Sunday, January 17, 2010

Twelve --- And Thinking About Twenty

The Understudy turned twelve this week. She has already turned out way better than we could have hoped or expected, given her parentage. Good hearted, sensible, bright and good looking to boot. But she is sailing out of the harbor of childhood headed for the waters around that Tierra del Fuego that lie ahead. This weekend included, along with a 12th birthday party, her first school dance. Oh, the Friday and Saturday nights to come!

This dance, of course, had its charms for all of us parents. The Understudy had invited a friend from her former school (a girl, of course) and the two of them spent a happy half hour combing their hair and putting on nail polish and dressing up. I dropped them off just before the party got going. The lights in the cafeteria had been dimmed, but the music hadn't started and the school lobby and hallways were in their full fluorescent glory. The few early arrivals still looked, charmingly, very much like elementary school students. Donations of canned goods brought a dollar off the price of admission. The friend was introduced,as required, to the teacher in charge of the dance and the school principal. A boy with a buzz cut and a baleful expression studied us without speaking.

I returned an hour and half later to pick them up. The Understudy and her friend were in the middle of mass of middle school students, all of them hopping like pistons to a deafening beat. The hopping, and the drama, various dramas that I heard a little about as we made our way back home, had been a good experience. The Understudy's cheeks were flushed. She had danced like a maniac she said. It was great! Well. A good first night out. May it ever be thus.

On the day before the dance I was at the gym getting some of that promised 2010 exercise. I stayed longer than I intended (OK, just walking on the treadmill) because I couldn't cut off my iPod before I got to the end of a fascinating report on This American Life called "Party School" Ira Glass and his people went to Penn State, 2009's number one party school according to The Princeton Review, and talked to representatives from every group of people who either make Penn State number one or who suffer from the fact that it is number one.

Listen for yourself if you have the time. It had me thinking about drinking as a way of undergraduate life. I never actually found it very fun, looking back, although I seem to recall feeling like it was supposed to be fun and wondering when it would deliver said fun. That would be, basically, never in my experience. Not surprisingly, I found it hard to believe that all the whooping drunk kids they interviewed for "Party School" actually liked drinking as much as they said they did. Isn't it really kind of sad by the end of the evening, or the next day, even at 21? I'd love to hear what you think.

Understudy, are you listening?

While we're talking about This American Life, I'll throw in that I think Ira Glass should get one of those Macarthur genius awards. That show has been slowly growing on my for years and now I am ready to worship at its altar.


R. Sherman said...

Actually, for the kids, the waters into which they sail are more like the placid, azure seas of the Caribbean or Aegean. It's Charybdis for the parents though, which is why we need to resurrect our college drinking habits.


the projectivist said...

oh i love Mr Sherman's comment!

i'm not far behind you, Mme KSV.
not far at all.

my son is going to turn 12 this year, he's a funny sort of boy, a deep thinker and a bit of a worrier sometimes. he has strong opinions about both swearing and drinking, which i find funny. i'm not anti-drinking, i just don't drink. we have little discussions about his father's friends who DO drink and he's very derogative of it all and it makes me wonder where it comes from?

he's already attended a couple of school dances, there was a bit of a to-do after his dad picked him up and looked as though he was enjoying himself too much. this was branded 'embarrassing' by my son. won't be long before we have to pick him up, hunched down into the driver's seat so that no one can see us.

Denise @ Swelle said...

Happy Birthday to The Understudy! When I was 12 I had braces; a bad, feathered haircut made worse by a brutal perm; and for a couple months I had a mystery rash on my face. Um...why did I just go there?

I went to the nearest university so I could live at home and save money. I made some new friends and we had fun but it didn't involve drinking, we were all art students and somehow we found each other's company entertaining enough. Imagine! But I did do the typical uni experience of keg parties (though I didn't drink beer and still don't) and club nights when I went to visit friends going to school out of town. I have to say I preferred the energy of those typical nights out but maybe that was because my school had zero appeal in that sense - the other cities had more of a soul - and I was never one to overdo it so there wasn't any self-loathing ruining it all. However, once I graduated I went to college so I could actually get a job and I moved to another city and partied like I should have done in university! But again, while booze and clubs did figure into it, it was the friends who made it so fun and we're still all friends today. It all comes down to the company we keep, doesn't it?