#14: The Year 6 Farewell we just worked at

 

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It was a mild, slightly overcast afternoon, when Castor and Pollux walked into work on this uneventful Tuesday. They knew they were working a Year 6 Farewell, and remembered these types of functions vividly from last year, particularly one where the DJ played “Sexual Healing” more than once, and no one else seemed to be phased by the inappropriateness and irrelevance of such a song to a primary school graduation. Upon walking into work, there was the usual array of balloons and name cards, a jug of soft drink per table (which was code for high pitched screams and children running into glass doors in no time) and a table for the teachers conveniently located such that they could repimand/shout at the children over dinner.

As the students began to arrive, something seemed out of the ordinary. High heels perhaps, professionally curled hair, excessive eye shadow, and dresses that would have fit in on a red carpet. It is…your Year 6 graduation. Not even sure why they have one. Doesn’t everyone graduate from Year 6? Is it even an achievement? Am I meant to write that on my CV? “Graduated from Year 6 2002, majoring in fingerpainting with a minor in diaramas”. Anyway..whatever..its cute. What perplexed us most at first were the handbags. Every single girl had a handbag. Small issue: why? Reasons for having a handbag include:

a) to carry your wallet which holds your cash, cards, ID, vouchers, gym membership, old receipts, perfume samples, foreign coins, business cards, unactivated Boost membership card, etc etc, NONE of which a 12 year old would need/have. There was a bar tab…your meal is paid for…no one needed any money. You’re 12…you’re drinking orange juice…you don’t have or need an ID. Mummy buys your Boost…you’re not old enough to have an “account” with any kind of institution. Conclusion: no wallet in handbag.

b) to carry “sanitary items”, as your 60 year old teacher would probably call them. We don’t know about the hormones people put in chicken these days but we don’t think too many girls before the age of 12 have their period. Moreover, it seems very unlikely that, of the 20 girls in the room, who probably don’t get their period at yet, to all have their period at once. Conclusion: no pads or tampons in handbag.

c) to hold make up/perfume/deoderant/maybe even a toothbrush, in case you end up staying at your boyfriends house and need to freshen up! You went to school today…you’re going to school tomorrow…no boy in your class is looking at you because they’re too busy arguing about getting Coke or Fanta (we don’t sell Fanta) and throwing food at each other. You think they’re “gross” and “feral” anyway. Conclusion: no secret sleepover items in handbag.

d) to hold a phone. At least 80% of that room had an iPhone. They were taking panorama shots of the room. It’s your Year 6 graduation, NO ONE CARES. Sorry, thats rude. Mummy and Daddy care, but THEY’RE THERE. And they have a camera. Are you going to upload that photo onto facebook? If so, who do you know who is not in the room? But more importantly, why do you have a phone? And why did you bring it with you? As the Year 6 teacher wisely stated, “you are safe here…you do not need your phones”. If you have your phone out the whole time, you don’t need a handbag. Maybe you can just put it in your bra? I’m sure you’re wearing one of those, even though it’s just as useless as the handbag. Conclusion: no phone in handbag, phone in hand.

The argument that the youth are degenerating is as old as time. Plato credited Socrates with saying, over 1500 years ago, “The children now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority, they show disrespect to their elders…. They no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up dainties at the table, cross their legs, and are tyrants over their teachers”. Hehe they run this story on A Current Affair once a week. And every one of my grandparents have said this about the younger generation, almost verbatim, at one time or another. This isn’t what we’re saying about this Year 6 graduation, although we’re pretty sure that if their teacher read this quote, she would think it was someone describing her class. Children aren’t any more naughty, or rude, or disrespectful than they used to be. They find their elders just as annoying as we did. Seriously, their teacher made a 15 minute speech about their bad behaviour because they weren’t dancing properly to that ‘Hey Baby’ song that was NEVER cool. And we both had to leave the room because we couldn’t stop laughing, especially at the point where the teacher said “of all the Year 6 graduations I have been to, I have never seen behaviour like this. You look so lovely, but your manners are disgraceful,” which we had heard, exactly, last year. Any student who dances obediently to the Nutbush or the Macarena needs to be institutionalized, so personally we were all for a little bit of disrespect. But what we did find striking, was the gendering of this Year 6 class, and how the girls were expected to be beautiful women, and the boys were expected to be disruptive and hopeless men.

