That's what we mean when we say "socializing" right? We mean that it's important that our kids learn that the world is a hard place and that people can be mean and things can be unfair.
It kind of sucks, if you think about it.
I can still remember times in elementary school where something happened to embarrass me.
When I had chicken pox, the school nurse looked at my butt. She checked for them all over me and then said, "I'm just going to take a quick peek in here." When she pulled back the waistband of my pants, she said, "Aren't you wearing underwear?"
I was wearing underwear. They were just too big and worn out around the elastic and they kept falling down. I reached into my pants and grabbed two big handfuls and hiked them up, feeling like I was going to die of embarrassment.
The nurse said, "Oh! There they are! What were they doing way down there?" and I felt like it wasn't fair. I had been struggling with those underwear all day. There wasn't anything I could do but leave them bunched up in the seat of my pants, because what? Was I going to keep digging around in there and pulling them up all day? Now, she got to make a little joke and laugh about when they had been plaguing me and ruining my life all morning.
I used to be kept up at night by that moment. Wide eyed and clutching my sheets against my throat in total and utter shame.
I remember a time when the two most rich and popular girls in my class got into a fight, and suddenly, one of them was best friends with me. For two whole days, a pretty, shiny haired girl with a hounds-tooth peacoat dragged me around the playground, sat next to me at lunch and passed me notes in class. I hated it because everybody, including me, knew that she was better than me; and it was also the thrill of my little life.
Once, standing in the lunch line, the girl next to me said, "Why do you wear things like that?"
I was wearing a brown and maroon shirt with a flower pattern, puffy sleeves and a string that tied around my neck. It was from the thrift store and the sleeves dug into my arms every time I reached for something. I was wearing it because I didn't have a choice.
These things have been with me for 25 years. Sometimes, one of them will pop into my head at night and I'll feel dark and ashamed and lonely. I'll get a knot in my stomach and feel like I'm going to puke. Then I'll say to myself, "What the fuck are you doing? You're a grown up."
I couldn't care less about it now, if a nurse wanted to look at my butt and discovered that my underwear were totally sub par. I've had babies. Trust me, I've had a million worse things perpetrated against me by nurses. But somehow, that incident stayed with me.
Maybe I've gotten off track. I started by thinking about school and about how we think it's important to be thrown into a setting that means sink or swim. Maybe I even agree that it's important, in a way. I certainly agree with public education. I'm sure I could teach my girls eighth grade math. I'm sure I could give a convincing lesson about symbolism in The Scarlet Letter. I can't know things I don't know, though. I can't teach my girls eighth grade math from the prospective of an Italian man who looks like Jeff Goldblum and talks with a slight lisp, you know? (His name was Dr. Uccilinni, but we called him Dr. Useless Weeny. Pure gold, right? I can't replicate that.)
There were things about being part of the terrible institution of high school that were even exhilarating. What about all those boys? What about smoking weed with my best friend out of a coke can and laughing so hard I thought for sure that you peed your pants? What about the times I was so drunk I actually did pee my pants? What about the youth group boys who told me over the phone that I was "more than a handful?" What about scotch and wandering drunk around the Christmas tree farm?
I stumbled onto a mama deer and her baby. Just came crashing through a row on pine trees and fell on my knees. They watched me for a few minutes and the sky was full of stars. The whole was a globe of water. I could see the sky curving around us, I could tap on the glass surface of the moon.
What about graduating and making out with boys in cars? What about when a boy would tell you he loved you but he was really just trying to be gentlemanly about wanting to touch your boobs? What about feeling like you were smart and right and boundlessly young? What about having the whole world stretching all around you like a dream, about plans to run away to juggle on the Atlantic City Boardwalk for cigarettes and dollar bills to buy giant slices of pizza with puddles of grease?
I don't want those things for my kids. I want them to be good girls. I want them to get good grades and work hard. I want them to have nice girl friends and sweet boyfriend who wear glasses and floss their teeth and maybe play the clarinet. I guess I don't know what I want for them. I want them to be able to be happy, when they're grown. I want them to feel like they were set up to feel powerful. I want them to be powerful.
I don't know what to do with all of that. My girls have interrupted me a thousand times since I started writing this and I don't even remember what my point was.
I think the point of having babies is to give yourself away, to annihilate yourself so that you and your child can grow together. What is the point of having teenagers? I guess it's another kind of annihilation. I guess it's about letting go and trusting that you've both grown into something good enough to make it in a world people need to be socialized against. I guess the point of everything is just to make it together.