And so ends The Year of Living Glamorously.
Justin Bieber Junior High said goodbye to its graduating crop of Teen Empresses last night and there was not a dry eye in the house. We were laughing so hard when the principal described how the class of 2012 was the most supportive, cooperative and academically-focused group of middle schoolers since the Apollo 11 Team was in junior high, the tears would not stop rolling down our faces.
Supportive? Depending on which side of the latest girl drama you were on. And was subject to change without notice. Possibly she was thinking of foam and underwire. Thanks to Victoria's Secret Middle School Initiative, there is not a 14-year-old left outside of Ohio or Kansas who would be caught dead in the cup size nature has given her.
Cooperative? I'm assuming this refers to the Empresses' long-running conspiracy to sabotage the Junior High Olympics year after year, by say, showing up in dresses and high heels for tug-of-war. Or possibly she was talking about the romance syndicate, which operates on a level of discipline the mob would admire. These girls had romance down to a science before they started seventh grade.
Academically focused? Obviously a reference to the impressive collection of phone numbers they amassed during three years worth of field trips and sporting events at other institutions of learning. If there is a boys' academy anywhere in the Midwest that they missed, it was not for lack of effort.
Their fashion achievements went unremarked by school officials, but there is no question that middle school fashion reached new heights under this class, as evidenced by the number of eighth-grade girls towering over their fathers in heels any Kardashian would be proud to own.
We really could not be any
closer to bankruptcy prouder.
Photo: The Empresses standing tall and camera ready.
Thanks for the
"When I grow up I'm going to live in an apartment. That way I don't have to take out the garbage."
- Veruca Salt, eighth grader, who doesn't actually take out the garbage now.
1. So that thing where you scribble all over a piece of tape with a Sharpie and then leave pieces of Sharpied tape everywhere? Stop doing that.
2. That thing where you take the tape out of my office and leave it somewhere else in the house and then when I am looking for it you say you don't have it? Yeah. Stop.
3. That thing where you tell me exactly how you want your lunch made and then just when I've finished arranging the olives and slices of brie you realize, Oh wait! I don't need a lunch today, but I'll eat it later, but then you don't and a month later it's still in the back of the refrigerator? Kinda stinks.
4. That thing where it's 10 o'clock at night and you keep calling me back into your room to tell me something really, really important and you swear this is really the last time and I fall for it and then when I get there you tell me about how those guys in One Direction made this video diary and girls got to send them questions and then somebody asked Louis .... and then Niall was all like .... and then Harry said something and then blah, blah, blah?
That is actually kind of interesting. Yeah. I am just kidding.
5. That thing where you hijack the iPod dock in the car because you want me to hear one song, just one song, and then you swear you'll put it back to something we both like and then you play like 30 songs in a row except for the one that I say I like and that one you cut off after 15 seconds because it reminds you that you have this other song that you know I'm going to love? You never even told me the name of that song.
6. That thing where I say, you're going to need a jacket and you say no I don't and I say, yes you do and you say nothing until we're halfway to school in the car and then you say can we turn around because I forgot my jacket? Not cool.
7. That thing where you come into my room at 11 o'clock at night and wake me up to tell me that you are reading a book about anti-gravity and you can't put it down and then you wait for me to start laughing because that is your signal to begin the rest of your Bedtime Comedy Hour even though I have to get up at 5:30 the next morning? Was actually pretty funny. Until the alarm went off. But then it was funny again the next morning when dad said did you read in the paper about the guy who got his left side cut off? And you said is he all right? And then we all laughed because we have this stupid weakness for puns? Still. Could it wait until I am not sleeping? Whatever. Keep doing that.
Photo: Host of the long-running, late night Kamikaze Family Comedy and Pop Music Hour that begins right after you fall asleep and ends whenever it ends.
While adults may be fascinated to learn that fluorite was established as the official state mineral by a vote of the Illinois General Assembly in 1965 or that citizens went to the polls to vote the eastern tiger salamander into office in 2004, middle schoolers react to this information by immediately texting "SOOOOOO BORED" to the 613 members of their immediate circle.
Because what does any of this have to do with vampires?
Which is why it seems odd when my eighth grader, Veruca Salt Kamikaze, informs me that the White Oak, one of approximately 20 oak trees native to Illinois, and which grows to a height of between 80 and 100 feet, is the state tree. Her social studies teacher had outlined the facts in a lecture that she recounted like this:
"The White Oak is the official state tree of Illinois. It grows to a height of up to 100 feet, has a whitish-grey bark, and a sharpened stake made from its wood is the only known method of killing an Original vampire."
