I was reading a book on writing. Right there, that’s already weird statement. But some of us do it, you know. I personally am working on a book, and therefore am working on an outline and therefore a proposal. Those are the boring things so yeah, I was looking for inspiration. I flipped through an old writing exercise book and I stumbled across this entry that was to write about school lunches when you are looking for material. School Lunches, the teacher says, were this horrible zone where we revealed ourselves. It was during school lunch that we found out who we were and who we really went to school with. Whether or not we had a twinkie indicated if we were okay or not.
Ummm… yeah, maybe if you went to school with Alice Waters or somebody like that.
Where I went to school it was a different story. Everybody did the school lunch thing which was this nasty greasy pizza square and french fries and chocolate milk every day. I brought my lunch. BROUGHT. But, I was embarrassed that I did so. So, I ate my lunch in silence and solitude in a stall in the bathroom after lunch. Sometimes I would space it out throughout the day. I would drink my juice after homeroom. Eat my homemade “energy bar” (thanks mom) after lunch and eat my apple in the halls towards the end of the day. Maybe on some level, I knew that the food I had would be subject to ridicule but I also understood that I didn’t want to eat the food offered that most of my peers gobbled unsuspectingly. What I do know is that lunch hour, itself, was awesome. It was the one moment in the day (a whole hour!) where you got into fights, made up from fights, maybe did some homework, talked, and argued and read and had an whole hour to do what you pleased. And at the end of the day, if you didn’t want someone to know who you were, you could make up an alibi or an alias or discard your food for something else so everyone would think you were normal for an hour while you were on display and then everybody would be released back to the wild to be themselves truly for the rest of the day.
I disagree that school lunches are the place where “they” find out how maladjusted you are. School lunch hours allowed you to create a new you. I really feel that school pictures were the one area where they could catch you in the lie. You can hide from the school lunch…you can, I know. You can pretend to be busy or in love, or have a stomach ache or something. You can trade your stupid healthy food for some delicious processed item or you can use your allowance to buy your disgusting grease laden meal just to save face if that’s what your into. Or starve yourself and eat in the bathroom, like I did. I was literally fearful of the food they served in the cafeteria (and now as an adult I have learned rightly so). But pictures? No escape! Oh my god. Nothing struck fear into a kid like me more than this. I always felt misrepresented as it was. But nothing was a banner of truth of how much or little your parents actually loved you as the school photo. And for me, this was a nightmare. We, as kids, were never on time for anything. We were the only kids of divorced parents in our school (it was early for all that) and we were always getting shipped back and forth from one parent to the next or to or from our grandparents. We were always in disheveled, wrinkled clothes. We never had all our appropriate things with us. I can’t tell you how many times I went to school on Monday from My dad’s place not knowing that I wasn’t going to be at “home” first and so I wouldn’t have the “right” notebook etc. I was a mess. Top that with my hair. Add the school photo day into the mix and what would you get?…Tears! My hair. My god. As an adult it causes me so much grief I think back onto being a kid and I laugh at the struggle. Seriously.
My hair is crazy. Imagine having thick hair. Now imagine having coarse hair. Now imagine having a curly perm in that thick, coarse hair. Now, imagine that perm growing out or worse, imagine that perm only “taking” on one side of your hair…forever. My hair is sort of curly, wavy, thick, and it definitely has a mind of it’s own. I get dreads after two days of not washing my hair. If I brush it, my whole head looks like the end of a broom that has been electrocuted, so I don’t brush it ever. If I let it go, I look like I just climbed out of the jungle. If I spend my hard-earned money I look like a million bucks with Korean straightened hair, so long and shiny and straight but this only lasts until water or sweat find their way to the hair follicle. As a young adult I always fantasized about a man running his fingers through my hair, combing it. The reality is that his hand would get stuck half way through. The bigger reality is if I had just it straightened, I might actually backhand him for touching it at all. This “peace of hair-mind” is not something, even at 36 years old that I can accomplish on my own…I’ve tried every brush, every blow dryer, every de-friz serum…(my boyfriend usually sings 80’s hair band songs while I try to straighten it because it just seems to get bigger and bigger) imagine a 10 year old with an even thicker version of this hair (because it has thinned out, thankfully as I’ve gotten older) and imagine having one side of your hair sticking straight out and the other flat and frizzy at the same time and standing on line for your school picture feeling that this was not fair, these people you were standing on line with were going to be flipping through the yearbook decades from now and this hair was going to represent you forever. And you know, that if the cards were stacked against you properly you would have parents who loved you enough to do something with this ungodly head of hair…I mean how dare they let me loose with this hair. My unorganized, distracted parents letting me loose with my skinny self, with unruly hair in pictures forever, like a wild mountain child. This is much worse than being caught without a twinkie or worse an organic carrot bread thing your mom made with apple sauce instead of butter…