So, what was on your school supply list when you were a kid? Pencils, notebooks, the usual, right? Yeah, me too.
I went to Catholic school, so getting clothes was a minor stage of the whole Back-to-School Shopping Blitz. Because we had uniforms, the school supplies were where we could really show our personalities off. But, the nuns got wise to this pretty quickly. Our list of things we could NOT buy for school soon surpassed the quantity of things we were required to buy.
Erasermate Pens were one such item. We weren’t allowed to write in pen. But that was because you couldn’t erase it. So, what was the rationale, I wonder, for banning the brand new invention of pens with erasable ink? I’m pretty sure the Sistahs are the reason that remarkable innovation isn’t in the drawers of every office desk today.
Another way to get yourself detention at my school was to walk in with a Trapper Keeper. Those amazing organizational tools were the bane of every teaching nun’s existence. The Party Line was that the bulk of the darn things pretty much made it impossible for them to co-exist in the same desk as our massive textbooks. But I think that Sister Mary Quite Contrary was more fearful of the far too many sinfully secular designs that appeared on the covers and each interchangeable piece.
It killed me not to get a Trapper Keeper. Every year, I would wistfully pull one out of the display case, showing my mother The Dukes of Hazzard or the less controversial horse racing through a green field, and begging her to buy me one – pretending to be completely oblivious to the Trapper Keeper Commandment.
Now, it’s 2012. My daughter is 9. She goes to public school. We have spent 3 exhausting days looking for clothes and mandatory school supplies. And even though she has a lot more freedom to make a statement with both her fashion and her various notebooks and writing utensils, she does not feel that is enough.
We have gone to three different stores looking for the perfect nail polish color for the first day of school. Yesterday, I spent an hour in Sephora as she painted each nail on her hands a different color. Oh, she knew which one she wanted by the fourth, but she needed to finish up the job once started, apparently.
Erasermate should invent some erasable nail polish pens. Now, there’s a bestseller.
God, I wish there had been a Sephora around when I was a kid. Those nuns would have had a lot less time to worry about Trapper Keepers…
Anyway, why, you may ask, did I allow my child to spend an hour decorating her digits, and to buy a $10 bottle of nail polish when that is not on any school supply list and she is not starring on a reality show?
Because, even now, 35 years later, I still have a little bit of Catholic School rebel in me.
And, even now, 35 years later, you still can’t bring Trapper Keepers to school.
I am convinced that the power of suggestion has much more strength than actual demonstrations of brute force.
When I was a kid, I could not understand terrorism. It made absolutely no sense to me. Why would someone do something considered to be particularly heinous by the majority of humankind, and then send a letter actually claiming responsibility? And, secondly, if they had admitted to it, why weren’t these people thrown in prison immediately? No one explained to me that terrorists like the Symbionese Liberation Army didn’t sit around at registered addresses watching The Love Boat and waiting for the police to politely escort them to a cell in the local jail.
In elementary school, you learn that it’s wise to stay out of trouble. Especially when you go to a Catholic school with nuns wielding rulers that never seem to be used for measuring. You do your best to walk the straight and narrow, and if, for some inexplicable reason, you commit one of the Deadly Sins (which was a much longer list according to the nuns than the Vatican version), then you make darn sure that you never admit to it.
Mind you, I never once saw a nun use one of those rulers, and none of my troublemaking friends ever actually reported getting paddled when sent to the Principal’s Office. But the rumors were prevalent.
However, every time I happened to overhear a news report about a plane being hijacked or hostages being taken, my understanding of human behavior based on my observations at school seemed to become less reliable.
“No one has yet claimed responsibility for the bombing.”
“Well, of course they haven’t,” I would think to myself. Geez. Is that all you need to do to be a news anchor – state the obvious? Let’s think about this. If Mother Superior could paddle you for cheating on a spelling test, what horrible consequences would be inflicted on someone who admitted to planting a bomb in a marketplace?
Then the next day, someone would “claim responsibility,” and I would be completely perplexed. Why would they do that? Especially if they weren’t Catholic and didn’t believe in confession? What was the point? You don’t brag about committing crimes (unless it was to a priest), because then you get caught. Not that I ever committed crimes – or broke any rules for that matter. But I did, according to my mother, have some Mafia relatives dangling off of a distant branch of the family tree. And the Mafia has a whole different approach to advertising its misconduct, if you know what I mean.
Now that terrorism seems even more prevalent – or I just listen to more news – I get the point of the responsibility claims, but I understand human behavior even less. Why do terrorists think they are going to get what they want by making people hate them even more?
Comedian Jeff Dunham’s puppet, Achmed the Dead Terrorist, pretty much sums up the effectiveness of this strategy:
“I can’t wait to see Santa Claus. I sit on his knee, I tell him what I want, then I blow him up!”
And so, I submit to you that a group of women dressed like penguins and about as brutal as Oprah, might have known a little bit more about getting people to behave the way you want. Of course, you might argue that they were merely dealing with 5-10 year olds. And my response would then be, “Have you tried to teach a class of 22 5-year olds lately?” I think you’d rather negotiate with terrorists.