choir, you don't know wacky. Now I love all of them, but they're not the people you want to spend a week with unless you're fond of going insane. One of them, who I'm going to call Beatrice, is probably the ringleader of the bunch. I like her because she really is just being herself, and doesn't try to act pretty and air headed. She's loud and spunky, and she'll let you know it. The thing is, the eighth graders are all really girly. This is something I cannot stand for more than a weekend. The night of the talent show, there was makeup everywhere. One thing that concerned me  was that a girl was dressing like Ke$ha, and we were at a christian camp. Probably my favorite eighth grader (who I'll here call Annabeth) is the least girly and will talk with me about books and other down to earth things. Being an eighth grader, she was roped into the makeup. She looked very pretty in the dress she was wearing, though she looks pretty anyway, so I didn't see what the point was. Probably my favorite moment was when Beatrice came up to Annabeth and said, "Well, you could try this eyeshadow. It's skin colored so it really won't stick out." And then I gave her a look and said, "So what's the point of it then?" And she just told me to shut up in a way that told me she knew I was right. I pretty much let them do there own thing, occasionally throwing in a comment about how they really didn't need the make-up from across the room. But I drew the line when one girl (lets call her Pansy) came in with a tiny little girl trailing behind her.

Think of the cutest little girl you can. Now double it. Keep doing that until you reach infinity, and you'll know how cute she was. It turns out that she was actually not that young, but she was so petit and adorable that she immediately became my favorite person on the retreat that I didn't know. So imagine my horror when Pansy announced that this adorable little girl "wanted" us to put some make-up on her.

Something inside of me snapped. I stood up off my bunk, and firmly told them no. I wasn't going to sit there airily shooting out comments about inner beauty while they barbie-ized the face of a little angelic child. One or two of the girls tried to argue, but I put my foot down. There are some things I won't stand for.

And that's the thing, you know? Make-up. Hair product. Revealing shirts. Is it worth it? Each and every one of those girls was pretty exactly the way she was. So why couldn't they see it? It's the unseen plague that creeps its way into every girl's heart and stays there, whispering at your proudest moments, shouting at your weakest. It's the thing that makes you wear a hat when you're hair doesn't look good enough, or not wear pajamas on pajama day in case no one else does it. We as a species are afraid to be different. It's the reason I have to think before I wear my nerd glasses to school, and the reason I still haven't worn my overalls there.

The school doesn't help either. They put up posters to try to show us that real beauty comes from within, but went about it the entirely wrong way. The posters showed a "beautiful" face and a normal one, and by doing so forced us to compare them. Wasn't that exactly what they were trying to stop? Comparisons?

 But when I successfully draw a hand, or when I'm onstage, or when I finish the first draft of my novel,
it's times like that that you could call me every rude name you can think of, and I wouldn't care. That's when I feel beautiful. Not when I'm wearing dresses, not when my hair looks fantastic (though that doesn't hurt), just when I feel most happy.

That's the real reason make-up bugs me. Covering your face doesn't make you beautiful. It's showing your face, being who you are that makes you stand out from the crowd and shine. That's why my favorite people are the ones who don't say "one second, let me fix my make-up" or "does this make me look fat" or "that hat so does not go with your shoes." It's the people who say "look at this awesome hat shaped like a chicken!" or "I've decided to paint my hand green" or "who's Gucci?" Those people who will be themselves, and not put on a mask to hide from the world.

So as I watched the eighth graders preform, I felt a little sorry for them. I know how it feels to be trapped in a world where putting colored powder on your face is normal, and red dots on your face must be covered at all costs. But I also know that the people who will judge me for those things aren't people I want to know.  And as for attracting boys, I have a feeling that there's a difference between being attracted to you and being attracted to your cleavage. That's what we at BYW call an "unhealthy relationship." As John Green once said, "The Venn diagram of the boys who don't like smart girls and the boys you don't want to date is a circle."

And so I leave you with this thought. When we buy make up for ourselves or for loved ones, what are we really doing? Giving a kindly gift, or unintentionally sending a message straight to the voice in every girls head. "You're not pretty enough." I for one know that the only time my daughters will be wearing make up is when they're up on a stage, being beautiful.

 Sorry for the lack of posting lately, but after finals things here at BYW should pick up.
 Rayna, I think you're really pretty :)


1 comment:

  1. So true! I've been meaning to post something on my blog about the true meaning of beauty, but you summed it up probably better than anything I had in mind.