Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Senioritis: Not all it’s cracked up to be

I turn to my old friend and comrade Urban Dictionary to help define the topic of this column’s theme: Senioritis: when high school seniors get lazy, no longer give a damn, and just can’t [sic] wait till school ends. I was convinced I would not catch this disease, the same way I am convinced every winter that I will not develop a cold.

But now I sit at home having been proved a fool twice over: I am currently expelling my body’s weight in snot into Kleenex, and not doing an ounce of homework. At first, it was the heaven we Marlborough students have always dreamed of. But as the days now blend into each other like a drowsy stew, I find myself wishing things would start happening to me again. Turns out the bliss of inactivity is not all it’s cracked up to be.

The day starts like this: I arrive at school with a Peppermint Mocha in hand and head into my first class. We enjoy a YouTube video or two and engage in some intellectual discourse: “Gerald was most definitely the best character on Hey Arnold. I mean, his afro was rectangular. Can’t do much better than that.”

Then, a free period. I pull out my planner and see what today’s bounty of education has in store for me. Answer? Nothing. It seems, then, that I have no other choice than to pull out my iPhone and start perusing Texts From Last Night. Of course, this is not even a choice at all, since phones are not allowed to be on during school hours and I am not amused by the drunken and sordid acts of the sinful youth anyway (I prefer Prayers from Last Night). Besides, there’s only, like, 25 new entries a day (…I have heard from others who engage in such base and common entertainment).

And then what? Another nap? Another Diet Coke from the vending machine? It seems that a little known symptom of this infamous Senioritis is paralyzing boredom.

Now, one may say “Come on Faith, life is what you make of it! Why not start a new book? Start volunteering somewhere?” And you’re right, internal dialogue, I should find something to fill the void. But I have fallen so far into this cult of leisure it’s hard to crawl back out and make something out of my adolescent existence.

In my Shorter 19th Century Russian Masterpieces Class, we read Uncle Vanya, from which I find this profound and fitting quote: “You have infected us with your idleness.” I find that the senior’s typical eagerness to rid oneself of motivation has injected in me a crippling torpor that I cannot recover from. The definition I discovered is a little too accurate:

I am indeed “lazy,” and I do “no longer give a damn” about anything, and yes, I “can’t [sic] wait until school ends” every day, because it’s so, so boring. It seems that Senioritis truly is an epidemic of dastardly proportions, and the only antidote is the work itself. However, I think I can endure a few more months before resuming treatment, thank you very much.

“View from the Top” by Faith ‘10.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Let's not blow this out of proportion

On a cold October morning, a handful of juniors made a fateful decision as they groped through their closet for a comfortable sweatshirt. They arrived at school with lettering stamped across their chests, spelling out the all-too familiar names: YALE, BROWN, STANFORD–words they would soon wholly regret advertising.

The senior class, as stressed out as James Franco is attractive, stormed the offices of the authorities, torches and pitchforks in hand, and insisted that this wrong be righted. With early application due dates rearing their collegiate heads, they argued, the apparel of the junior class was insensitive, pretentious, and, in a word, inexcusable.

The two sides have now reached some kind of a stalemate. And now that the cacophony has subsided, may I suggest that our reaction was a bit overblown?

Let me start by pointing out some painful truths. First, this firestorm erupted on a free dress day, a day when people are allowed to wear whatever they want (yes, even if it makes you nervous about your future). If a junior is wearing a college sweatshirt on a uniform day, I am all in favor of subjecting them to the tidal wave of demerits they deserve. This, however, was not the case.

Second, I hope none of us think ourselves so important that a person would plan their entire outfit around offending us. But I am not going to waste this small space trying to convince my classmates that the juniors did nothing wrong- -if there’s one thing I admire about the class of 2010, it’s their loyalty to their convictions.

What really bothers me about this whole fiasco is the bigger picture–how we allowed ourselves to (in the words of President Obama) get all wee-weed up about this.