Which, as pretty much any eighth grade girl on the planet can tell you, is 100 percent true, according to The Vampire Diaries, where the characters have spent pretty much the entire season trying to locate a white oak for exactly that reason.
Apparently their search has not yet taken them to the Prairie State, where at least one eighth grade class could tell them what they need to know.
Photo courtesy of the Justin Bieber Junior High yearbook committee.
from the SK Vampire Diaries: What to Expect: The Vampire Years
1. Get your mom to take you and a friend to your favorite pizza restaurant for lunch. Right after breakfast.
2. Order the mozzarella sticks right away because your mom's ability to say "no" is weakest at the beginning of the meal. At this point she still believes there is a chance you will actually eat everything you say you can eat. Also, she is distracted by the wine list.
3. As soon as your appetizers arrive, count them and divide them as carefully as if you were stranded on a desert island with those kids from Lord of the Flies instead of in an Italian restaurant with one other 14-year-old girl and your mom's credit card at 11:30 in the morning.
4. Order the deep dish cheese pizza with the cheese-stuffed crust. Because the more cheese the better.
5. Leave the crusts on your plate. Because nobody eats the crusts.
6. Finish with the signature "deep dish cookie" dessert. Because that is the reason you picked this restaurant in the first place. Duh.
7. Ask the waiter to box up the rest of your pizza. Then leave it on the table for your mom to carry.
8. Wait about three hours before asking, "what's for dinner?" When your mom says "leftover pizza," look at her like she just said something really crazy. Because that is just crazy.
A second helping of this topic: How to feed 4 teenagers for 2 weeks for under $1 million
Veruca Salt the Eighth Grader takes a little longer to get out of the car each day as I pull up outside the doors of Justin Bieber Junior High.
She takes her jacket off and throws it in the backseat before deciding, that no, she will wear it after all. She checks her eye makeup again in the mirror. She inspects the contents of her backpack. She primps and stalls, partly in hopes that the line will move forward a little bit, saving her the extra five or six steps, but mostly because she has begun to think of it as a competition.
I make the mistake one morning of saying "Could you be any slower?"
You didn't have to be a mind reader to see the answer in her eyes. She realized in that instant that she had only been going through the motions up to that point. She could be slower. She could turn in a performance that would bring time to a fucking standstill.
I'd be lying if I said I wasn't afraid. The girl does not take challenges lightly. And pointless challenges? They are her stock in trade.
And so, to a long list of acting credits that include the starring role in the long-running family drama The Freakishly Self-Composed 14-Year-old Who Can Do Her Mother's Voice on the Telephone Well Enough to Trick Her Father, she has added Morning Car Theater.
The outcome is a foregone conclusion. She's bringing her A-game. Her performance will run on a few minutes longer every day until she has broken me. She will make me beg. Please. Get. Out. Of. The. Car.
But I'm not going down without a fight. I will make every extra minute in the car a minute of teenager suffering.
I've got a few performances under my belt as the Mother With Way Too Many Lines. Today I open with the soliloquy from Every Awful Inspirational Speech Ever Delivered by a Parent in a Supporting Role:
Me: I know it's scary, Wildcat, but you've got to get out of this car, walk through those doors and seize the day! Make new friends, show them what you've got, go for it, just remember who you are. What's really important is what's inside, be yourself, be the very best you can be, and don't forget to follow your dreams. Your father and I are so very, very proud of you, no matter what happens. Win or lose. Even in the event of a tie. Did I say 'be yourself'? Because that's key. Also, please. Just. Get. Out. Of. The. Car.
And she does. But she's laughing. She knows she has already won.
Photo: Veruca Salt is The Girl Who Would Not Get Out of the Car. Suburban Kamikaze is The Mother Who Would Not Stop Talking; The drama that has the critics saying "I thought she would never get out of the car!" - Roger Ebert. "I thought she would never stop talking!" - David Denby
1. You've got a secret sauce that guys go crazy for.* (p. 97)
2. Some guys act super-lovey, then disappear. (p. 98)
3. Blueberries have been shown to improve your memory! (p.108)
4. If you wear glasses and a frowny face, no one is going to ask you to dance. (p. 45)
5. Cropped top + striped mini = Downtown Girly (p. 48)
6. Don't overthink it!! ** (p. 68)
7. Some products are SO worth the $$$ *** (p. 86)
8. Birth control methods are like jeans. (p. 92)
9. His pucker reveals everything about his personality. **** (p. 97)
10. One reason the Euro holds together is fear of financial and economic chaos on an unprecedented scale. *****
* Completely true. It's my Key lime mustard sauce for peel-and-eat shrimp. Leave me a comment if you want the recipe, or help in identifying your own secret sauce. ** Srsly. Don't even think about it. *** Duh. It's your parents' money. **** OMG! So true. ***** Just kidding. That one I learned from The Economist.
