Ah, to be in fifth grade again

One of the reasons I sit next to my daughter in Art Class is to keep her focused. She’s been in this class for almost a year now, and went through a rough patch where she was making trouble instead of making art, and it’s good to see her off that particular patch and making art again.

One side-effect of sitting in a room full of 10-year-olds is that I get to listen to them converse. Mostly I remain silent, smiling to myself as I remember the kinds of inanity that sprung from MY lips 27 years ago. One conversation, though, required my commentary:

Apparently a few of the kids have a friend/acquaintance at school who has undergone chemotherapy, and has lost all her hair. One of the boys was insensitive enough to remark rather honestly (I thought) “she looks kind of silly with no hair.” The girl sitting across from him started working him over with a fairly inexpert version of the “you need to be more sensitive about how others look when they can’t control how they look” lecture.

I interrupted her without looking up from my artwork: “people with no hair DO look kind of silly.”

I didn’t say anything else, and I never looked up. The kids giggled, apparently amused and bemused at the thought that a person with a particular trait could make fun of that trait, and with completely deadpan delivery, no less, and the conversation veered off in other directions.

Hopefully they learn to do it themselves — being able to laugh at yourself allows you not so much to deflect scorn and criticism as to negate its effect altogether. Cruel little 10-year-olds stop making fun of you when they find out that A) you’re better at it than they are, and B) it doesn’t bother you. I hope their bald friend learns it too. She’s got a tougher row to hoe than most. Being a bald, fifth-grade girl… I shudder at the thought.


9 thoughts on “Ah, to be in fifth grade again”

  1. There is something also to be said for the difference between being sensitive to someone — not calling them fat if they happen to be fat, just because you can or because you’re mean, for example — and pretending the world is not as it is by never acknowledging that gosh, they might not be at ideal weight.

    The rigorous denial of the elephant in the room increases feelings of alienation and stigma. It doesn’t reduce it. Sensitivity means not hurting the girl’s feelings because she’s lost her hair, not pretending that she doesn’t look different now.

    So, you know, “me too” and all that.

  2. Nicely done.

    For those passing through, don’t forget about Locks of Love if you’re getting your long hair hacked off. I did this about a year and a half ago when I grew tired of my ponytail.

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