Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Political Deep End

In addition to liking cheese (as per last, yes, I know, kind of cheap and short post to try to make up the one I missed on Saturday), I also like swimming quite a bit. Cheese and I get along swimmingly. Which, in the way in which I enjoy swimming, is quite a bit.

At one pool location, there is typically an intense 10-15 minute period in which anyone in the women's locker room is unable to escape the social circles, and accompanying distresses and joys, of 11-14 year old girls. As a former 11-14 year old girl myself, it is both enlightening and challenging every time. It is hard to remember ever acting that way, but I am certain I did as, well, everyone of them pretty much IS acting that way. Or trying to get in on the action of the alpha girls who are really good at acting that way. Or trying to escape the notice of the alpha girls who are acting that way.

What do I mean by "acting that way"?

Well, high-pitched shrieking for no reason. Very loud discussions of absolutely mundane matters for no reason. Inquiries about vacation days, workout schedules, siblings, school topics, school projects, school papers, school boys, school girls, mothers, fathers, birthdays, parties, iPhones, cars, backpacks, teachers, life as they know it. All at VERY loud volume levels. Especially if someone needs to interrupt someone else to make sure their point is conveyed.

There's also a certain hysteria of activity as everyone tries to do the same thing at the same time and be a part of the communion of shampoo that occurs - regardless of how many adult outsiders are waiting to use a shower - all at once. The water wasted alone would make anyone who actually pays a water bill or watched an episode of "Captain Planet" insane. These girls are too young for both. Too loud for adult ears to hear, especially amplified in the damp echo chamber of a brightly tiled shower room, all nozzles blazing. The only way to get silence and downcast eyes (though occasionally you can catch curious eyes, if you're fast enough), is nudity.

These young women are at an age where they are unable to stop staring at the bodies of adult women, and completely mortified to be seen naked themselves. Never mind that their main recreational activity involves bearing most of their skins' surfaces by way of swimsuit coverage only. These girls would rather be burned alive than have you glimpse their naked flesh.

The adult women take off their bathing suits and let it all hang out. And yeah, it hangs in a lot of cases. The not quite adolescents - mortified. They stay bolted into their suits like superhero action figures.

So today, it was completely fascinating to overhear political discussion by these young women. President Obama is coming to Los Angeles tomorrow and will be approximately 25 yards from the location of the pool. The obvious topic of discussion was, in fact, Obama's visit. Traffic would be a mess. Things would be crazy. Oh my God. Oh my Gahd OhmyGAWD.
Derivations and varieties of "Oh my God" are quite popular with that age group.

One girl, it was determined, would be going to Obama's appearance in person (OHMYGOD!). One lucky girl? That depends on who you ask.

Below, my closest recollection of verbatim girl talk:

Girl 1: Yeah, it costs like, a hundred dollars to see him and it's tomorrow, I DOUBT there are any more tickets. It's a fundraiser.

Girl 2: A fundraiser? Fundraiser for what.

Girl 1: The election and stuff. So he can run for president again.

Girl 2: (incensed) What?! He wants to be president again!??

[author had to keep head down to not look at the girl to be like, are you serious? There's an age that does not know that's what happens politically? Yes, and she was it]

Girl 1: Of co-oourse.

[author was relieved that this girl was also shocked the other girl didn't get it]

Girl 2: Oh. I don't really like him.

Girl 1: What? Why

girls 3-7 descend on the conversation. clearly Girl 2 has a minority, and unpopular opinion

Girl 2: I just liked McCain better. I'm a republican.

[author tried to remember whether she claimed party affiliation at that same age and tried to ponder whether this girl had any idea that she was blindly adopting the stance of her parents, while also noting that the other girls too clearly knew Obama was cool and, to their perspective, RIGHT]

Girl 1: Oh.

Girl 3: I love Obama. I'm going tomorrow.

Girl 4/5/6: You're GOING?!?

Girl 3: Yeah. (to Girl 2) Why do you not like Obama?

Girl 2: I just liked McCain better. I'm not even that political. I just liked him better. Why do you like Obama?

Girl 3: Because he's black and I'm black. And he's awesome. No, you know what? Actually he's biracial and I'm biracial. And I'm a democrat. Why do you not like him, exactly?

Girl 2: I dunno, I just don't. I don't like the things he says.

Girl 3: So you mean, you don't like his politics? Like, it's not that you don't like him as a person, right?

pregnant pause in which girls 1,4,5, & 6 wait for girl 2 to answer correctly. [author also waited through the tension]

Girl 2: No, it's his politics. I don't like those.

Girl 3: Ok, yeah.

Girl 1: It's going to be so crazy tomorrow.

Girl 3: I know and I'm going!

[author nearly falls over while trying to make stealthy escape when shoe gets caught, ironically, in a no-slip mat]

Girl 1: (to author) Are you ok?

Author: Yep! My shoe got stuck!!! Ha!

[author flees in horror at her own clumsiness and is in awe at witnessing a political discussion that was both about young girls upholding the viewpoints they'd been taught in their homes and by friends' opinions (and probably Jon Stewart or their favorite celebrities) as the right ones to have, and Girl 3 simultaneously using a discussion about politics to ask her friend if she was racist. Because that is what her eyebrows and face implied. And what the whole room waited to hear her answer to - it's not personal, right???]

Even if Girl 2 had a well reasoned argument about Obama's moral failings as a person and had a picture of him kicking a puppy dog, she could not have said any of that without confirming the subtext that ehhhh maybe she didn't like him just because he wasn't a white dude like her parents hang out with. Remarkable unspoken interaction to see.

Also, I feel like I remember having pseudo-intellectual arguments at that age just to try to seem smart and mature. Not that any smart mature people I knew were having debates in sitting rooms or town halls. Just funny that it seemed to be both completely par for the course of events in the locker room, and yet had a remarkable weight not usually found in the conversations of these girls. And it was also interesting to see how deeply some of the girls personally identified with a political side. Um, duhhhh, I'm a democrat!
Interesting indeed.

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