Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Boner and the Bully

When we moved from Colorado-with its Rocky Mountains and miles of Aspen trees-to Santa Barbara-with its smooth oceans, miles of beaches and palm trees-it was a bit of a shock. It never snowed, and everyone was tan. I had remained as pale as the driven snow but for a smattering of freckles on my face and arms, so it was like being a visitor from another planet. The natives were as sunkissed a bunch as I had ever seen and expected everyone else to be that way, too. I had heard stories about beaches further south where the tan people actually harassed the ghostly white people who dared show their melatonin challenged sun-screened faces in public.
The weekend before school started, I was invited by a future classmate of mine to an all girl sleep over. My mother dropped me off in Summerland at an enormous beach house perched on the cliff overlooking the Pacific. It had its own private beach, a yard and more bathrooms than I could count. The garage had been converted into a rec room. For hours, six of us soon to be sixth graders danced around in hot pink wigs and stretch pants to the sounds of Devo, Queen and Olivia Newton John. We gorged on frozen Snicker's bars and drank Dr. Pepper with reckless abandon. We were then herded outside to watch the neighbor boy put on a spontaneous show. It was dark and,as I peered over the fence with the other girls, I could make out the shape of a small boy standing in the window next door. He was a skinny, four foot tall surfer dude with a white blonde mullet whose idea of a "show" was to stand on his bed airguitaring to Supertramp in a pair of Raybans for ten minutes while someone trained a flashlight on him. His finale was to rip off his pants and flash his finger size dick at us. It was erect, which caused the girls to let out a horror/delight combo shreik. We all ran back in the garage and fell breathlessly on the couch. I wasn't sure what all the squealing was about until someone said "oh, my GOD, he popped a BONER!". I remember cataloging the phrase, though I've honestly never felt the need to use it, and realizing that his was the first "active member" of the opposite sex I'd ever seen. It was thrilling but also kind of gross. Welcome to California, I guess.

The following Monday, when school started, I realized during first period that I would be needing some new clothes. Although I had been given a back to school shopping spree over the summer, three essential items had been overlooked-Sperry Topsiders, Izod collared shirt and a pair of Dolphin shorts. My mother obliged, understanding from her own experiences in school that this would serve as my armour. I went to school a few days later wearing all three items- my new uniform- and was greeted suspiciously by the head meanie, Paige Putz. I have written about her in other posts, so forgive me if I loop, but she was a piece of work. She circled me outside homeroom and demanded that I show her the sole of my shoe. Evidently there was such a thing as a fake Topsider, and she needed to verify the authenticity of my recent purchase. I lifted up my leg, clearly wanting to keep things copasetic and yet ignoring the small voice telling me to kick her in the face. She peered at the embossed seal on the bottom of my shoe. Satisfied, she went for my shirt next, picking at the alligator on my left breast with her manicured forefinger to make sure I hadn't glued it on. The bell rang. I never got her take on the Dolphin shorts. I had bought the solid purple pair, which was the newest color to come out. I knew deep down that they were just clothes but somehow having the "right stuff" made sixth grade somewhat less horrific. I will say that I was a little like Marge Simpson in the Chanel dress- I wore my new uniform almost every day, pairing the shorts and the shirt with different sweaters tied jauntily around my shoulders in an effort to make it look fresh. Mercifully Miss Putz wasn't clever enough with the catty remarks or she was simply too busy preying on the kids who wore Le Tigre shirts to notice my recycled repertoire. Everyone suffered the fashion bully except the three African American kids at our school. All of them wore Le Tigre and, to my knowledge, none of them were teased. I attribute this to Putz' innate sense of political correctness coupled with her fear of having her ass kicked by the black kids.

This is floating around my brain because I know that one day soon, my darling confident girls will eschew everything Mossimo($) for anything Moschino ($$$$). They will learn that an eighty dollar sweatshirt the size of a washcloth can be purchased at Kitson Kids in every color of the rainbow. They will want it all, and I will be faced with a terrible decision: do I give them the armour they request, knowing from personal experience how it can keep the Putz' at bay, or do I teach them that, despite what every media image they encounter says, the clothes do not make the girl? At this point, I do not censor the outlandish rainbow polka dotted red and pink outfits that go to school, nor do I question the pink and black zebra striped headband that makes Big look like the lead singer of Little Loverboy. Right now, the world is her fashion oyster. Besides, her peers will crush her free spirited way of dressing soon enough. The question is when.

So what's a mother to do? Do I explain what a boner is now, so she doesn't have to find out the, um, hard way? Do I reassure her that plain yogurt is not actually filled with cum, as I was told emphatically by another sixth grader, and that being a virgin when you are eleven is totally normal? Do I take her to Roberston Boulevard for back to school shopping, despite the ridiculous cost and the ubiquitous presence of shallow, fallow reality television stars? Do I take her to Goodwill, where I buy most of my clothes, because I am cheap and know it will all end up with grease stains and washable marker embellishments? Or do I stay with Target-the Republican supporting, anti-gay funding, ridiculously inexpensive, adorably cute for what it is option for now and see how things go?
Luckily, the girls attend a school with a healthy spectrum of fashion role models-there are the Birkin bag carrying, polished, waxed, beautifully dressed moms mixed in with the perpetually in sweats, fanny pack wearing, un-pedicured, au naturel moms with visible gray hair. I'd put myself in that last group-though I'm not gray just yet- since I haven't bought a purse of note in fifteen years and actually do wear a fanny pack and sweats almost every day.
I think I will have to wait and see to answer any of these burning questions about what their future will hold, but I am inclined to do what my mom did and give them the essentials. It will give them a healthy respect for both sides of the issue and keep their heads clear so they can navigate the inevitable onslaught of surprise boners, which are much more dangerous and unpredictable than the Putz'.

1 comment:

  1. I vote for a happy medium. Take them bargain shopping for high-end goodies and make them work just a little harder to find a great deal. That and tell them about the boner only when the boner rears its ugly head. And I think a Putz is worse than a boner any old day.

    Great post, oh lovely fanny packer!

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