Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Natural beauty, in the world of the differently sane

First of all, a disclaimer: this story has not been confirmed in any official way. It was told in an online community by a member in good standing who did not appear to be lying. But you never know. But what the hell, I just want to comment on it here, and who is to say I can't? It's too funny to be true, and too funny to be fake.

Anyway, the girl is a high school student in a small New England town. They had an English project: give up three hair styling products and makeup for a week, and write about it afterwards. Of course the three products have to be something you'd normally use, and the teacher insisted that they really should give them up.

Just for the record, I oppose such projects on general principle. School should not intrude on one's own life in such a way. If it's the text they want, they should be satisfied with a fictional account of giving up those products; if they want authenticity, the paper on "why I really didn't want to give up my styling products" should be just as good as "how I felt when I gave up my styling products for a week".

And then there is one more very obvious problem: not everyone has three styling products to give up. I fact I suspect most people don't, although the girl thinks otherwise. And the task specified that you can't give up showering, shampoo or conditioner, which leaves me - and the girl of this story - with exactly 0 styling products.

(Yes, there are boys in that class. They were allowed to give up shaving instead. Girls were allowed it to, but strongly discouraged from doing so because, according to the teacher, it's disgusting. The girl in question doesn't shave anyway.)

Now, common sense and teachers are not necessarily compatible, which I knew at that age but the girl definitely doesn't, and if it were me there instead of her, I would quietly write a paper about the whatever three products I managed to google or look up in a drugstore, how at first I felt uncomfortable without them but then I found the power of the beauty within, yadda, yadda, yadda. (Thanks, Mr. Halpern, for demanding spontaneity and sincerity and telling us what exactly our spontaneity and sincerity should be.) If the teacher were someone I were actually comfortable with, I would have handed him or her the bullshit paper and the authentic one too, which would have been something along the lines of "gave up shampoo and conditioner for a week; nobody noticed anything unusual, least of all myself".

The purpose of the exercise, after all, is to make the girls see that they don't need all that to be beautiful, and to teach them about the beauty of the natural body. (According to the teacher, that is.) Leaving aside the concept of beauty and the question of what styling products actually contribute to it, it seems rather obvious to me that the people who don't use the products anyway have already figured out that they can do without and don't need a project to make this message sink in.

The girl, however, turned out to be not nearly as cynical as I was at her age, and decided to tell the teacher that she does not use any styling products. It was all downhill from there:

- the teacher sent the girl for a mental evaluation,
- then she sent her to the school office for "improper hygiene",
- then she told the girl that she can have 50% of the points for the assignment of she gives up combing her hair, but that she'd like to see a "drastic change" (the girl is considering using hairspray to induce said drastic change),
- but she is gonna take some points off for lying, because she just doesn't really believe that the girl doesn't blow-dry her hair.

Now, if it just me, or is this teacher pretty much the last person in the world who should instruct anyone on the wonders of natural beauty?

The most amazing thing is that the girl (and apparently the teacher) lives about thirty miles from where I lived when I was in high school. Aliens truly do live among us.

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