Believe me, it is a stressful time. I will not deny that. But the amount of gravity we are placing upon a mere four years of our lives is absolutely ridiculous. Do we all really want to believe that the greatest years of our lives end at 22? As for the argument that our futures are dictated by our bachelor’s degree, that I also find depressingly limiting, and untrue. When I hear a fellow schoolmate proudly claiming that movies like Rent and Into the Wild “changed my life,” I would hope that they can recognize their own hypocrisy in obsessing over academic establishments.

Let’s say, however, you are not one to swoon over movies that romanticize the “downwith-the-people” lifestyle. Let’s say you are simply one of those who argued that juniors fail to understand “what we are going through.” I understand that the college process is a mixture of emotions, but I urge you to make sure that the feeling that rises to the top is one of gratitude. “What we are going through” deals with a small fly in the overall caviar of our exceedingly privileged lives. I hate to get all “people are starving in Africa,” on you, but as we learned from Dr. Mathabane, people are not only starving in Africa, but getting their feet eaten off by rats in Africa. If I recall, every member of the student body stood up in applause for his advice to be thankful for what we have.

Let’s not make fools of ourselves with contradictory behavior. Making mountains out of outerwear will not get you into college.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Just wait young ones… It will get better

Okay, ladies (or perhaps girls, as I can barely even apply to myself such a genteel term as “lady”), listen up, and listen good.. I have been the seventh grader circling above the upper half of the school four or five times trying to find the elusive science buildings that overlook the pool. I rode the 104 bus route down the windy roads of Sunset Blvd. with the best of them, and furtively parked on the once forbidden Arden with the worst. I speak the wisdom one can only gain from five years of tests, essays, and throngs of hungry girls tearing out each other’s hair for a free Chinese Chicken Salad – so you can trust me when I promise: IT GETS BETTER.

To understand my reason for assuring you of this fact, I must revisit the date of September 1, 2009: I had returned home from a flawless, one could almost say, heavenly, first day of senior year. Buzzing with the excitement of seeing all those so familiar faces, I logged on to my Facebook to see what my fellow Marlboroughnians had to say – and I was shocked. Every status I read sounded like a line from a Hamlet soliloquy: there were levels of abject despair in these lines that I had not seen in my entire seventeen years of life. And after I read a handful of these poetically tragic outcries, I found myself laughing. Not because I think the image of you writhing in agony on the floor of your English class over an in-class essay is amusing–no, it was because I suddenly remembered that feeling.

I remembered my junior self sitting in the back of Caswell with a dour expression, swearing my revenge upon the construction workers as they drilled their way into the now beautiful Munger Hall. I remember sitting in my living room at midnight weeping over a Chemistry Honors final, the grade of which is now utterly irrelevant. And I definitely remember sitting in pin ceremony, my knees aching from keeping them in that rigid “ladylike” position, wondering, “My God, when is this going to end?” And yes, at the time, every vexation seemed like a scene worthy of a tear jerking documentary. I often lay upon the field with friends during those dozens of slow, stewy April afternoons, as we exchanged half-dreamed plans of running away to the mountains and living some classically unconventional life, to escape the horrors of this soul-sucking establishment. I wish I could save myself some embarrassment in saying we weren’t serious, but I will not lie to readers – we were utterly oblivious to the absurdity of our conversations.

Now, as I recline upon the pillowy mounds of furniture in my senior lounge, I realize that, in all honesty, what seemed like the end of the world was really just the end of a day – and usually, the next one worked out just swimmingly. So, to juniors and seventh graders alike, I have one thing to say: suck it up, stick it out, and soon you’ll be laughing with the rest of us.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Give us something to gossip about

