That makes me cringe

Originally published on Tumblr, September 2013. This one met with a great deal of criticism. Apparently I sounded too preachy, and I didn’t utilize the proper term for the “gauges”… (I purposely named them with my own lingo). So, this one is for folks age 30 and up I suppose…

I have been teaching for a while. I have seen loads of fads over the last 20+ years in American High Schools. I have seen the pale girls sporting black lipstick, I have appreciated all hues in hair color, lots of shaved heads & Mohawks, and I have seen boys who wear their pants at their knees. I have seen kids who pierce their tongues, and kids who wear pajamas. These mavericks are expressing themselves. I get it and I appreciate it.

Eventually “Paula the Punker” and Mr. Baggy Pants will mature and realize that they no longer want to look like caricatures. When this epiphany strikes, it will be easy for these kids- they can simply change. They can realize the party is over, throw away their costumes, and become civilians. The blue hair follicles will welcome the chestnut brown hair dye. The size 78 pants can easily be replaced with a 36 for the “sagger”.
No big deal. These fads are ephemeral.

I cringed this week to see the upsurge in a different fad. A fad that is impossible to “drop” without surgery. A fad that permanently disfigures these young, foolish kids. The fad is the practice of upsizing “ear bracelets”. I call them this because I do not know their proper name. I used to see them on only the most radical of kids, but this “practice” is honing in on the mainstream. For those who still don’t know what this is, I will try to describe this odd and scary practice.

It begins innocently enough, from what my students have told me. A kid has a thick earring stud crammed into their existing earring hole. After enough time has passed, the kid has the thick stud replaced with a tiny circular ring. The ring is pushed, flush, into the hole to expand the hole. The earlobe stretches to fit around this tiny disk. The earlobe has now welcomed a new shape- a perfect circle that a pinky finger could poke through.

This disc, after a bit more time, is what seems to become the challenge. These kids begin to salivate and dream of a bigger disc. They want an upgrade. In a society where bigger is better, a society where kids smoke banana peals to get high- these kids want more.

And they give in to their desires. They upgrade. As soon as “Floppy- ears Magee” knows his circle is ready to stretch, he goes back to the piercing gurus for a bigger circle. The tiny little discs eventually become bracelet size, and the once petite earlobe becomes an extra ping ping paddle. There is no escape from this permanent disfigurement.

As I watch the “toddlers” of this trade pass me in the halls I cringe. I know where they are headed. They have dime sized holes now, but by the year’s end, they will have a set of handcuffs hanging off their noggins. It is a new addiction and they just can’t get enough.

I feel embarrassed for these kids, especially when I think about their day of epiphany… the day they decide they don’t want to stand out anymore. They can take out the bracelets but they won’t be able to hide their rebellion of yore. They are stuck with flappy Dumbo ears until they have the cash to hire a plastic surgeon.

I wonder what will be next? An implant that will grow a third arm? Hmmm… I might try that…

-H.C.

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