08 November, 2012

That Clear Plastic Box

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Mystic Metals Body Jewelry

That Clear Plastic Box

Super late blog, I know. You'll forgive me due to the storm and the running around and effort that has gone into recovering. Where I am in Jerz, we didn't get hit too hard. Downed limbs (tree, not body), some power outages. I have a friend who lives in Jerz closer to New York who still doesn't have power nearly a week later. High five to my governor who has done an insanely awesome job, and (as much as I dislike him) high five to the president for working with Governor Christie to get life in Jersey back together. Non-partisan cooperation is a pretty wild thing, right?

I won't get into politics this time. Can't promise about next week, though, since we'll have had an election and there will be much to talk about. No, this time I want to talk about something a little lighter, since the last four blogs have been a little heavy. Come follow me. You know what, push my chair if you're going to follow me. My arms are sore.

Leaving the house today to come to the bookstore to write, I saw a gathering at my neighbor's house. To be fair, I'm not a huge fan of my neighbors. I don't know why I mentioned that. But they have a girl who is probably in the mid teen age. It's hard to tell exactly when you watch someone grow up. I'm not that old. Really. Anyway, the gathering. As I was limping to my car, lighting a cigarette and going on my merry way of hating everything, I saw an awkward boy. He was dressed nicely in a suit jacket that could have been tailored better. He was walking with whom I presume were his parents. They parked in front of my house. Bastards. Another boy showed up. Similar dress. He was alone. Then a girl with some sort of awful high heeled shoe and a dress whose accouterments would be bright enough to land a plane. I had my suspicions, not to exclude 'secret meeting of upperclass double 0 spies.' Then I saw the clue that brought back memories like that awful electronic bell that signals you to get your ass out of your locker (or out of the woods smoking cigarettes) and into fourth period AP Biology. I saw the clear plastic box.

Every man who has survived high school knows about the clear plastic box. It's cold, you put it in the refrigerator, and at some point you have to take the contents out of it and pose with your hand and a pin precariously near the tits of a girl in front of your and her parents. Yes, the florist corsage box. I surmised that a pre-homecoming house meeting was happening next door. Those poor kids.

I write about beauty in this blog, and when I saw those kids getting ready for homecoming, I immediately thought about where my mind was when I was doing the same. I thought to myself, 'I ate too much pasta for dinner,' then I thought, 'Did I think I was beautiful then, and did these things, like dances, help or hurt that?' I decided to write about the latter because I already definitively concluded that I ate too much pasta for dinner.

There are quite a few personality raping experiences in high school. We all know that. The proms and the activities and the social status and inherent caste system which is often based on looks or wealth. Oh yeah, and we're all trying to pass tests too. Full disclosure, I didn't care very much in high school. I was doing more important things outside of high school that demanded more attention than to worry about social classes. Or academic classes for that matter. (Zing!) I did get into a bunch of fights, but generally I was liked. I think it was because my mom worked in the building and everyone loved her. I got the residual love. Also I had one girlfriend from eighth grade until senior year, so I didn't really have to engage in the high school dating game. So I was spared that a little. But the awkwardness of the formative years of adolescence can very much be beauty damaging. Or fortifying if we allow it to be.

I caught the eye of a boy walking to the house next door. He had an ill fitting jacket, shirt and tie. He was alone, but carrying the mystical clear plastic box. He had a long wallet chain and one hand in his pocket as I labored into my car, dragged my cigarette, and searched my iPod for something maniacally heavy to listen to. I read in that moment that he was looking on me and felt something. I think he felt some type of, I wouldn't call it shame or embarrassment, but an... out-of-place-ness. That's not a word, if you're scoring at home. I felt that he wished to communicate that his current appearance and task was out of his norm. That he was probably a cool kid in his own way. Not a football player cool kid, but a kind of band you never heard of t-shirt kind of way. I gave him my crooked smile (the one my beautiful and wonderful girlfriend is convinced is still a frown), started my car and drove away listening to Lamb Of God.

I thought on it. I thought about what we are sharing with young people in terms of allowing them to assume their own identities and forge them, possibly changing them many times before finding the perfect alchemy to create the alloy of self we all so desperately look for. I also thought of how receptive to the accolades and acknowledgement of their beauty the kids are as well. A parent, for example, telling his teen girl or boy that she or he is beautiful probably goes as well heard as 'take out the trash' or 'wear a condom.' So how do we communicate those ideas to each other?

Even old folks like myself (I graduated in '98; do the math) are unreceptive to those accolades. Unless you're a megalomaniac or narcissist, of which I know many. But the evidence to point to their unbeauty sings a much louder and more aggressive song. Boys are taunted and emotionally abused during their escape from meekness, facing a gross amount of scrutiny about their sexuality if they aren't the star player but rather the lead in the play or first chair in the band. And when you're a heterosexual teen boy, the last and most offensive thing you can be called is gay. Fortunately, that offense tends to wane a bit. Worse, if you're an actualized homosexual boy, you can face a deluge of beauty robbing hate. We've all seen the extreme case headlines about that. For a girl, I would imagine that the difficulty can seem insurmountable. Girls' body change is cruel. Brutally cruel. Their shapes change and change again. Zits and weird hair happens, fat bellies before svelte ones come, and then tits happen and blood comes squirting out of places. Screw that. I'll take getting thrown into a locker any day of the week over that. Both genders share some struggles too. Sexual activity, yet within an acceptable degree otherwise you're a whore, and pressure to take pills or weed or booze or heroine or coke or, in my high school's case, acid. Kids want to be smart, but not nerds. Athletic, but not dykes or jocks. Popular, but not elitists. Man. How do we survive? And more importantly, how do we know that we are, no matter the circumstance, beautiful?

Do we have to wait until we are on our own with the ability to make our own decisions in order to establish a beauty, or can we during those years as well? The finicky teen. I know some of my tastes have change slightly since then. I was a grunge kid for quite a while. (Do they still even make grunge kids?) I had Nirvana t-shirts, ripped jeans and flannel shirts around my waste. I also cared about the environment and was left leaning in some views. Then I heard the album 'Arise' by Sepultura. There was no turning back after that. I became a metal kid. Metal t's and long shorts all the time. Then 'The Great Southern Trendkill' by Pantera came out. I also became a republican after learning more about how the world worked. I abandoned Nirvana and Soundgarden for a while. Now, as an old man, I've made peace that all of those things (minus the left leaning politics, of course) can live harmoniously. Now I listen to SLAYER (always spelled in caps) and Nirvana. A simple example, but a clear one nonetheless.

We are all inherently beautiful from birth. That's the mantra of this blog, and that's what I believe. So the beauty is already there when we are teens. It exists, drowning under seas of hormones and burgeoning opinions and beliefs. Do proms and dances and forced social activities foster or demanufacture that stifled beauty waiting to fortify? For some the former, for some the latter, and for others neither. The important thing is that they know that the beauty is there, and that they hear it from others. The question is how to tell them before they fortify a belief that it doesn't exist at all. Old folks like me too need to hear those affirmations. Tell someone he's beautiful, kids. It could be inconsequential, or it could be the last cog in the machine of belief in his beauty. Stay beautiful, kids.

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