Unseasonably warm days have incited the annual uprising known as the Junior High Dress Code Rebellion.
In addition to the early start, the rebels have found fresh inspiration in the marketing campaign for a book and movie series glamorizing a gang of arrow-shooting teenage killers who defy authority at every turn except for the dress code. Because the government makes them wear costumes that are really cool.
The point is: The Justin Bieber Junior High School dress code? So not cool.
The girls' rebellion takes the form of too-short shorts, with hemlines that end before the reach of their fingertips - an impossible standard as they have just now received a critically important text and cannot be expected to redeploy their fingers to gauge dress code compliance. OMG.
The boys' insurgency follows a year-round practice of exposing as wide a swath of boxer shorts as they can while keeping their pants somewhere above their knees - a form of resistance known as whatever. Also "sagging."
A recent crackdown on short shorts violations, however, has drawn criticism from girl factions who believe they are the target of constitutionally questionable, gender-specific enforcement.
Or as a spokesperson for the rebellion, who asked not to be identified for fear of being recognized as the third cheerleader from the left in this year's group photo, put it: "So not fair. Srsly."
Some war-weary middle school teachers have already begun to look the other way, recognizing the futility of attempting to enforce compliance in a population of teenagers whose parents surrendered somewhere between fifth and sixth grade.
Others are known to employ a strategy known as Mutually Assured Underwear: "Don't show me yours and I won't show you mine," threatens one veteran of the clothing wars.
In the meantime, there is talk among girl insurgents of exposing what they believe to be the authorities' selective prosecution. Also, their underwear. Girl sagging. It is a risky strategy that some believe could rend the delicate fabric of the boy-girl alliance. As if.
Photo: Girl sagging in a rebel stronghold.
from the middle school fashion archives: Is that what you're wearing?
-Girl Kamikaze: "Why don't you just give her a stick instead?"
If there is one day that demonstrates the truth of the idea that middle school girls are secretly running the world, it is Valentine's Day.
Nowhere is the ruthless efficiency and single-minded pursuit of their goals more in evidence than in the run-up to Feb. 14 - a day that has been so painstakingly scripted that any member of the romance syndicate can tell you exactly how it is supposed to play out.
It begins weeks in advance as the girls brainstorm the romantic possibilities.
"You and your friends come up with a really cute scenario," our middle school romance expert tell us.
The chosen scenario is then leaked to the designated boy by a girls' advance team, whose job it is to oversee the presentation from start to finish while making the boy believe he is operating under the influence of free will.
There are zero points awarded for originality here. Spontaneous gestures are strongly discouraged. People are still talking about the year that "M" went rogue, choosing an assortment of gifts for the target of his affection without consulting a single member of her posse. The fact that his gift was considered "cute" did little to mitigate the scandal.
"Don't get me wrong," says our expert. "Spontaneity can sometimes be cute. Just not on Valentine's Day."
Really, could it be any clearer? It is better to do nothing at all than to get it wrong.
And yet, despite the best efforts and meticulous planning of Team Girl, there are boys who will inexplicably deviate from the protocol.
Here, according to Girl Kamikaze, are the Top 5 Ways Middle School Boys Will Go Wrong Today: (in order of egregiousness from least to greatest)
5. Do nothing at all.
4. Include a written Valentine card or note in a relationship of less than 4 weeks duration.
3. Enact a Valentine's Day scenario that has not been pre-cleared by her friends.
2. Present her with chocolates in any container NOT shaped like a heart. "Why don't you just give her a stick instead?" opines the girl.
1. Attempt to initiate a romantic relationship with a girl for whom you have not been pre-approved by the syndicate.
Good luck today. And Happy Valentine's.
from the middle school romance archives: Middle School Romance Syndicate Leaves Nothing to Chance, Girls' body art leaves sixth-grader Joseph Borowski confused, hopeful, Match.com Junior High