In Her Shell
Missed The Memo
1. A friend at work just bought a house and casually said to another friend, "Well, we'll have to finish the basement because it just has a living room, no family room, for the TV and stuff." Forgive me, I love the idea of keeping one's TV hidden away, but I absolutely missed the memo about houses needing to have a "family room" or "den." I did have a friend growing up whose house had one, and I thought it was a cool extra feature, but could not for the life of me figure out what they did with the "living room," since for all the years I hung out there no one ever used it. My house growing up had a tiny living room where we hung out, laid around, watched TV and entertained guests, and it was good enough for us, dagnabit!
2. Not using the front door. What? Twice in my formative years I was dropped off at a friend's house only to stand forlornly, knocking on the freaking door, only to have the friend finally figure out I was there, and let me in, the whole family laughing their heads off because I went to the front door. Definitely missed the memo there; why the hell did they have a nice walkway up to it with scrubby suburban bushes on the side if no one is supposed to use it? And how was I supposed to know that? Jerks.
I was interning in New York when we saw the news about Columbine High on TV. This one changed everything, even though there had been shootings before and would be shootings after.
Then, and now, my heart still goes out most to the parents of the shooters. Their children died, but no one grieved for them. Their children were killers. I searched for a while this morning for anything about them now, but found that they've stayed pretty quiet over the years as they were sued by parents of victims and pursued by reporters. It's best, I guess; what could they possibly say?
It's very popular to blame all children's behavior on their parents. It's very easy, and sometimes very accurate. But I've witnessed children spin out of control in my own family, with parents who were just imperfect human beings who did the best they could, and still carry the terrible guilt for how it all turned out.
The lone news article I could find this morning in my search about the Klebolds and the Harrises had only one reader comment at the bottom: "If kids were a stock on Wall Street, no one would invest in them."
Brief History Of Balm
When I was small and on the school bus, I would take out my Chapstick and put it on over and over again, pretending it was makeup. It felt thick and smelled thick, but plain or cherry, it was mine and I loved it.
Later it was Bonne Bell lip gloss, the kind you squeezed out of a clear plastic tube or applied with a wand. Girly and shiny, it was also gooey and messy. When we figured out that Blistex achieved the same or even a better shine, and was way cheaper, we converted, and enjoyed the satisfying masochistic burn.
In high school we felt cool with little pots of gloss from places like The Body Shop, which you had to stick your finger in to use. This made it harder to share (an important ritual) and harder to maintain one's nails (also important), so while cute, these little pots got little use.
Softlips was my favorite in college, because it combined the convenience of Chapstick with the tingle of Blistex and the shine of gloss, while still feeling light and non-sticky. I thought I had met my lip balm mecca, but it was expensive and each tube ran out quickly. After graduating I shifted my allegiance to Burt's Bees, which was also expensive and came in lots of tantalizing, but ultimately weird-looking, "tints." It made me feel virtuous.
Yesterday I found an old tube of Chapstick and put some on. It didn't smell like chocolate or tingle or shimmer. It smelled thick, and felt thick, and incredibly satisfying.
Happy Birthday to Gmail
Five years ago I was teaching my first advanced course at the high school. Even though I was probably overwhelmed and surprised by their abilities in contrast to the kids I'd had the year before, I still think they were some of the sharpest I've had.
I got a Gmail "invite" (because you had to be invited
to use Gmail) from one of those students. A strange, awkward, outspoken girl who usually excelled in math and science, she didn't believe me when I recommended her for the gifted program in creative writing. She would e-mail me all the time, long, rambling philosophical e-mails that I thought carefully about before replying. She didn't understand when one of her classmates started a Gay-Straight Alliance, bluntly asking (because that was how she asked everything--bluntly) why it was needed. When I explained as best I could about education and equality, a look of excitement came over her face and she exclaimed something like, "We can just show them the evidence that it's biological, and then they won't be able to be prejudiced!" She became the club's first secretary, and came out after she graduated.
But before all that, and after she invited me to Gmail, she disappeared from my class suddenly, and I got a note from the Guidance Counselor that she was in the local hospital's psych ward under observation, because she had written some things about hurting herself. I wondered about all those e-mails she had sent me, if there was something in her challenging, dark ramblings that I should have recognized. At the time I was still a relatively new teacher, just trying to respond as best I could to my students. I hadn't accepted her invitation to Gmail, wouldn't get on the Gmail train until that summer, when Lulu
converted me. Then I just hoped she would be OK, and five years later, she is.