From Negative to Positive (Or Positive to Negative?) The Lurid Confessions of a Member of Teeny Bopper Anonymous

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From Negative to Positive (Or Positive to Negative?) The lurid confessions of a member of Teeny-Bopper AnonymousWow. Wasn’t I cool? Since this picture was taken, everything outside of myself – my appearance, my surroundings, even my superficial attitudes about life – has undergone a complete revolution. Contrasting me with that girl in the picture would be like comparing this picture with its negative; everything in this picture is now reversed, inside out.Life started out fairly easy. Before middle school, I did what I wanted to do without regrets. If my friends wanted to do the same, company would be nice; if not, I would have just as much fun alone. Middle school changed things. Suddenly group dynamics became almost political, and social esteem, not self-esteem, became the key to happiness. Seventh grade, the time when this picture was taken, was the peak of social pressure in my life.This picture epitomizes all of the elements that society had labelled as “important” for my peers and me, yet it also belies them through subtle clues.For example, while I exude quite smugly what I think is maturity, the menagerie of stuffed animals and the “cutesy” picture of kittens are reminders of my immaturity.The picture also reveals the things about myself that I’d thought were hidden away; my veneer of anti-intellectualism is belied by the often-used bookshelf and world map behind me. If I truly believed what I preached, my bookshelf would be tidy from disuse and pictures of some cretin teeny-bopper would adorn my wall.Why do social pressures transform otherwise intelligent, creative children into lemmings? These influences to conform transcend the mere pressure of peers; they come from society as a whole. The media portray “teens” with a uniform image that tells them the way they “should” be.A young consumer of modern entertainment (TV, movies, recent books) comes to think of the most prevalent image of “teens” as the norm.The roles of young women in American culture are even narrower, as delineated by the following three tenets:1. You must be trendy. Following current styles and fads is mandatory.Additionally, the timeless rules still apply: make-up must be worn and legs must be shaven. (A careful observer might note that I am wearing blue (!) eye-shadow and blush and sport a few trendy styles: a hat, curled hair, and a T-shirt replete with pithy sayings.)2. You must keep abreast of current events, not in the world abroad, but in your own parochial world. If you do not know in advance what everyone is wearing on Friday night or who is talking with whom, you are doomed to live alone eternally with only 13 cats for companionship.3. Adults aren’t cool. Always scowl in their presence. I was so convinced that I was living the ideal “teen” life that I had no time to think about things of true importance. Although I did homework, and did it well, I looked at school assignments as another chore to be done; I may as well tell them what they want to hear and get it over with, instead of actually thinking.Thus, any intellectual activity that I engaged in did not permeate my consciousness. My journal from seventh grade is a continuous recitation of rumors, speculation, and other excerpts from the rather dull soap opera of seventh grade social life: proof that nothing besides this rather large mass of intellectual Spam squooshed around in my trendy blonde head for very long.But then things changed: the advent of New Kids on the Block in eighth grade cleared this banality from my life. New Kids on the Block was an untalented group of kids assembled by a music producer for the express purpose of making money. Not only did I dare to be the only girl in my grade who didn’t like them, I dared to despise them. I listened to my music and figured that matters of taste really shouldn’t matter to my friends.Wrong! Not only was I isolated from the stimulating debates about which one was cutest, but the giggles I unsuccessfully attempted to stifle certainly didn’t add to my popularity. At the time, this isolation upset me greatly, but not enough to make me conform. The social vacuum in my life was replaced by ideas: books, newspapers, schoolwork, and in-class debates on subjects ranging from legalizing drugs to literature.I summarized my feelings in my journal on November 29, 1989 when I wrote, “Let them laugh! I’d rather be an original nerd than a conformist follower.”So it was that a little less than a year after this picture was taken, its negative became closer to the truth; prominent lemming-like qualities faded into the shadows while hints of originality and intellect, previously buried in darkness, became illuminated.

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