Friday, November 7, 2008

Education Requirements in the Great State of Idaho

For the most part, we can thank M.T.V. and The Disney Channel for unifying budding American Adolescents into a common tribe of obnoxiousness from coast to coast. Take Sara Jane in the backwoods of Tennessee, then add Estabella Grape from Hollywood, awkward eye-rolling ensues. Then insert Hannah Montana into the mix and all of a sudden Sara Jane and Estee-G are grooving in sync.

In my early pre-teen years of Friday Night Sleepovers, before Hannah Montana and multiple cartoon channels, our unifying source came from Friday Night Videos hosted by Casey Kasem. This just worked us up into a lather for the channel dedicated solely to non-stop music video coolness: M.T.V. I remember walking the two blocks home from Lincoln School, when out of the blue me and my buddies would scream “I Want my M.T.V.!!” and then laugh uncontrollably. It was the battle cry of high-schoolers everywhere, and I was happy to repeat their mantra even though I still thought my parents were cool.

By the time I finally entered High School, having been brainwashed by self-absorbed rock ‘n rollers for years, the older generation finally fought back. They pulled out their old copies of Better Homes and Manners and got on the school board to create one of my favorite electives in High School: Poison Personality.

School Board Granny: Tssssk!! It’s not Poison Personality. Mind your manners young lady. And holes in the knees make you look like a Jezebel!

Little Mrs. Olsen: Oh right. Too much music videos, sorry. Poise [pause and await nod of approval] and Personality. Yes?

School Board Granny: Better!

The ironic thing about this conversation I never had with a school board granny is that I would give anything today, as the wise and grown up Mrs. Olsen that I am, to enter into the halls of Middle Schools everywhere and teach those punks a few things about respect….and manners.

My own enrollment in the High School Elective “Poise and Personality” had more to do with easy credit from my neighbor that lived down the street, then “sticking it to The Man”, although my rock-n-roll senses told me it was old-fashioned to say the least. After going to class the first day and realizing that there were NO BOYS in sight, it soon turned into the haven where females could let loose without the worry of flirting, eye-rolling or sounding too smart for their fellow male students.

Core curriculum issues that I learned:

  • Always pass the salt and pepper together (even if someone only asks for one)
  • And by the way, when they ask for S&P, it’s rude to use them first before passing (unless you ask to do so)
  • Never let your soup bowl leave the table, the air slurp reeks of bad breeding
  • Speaking of soup, don’t crush crackers in the air and drop them in. You place the whole cracker in the soup, then break with your spoon.
  • Walk as if you’re holding a nickel in your rear
  • Always apply under-eye concealer with your ring finger (it's the weakest and will pull the skin the least). Apply outside in.
  • When tweezing eyebrows, tweeze from the bottom up. Don’t tweeze the top hairs.

Between these core curriculum issues, the class would sit mesmerized with tales of college glory days when Mrs. M met her husband. He was a rugged frat boy, and she was a sorority queen nominated by the frats, and was voted University-Wide as having the best legs.

Years later, well into their married life, they had struggled to have kids. I’ll never forget the baited breath of all the female students, myself included, with eyes affixed on Mrs. M as she described the years of longing for another child, and the continual disappointment of not being able to conceive a child. Then detailing an especially princess date with her husband, followed by a passionate session in the bedroom (that’s about as much detail as we got there darnit) left her perfectly female senses to gloriously exclaim: Honey, we made a baby tonight.

Gasp! Loong silence.

Mrs. M: Nine months later my son was born.
[aaaaaand scene]

RRrRRrriiing! She had timed it perfectly. Bell rings and we go to our next class feeling shocked and empowered at the same time.

Remembering this scene as a married woman years later, I share a dichotomy of emotions. First is gratitude for making me and all my fellow female classmates a part of what is an adult conversation, and part of a circle of sisterhood that we didn’t quite understand. The other part of me, the Mrs. Olsen who is now part of the adult world, is left with the eyebrow curl wondering What was she thinking?! What on earth possessed her to share those intimate details with a bunch of teenage girls!

Speaking of eyebrows, after years of perfectly poised living, I finally threw out the "Only-Tweeze-From-the-Bottom-Up" rule after seeing this unauthorized picture of me. No wonder my High School primping routine included brushing my eyebrows with a hairspray soaked toothbrush. O the distractions of motherhood!


Lee Family said...

Mrs. M never shared that story with us!! Your recollection of things you learned was quite impressive. I remember 1) the way Mrs. M crossed her legs was what first got Mr. M to notice her 2) I know about stressed honey, it is desserts spelled backwards, 3) When standing you can place both hands on one hip 4) and you need two coats! of mascara on each eye.
You know what, I don't think that was a poise and personality class, I think I learned all of that in a Office/secretarial type class. We got lame handouts with quotes about stressed spelled backwards like every day. I do appreciate learning how to cross my legs correctly though.
okay, love ya.

Anonymous said...

It was just last year when I looked down at my 'jet black' legs and noticed everyone else was 'nude'. I thought, "When did the 'match-your-hose-to-your-hemline' rule change?"


Mrs. Olsen said...

Ha! I am loving the additional "rules" that you fellow Idahoans are remembering. The "stressed is desserts spelled backwards" rule was completely forgotten by me. But I think I just might stick it on my fridge.

paula said...

I stayed away from any class that was all female. Sounds like I made the right choice in doing so. Are you kidding me? At least in wood shop (where all the boys were) we learned useful things.

Monica said...

Until two months ago I was still applying my blush starting at the earlobe and working my way forward. Then, I was watching the Today show and a makeup artist was on and she said, "You still see ladies wearing blush in the racer stripe fashion of the 80s. You really should only apply it to the apples of the cheeks." Wendy's comment about the nylons also makes me wonder which of these rules we should update. Amber, could you provide some P&P advice here?