We don’t understand why every announcement to a class must begin with “boys and girls”. We also don’t understand how a school can seriously condone or encourage girls to look and act like they are grown women. It’s so tempting to take one aside and say, “you have your whole life to hate yourself! You have your whole life to get up in the morning and decide you are not good enough, and therefore paint your face and curl your hair and lengthen your legs”. One girl was wearing a white number with buttons the whole way down the back, that resembled a wedding dress, with silver sparkly heels. Now, when it came to dancing, she had a conundrum, because, as most girls discover years later, it is incredibly painful and difficult to dance in high heels (i.e: modern day Chinese footbinding). BUT, like every great woman, she had thought about this problem in advance, and brought a pair of flats. MAYBE THATS WHY SHE BROUGHT A HANDBAG. The sight of a 12 year old girl having to change her shoes from heels to flats, both of which match perfectly with her wedding dress, in order to dance to the..wait for it…CHICKEN DANCE…is nothing short of tragic. Nanananananana (youlook25) nanananananana (whydoyouhaveahandbag) nuhnuhnuhnuh (youlooklikeawhitechicken) NUH NUH NUH NUH.

On a more serious note, Castor was very confused when she went to the bathroom to get away from it all (sorry boss) and had angry Year 6 girls knocking at her door yelling “whose in there!?” Considering Castor is much shorter than the average 12 year old girl, she felt slightly intimidated. It turns out though (we discovered due to some A grade eavesdropping from Pollux) that these crazy kids were after their friend who had gone to the bathroom to throw up her dinner. What. The. Hell. What is wrong with the world? How does she even know bulimia is a thing? And now all her friends know that bulimia is a thing? And apparently bullying somebody for being bulimic is the solution. This child is 12 years old. We had naïvely idealised that childhood was a time where girls were occupied with so many other endeavours, like playing bullrush and handball, that one’s body weight was not a central concern. While there is contradictory evidence about the aeitiology of eating disorders, and whether social pressures are as important as we often assume, it seems that when we have children with handbags, high heels and make up, we are giving them not only adult accessories, which we often write off as cute, but also adult problems.

It can be very funny watching a little girl imitate an adult. One girl, after being told that she must wait until everyone on her table received their meal before she could begin, put her hands over her mouth and squealed “Ah! Oh but it is just so tempting! It looks aaaamazing.”…It was chicken nuggets and chips. Yeah its tempting. I had some (probably of yours) in the kitchen, but what is with pretending it is like crème Brulee or fillet mignon? We literally got it out of the freezer and put it in the fryer. Another girl gasped when her friend (in the white dress) walked in and just kept looking her up and down saying “Oh. My. God.” Thus, it is unequivocal that these girls imitate. They imitate their mummy’s, each other, people on television/in movies, women in magazines etc. We happened to stumble upon the “Victoria’s Secret Runway Show” the other night during the ad break of “Judge Judy”, which reaffirmed our hunch that girls of the Western world are doomed. We could write a book about everything that was wrong with it, and how bizarre it is that as a culture we absolutely worship models, despite the fact they do not work as hard, and do not contribute to society, in the same way that a shop keeper, a cleaner, a nurse or a teacher does. Yet, it is them that we ask about love, life and success (R.e: Just because you look good in your underwear does not make you better at life). Weight and success are becoming more and more synonymous and this is deeply problematic. Losing the baby weight within like three months of giving birth does not make you a better mother…by next year we will have a VS model who is literally still in labour on the runway, but who has already lost that dreaded baby weight! Anyway, when we heard a model brag that she was going to be wearing a 2.5 million dollar bra on the runway we vomited and then changed the channel…to Toddlers and Tiaras. Yes. Toddlers and Tiaras is a form of child abuse. Yes. The mums should be in prison. Yes. People are universally opposed to this show. But why? Hang on. We just went from watching Victoria’s Secret models being heralded as the most successful and “amazing” (quote) women in the world, to young girls imitating them? Why are we so outraged and surprised? Why are we so accepting and in awe of the models who set the standards? What is going on? You see. People are not idiots. These mothers, as weird as they may be, can see what is socially valued in women in 2012, and that is beauty (and a box gap). They are simply encouraging their girls to emulate it. If we are so disgusted by these creepy toddlers then we must, by extension, be just as disgusted by these creepy women who should know better.