As much as I am trying to embrace my inner know-it-all that is essential to the senior persona, right now I am feeling as confused about my school as a seventh grader fresh off the Catalina boat. How can an establishment that encourages us to speak up about controversial issues now put its figurative hands over our mouths without shame?
Marlborough, much like the teenage girls that its ever-graceful halls contain, has its phases. My seventh grade year was marked by lectures on the evils of theft after numerous incidents of stealing were reported. More recent was the Era of the Recycling Bins. Who could forget the countless videos threatening physical assault upon students who dared let a glass bottle go to waste?
However, I have quite a bone to pick with the new subject of recent lectures: gossiping.
I have now sat through about three meetings in which both my class and others’ were chided like toddlers for utilizing our school’s social grapevine. So far, the only effect I’ve seen is no effect, unless you count the resentment for being treated so condescendingly. As much as America’s guidance counselors would jump to disagree, gossip is inevitable. When was the last time you heard of a school successfully eradicating the exchange of rumors from its campus? And no, last night’s episode of Hannah Montana does not count.
The point is, gossip is and will always be a foundation of our society. We are a species that thrives on communication, and especially in this day and age, the spread of information is unstoppable. The only way to truly restrict gossiping is to make it a punishable offense, and this is not an option. Why? Because (and AP US students will back me up on this) the censorship of gossip is a violation of the First Amendment. And to be honest, to hear my fellow students be reprimanded for raising concern about certain incidents around the school is enough to cause my hand to reach for my pocket United States Constitution.
It’s time for the Marlborough establishment to admit there are some aspects of a teenage society beyond their control--and perhaps channel their energy into a more productive realm. A suggestion: we have not had a single speaker this year. Perhaps if that was provided, it would give us something more interesting to talk about than the latest trivial mishap.

Senior-seventh grade bonding is not too bad

Moans of agony echo throughout the living room. Bodies cower on the gargantuan beanbag and cushioned chairs, and as the door swings open, seniors grimace and wince like they’re vampires seeing daylight. “Seven-twelve buddy activities! Come onto the field!” We succumb.

Have we any other choice?

I reluctantly trudge toward the grass, my steps so heavy, as if I’m dragging my shadow. Ultimately futile was the email I sent last night: “Ms. Moser, please let me be exempt. I have so much work to do and I think that my buddy, along with the entire seventh grade, hates me anyway. Sincerely, Taylor Thompson.” To no avail. I’m about to face the girl to whom I had recently waved and received no response (I can presently infer that that was a misunderstanding).

Seniors and seventh graders gravitate toward their peers, because let’s face it: No one enjoys inter-grade activities, especially not me. Faculty members overlook the scene, their mouths curling into pleased, toothy crescents. I’m thinking they must get some sadistic pleasure from watching two alternate herds (seniors and seventh graders) hesitantly transform into an unhappy smorgasbord of awkward pairs.

My buddy and I introduce ourselves. She’s bubbly, forward, and athletic, which are qualities I often lack. Just as I’m ready to hide under the post-three-legged-race table of Diddy Riese cookies, a sweet song permeated my eardrums: “I don’t want to do this” escapes my buddy’s lips. Let us sing this song in tandem, I declare. The last thing we want to do is participate, and ironically, this fact bonds us.

We tie our legs together. Mine is considerably thicker. Despite our differences in size and disposition, we are both determined: determined to get this over with. Our arms link, and we waddle across the field like idiots. As we finish, a tsunami of team spirit crashes over me, and we exchange victorious grins and an epic high five. We did it! A-period is over! We’re now permitted to resume our lives, Diddy Riese in tow.

Everlasting friendships are sparse and age boundaries remain unscathed, but it was a pleasant change to converse with seventh graders as opposed to treating them as personal bowling pins. Inter-grade common interests are nearly nonexistent, but inter-grade courtesy can be cultivated. I can honestly say that my hallway glares became less menacing, and occasionally, my buddy and I exchange a previously unheard-of acknowledgment: a smile.

We're in the midst of a cookie crisis

If you give a mouse a cookie, he’ll ask for a glass of milk. Take one from ’90s icon Angelica Pickles, and expect a temper tantrum. The student body must channel the latter cartoon character, because the freshly baked chocolate chip cookie has been exiled from our once-beloved cafeteria. We must kick and scream ‘til we stop the injustice and cookies return to their rightful homes: our stomachs.