To bring it back to this awful Year 6 Farewell. Sometimes it takes someone to imitate us to realise how stupid we look. When you see a 12 year old, stumbling around in heels that don’t fit, with a bag with nothing in it, in a dress that doesn’t sit right, with professionally curled hair, and adorned with stacks of make up, sure we’re having a giggle at them, but really, we’re having a very sad laugh at ourselves. What the HELL are we doing? The boys are breaking it down to the macarena because they don’t have to worry about anyone seeing their undies, or leaving their empty handbag unattended, or breaking their ankle in their impractical shoes. It is the same with Toddlers and Tiaras. These girls look so absurd, because all the ridiculous trinkets of femininity are put onto a body that can’t quite comprehend what it’s all about.

Therefore, it is perceivable, not only via celebrities, music, books and cultural trends, but also through the people all around us, that the world is ending. We hope for those girls’ sake that it is, because if they are 25 by their Year 6 graduation, then they will be menapausal by Year 10, and dead by the time they actually graduate.

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One thought on “#14: The Year 6 Farewell we just worked at

  1. Oh dear you 2 need to sit and have a good long chat with BJ – she deals with so many of these issues at almost every camp but especially holiday camp – with the girls. She got so fed up with what she was seeing that she started an initiative for a “girls only” holiday camp at Yarramundi…she called it “chicks in the sticks”. She got a hold of the Dove commercial where it shows the woman who gets photos shopped to the hilt to look “perfect” so that she becomes what girls aspire to. She also had guest speakers – positive, successful career women, CEO’s, Police, Fire & Ambulance workers, vets, doctors, nurses etc. It was hugely successful and a great lesson for them.

    She also has a leadership group that her and some of her staff have mentored for many years as kids who came to camp and then as they got to that age of almost “being too old for camp” (around school leaving time) she wanted to keep them involved. So they got this group of boys and girls, some but not all were in foster care, and they started to hand over planning to them. BJ & staff would suggest a location, Barrington Tops, Mungo National Park, Ulluru – and they would say to the group – your camp you organise it. The group would come together plan what was going to happen, activities, meals, transport and fund raising. BJ and staff would be there or thereabouts to help out but primarily it was all down to them. Sure there were some hic ups but they learnt from them and the next one was better than the previous one.

    Often times on the long drives – mainly Barrington & Mungo, they traveled in cars – girls with the female staff, boys with the male staff. BJ said some of the most meaningful & valuable lessons they ever learnt were on those drives. Asking & answering questions about expectations, careers, sexuality, the first boy you meet doesnt have to be your first… All the subjects were handled responsibly….because that is what BJ is and that is how she sees her role.

    The lesson to the above is – everyone needs a positive role model, be it your parent, a relative or a camp leader in this case. BJ is loved by so many of her “campers” – both from Yarramundi and STILL those she impacted when she was in Michigan. 2 camper parents & 2 sisters (who were our junior bridesmaids) were at our wedding. We still buy and receive gifts for/from at least 10 families in the States & Canada – all meet through camp.

    If your role model is a model – see the results in your story. If you role model is some one other than that – see my rantings above.

    As a closing note – some of the kids that formed the leadership group are starting careers in Outdoor Education, Nursing, Teaching, Veterinary Science….need I say anymore?!

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