I remember that warm, buttery noontime scent. It felt like Otis Spunkenmeyer himself was whispering in my ear, beckoning me with sweet songs of a crusty outside and a gooey middle. One bite into the steaming, golden brown discus was so memory-inducing that I could see each grade at Marlborough sail by as if I were looking at my adolescence through a moving train’s window. From ages twelve through seventeen, I would savor this 12:00 ritual. But now it’s gone. Both my memories and those of generations to come have been unjustly stripped from our feeble hands.

Marlborough places a strong emphasis on tradition, so I’m appalled that our school has been rid of a great one. Purchasing a cafeteria cookie might’ve been the only tradition that didn’t involve standing among your classmates looking like a coiffed fastidious priss (i.e. Pin and Ring Ceremonies) or slouching miserably in Caswell feeling like a talent-less imbecile (i.e. Cum Laude and Awards Ceremonies). The cookie was a unifying tradition. I’d stand in line with jocks, princesses, and straight-up weirdos, all of whom were connected by their love of the baked treat. “A cookie, please.” I’ll have what she’s having.

Smiles are narrower, but waists aren’t. Mr. Oie and select parents believe that eliminating the hands-down best treat will spawn a healthier Marlborough, yet chips, croissants, Pop Tarts, and mutant muffins remain. I’m down with a delicious, healthy cafeteria, but something tells me that the recession won’t allow for fresh ingredients. So just keep the cafeteria OG, fools! I can’t fathom how the perpetrators of this culinary crime believed that removing cookies would improve student health, because evidently they still condone the serving of tacos blanketed in cheese, bacon-studded baked potatoes, and Chinese food. It was an incredibly pointless move.

Just bring back cookies, Mr. Oie. You can restore happiness as quickly as you destroyed it, so why not?

-Taylor '09

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Big Honor is Watching You

The UltraViolet December 2008

First comes love (pin ceremony), then engagement (ring ceremony), then marriage (graduation). Looks like Marlborough has turned school creepiness up a notch with surveillance cameras: the new “Honor Eyes” that adorn this year’s honor bracelets.

The humble yarn honor bracelets just didn’t cut it this year. At the annual honor assembly, council distributed to the student body the familiar purple cords, this time, adorned with some very unfamiliar beads. The tried and true honor bracelets were now strung with evil eyes. Council told us that the beads represent the “Honor Eye,” which is meant to constantly remind every student to carry out good behavior. It doesn’t stop there. There are posters, too.

Upon seeing these 8×11 posters placed around campus, emblazoned with the vacant blue eye and bold text reading “HONOR EYE,” I thought, “What is this? 1984, Marlborough edition?” George Orwell’s classic novel 1984 illustrates a world whose inhabitants are constantly under surveillance by Big Brother, an all-powerful leader depicted in a frightening propaganda message: “Big Brother is Watching You.” Now, it’s not my intention to deem Marlborough a totalitarian society, but the Honor Eye is undeniably comparable to 1984’s mysterious dictator. Like Big Brother, the Honor Eye is always watching. Yes, even in the shower.

The honor eye actually diminishes personal responsibility, and the representation of a hawk-eyed figure hinders our growth. How are we expected to learn from our mistakes if we’re constantly under forceful guidance? Every Marlborough brochure is laden with quotes like, “It’s great that teachers trust students and feel comfortable leaving the room during tests.” Doesn’t the honor eye contradict this feature on which Marlborough so zealously prides itself? Council’s decision to invent a silly symbol of authority that is meant to scrutinize my every move makes me feel as if I cannot be trusted on my own.
Don’t get me wrong; the bracelets aren’t hurting anyone. Other than the fact that they look like they were purchased at some pseudo spiritual clearance sale, they’re pretty harmless. My main issue? The Honor Eye symbolizes what I always thought the Marlborough community rejected: controlling figures that enforce good behavior and eliminate the once-healthy notion that it’s okay to make mistakes.
Honor, integrity, and trustworthiness should not be imposed onto students by a representation of authority. With a quick snip of some scissors, Marlborough’s own Big Brother was off my wrist and into the trashcan. I’ll find honor within myself, thank you very much.

-Taylor ‘09