Friday, April 28, 2006

Making revisions to begginning of narrative:

“The young lady that is receiving this very prestigious award has many shining qualities that are exceptional and rare. A strong, confident individual, she will do great things with the rest of her education.” I could feel my palms sweating as I anxiously gripped the sides of the plastic auditorium chair. “The recipient of this award has displayed great leadership abilities, is a model citizen, and very confident and well spoken for such a young age. It is with my privilege and honor to present Lauren Shirocky with the American Legion Award. Congratulations!!” Shocked and extremely pleased, I quickly stood up and proudly walked to the stage as my mother beamed from ear to ear quickly following behind me. Mom eagerly followed me to the stage and proudly pinned the American Legion badge to the left side of my dress as the audience clapped and cheered loudly. This is only the beginning I thought…I am ten years old. I have so much to do with my life and I honestly can’t wait to begin.
I loved elementary school. I had good friends, was usually teacher’s pet, was in the “honors” program at our school, usually made the straight A’s and was fairly happy with my life and my accomplishments. I was enrolled in gymnastics, horseback riding, played piano, sang in the choir, liked to run in gym class, and went over to friends’ houses on the weekends. My schedule was busy but I thrived in almost every activity I tried and my confidence seemed to increase with every skill I mastered. Competition was always fun and exciting and I felt fairly confident in my ability to take on other students as my competitors. I thrived off of competition and would get excited at the thought of competing in a timed mile race, a spelling bee, student of the month, or to be the best recorder player in music class. I wanted to be the best at as much as I could and most of the time I was. I was not happy with being second best, I always strived for more and more and this strategy seemed to serve me well. I was happy and things seemed right in my life.
Aside from school and an array of activities, going to friends’ houses was one of my favorite things to do. Daniel Talomie, a neighbor down the street, was one of my best friends. On the weekends and sometimes even after school I would walk to his house and spend hours watching jeopardy, a science fiction movies that would put me to sleep or lose me in its complexity, sit at his computer as he read me his latest master story about dragons or space travel…evenings with his Dad, eating amazing tv dinners and endless snacks that always seemed to be present in the house. Daniel’s mom fixing us dinner as Daniel relentlessly made fun of me in any way he could. “Shorty Spaz,” he later began to call me, one because I was indeed pretty short and also because he said I was somewhat uptight; I needed to learn to relax.
Daniel would come over to my house and we would watch movies, play Sega Genesis, and have dance parties where I would break out my gymnastics leotard and parade about the room without a care in the world. We would take walks together and play on the swing set in the backyard. I had my first Dr. Pepper with Daniel, him promising me that I would like the “peppery” taste. Dr. Pepper became my favorite soda all because of Daniel. Towards the end of fifth grade I gradually noticed slight changes in the way Daniel related to me. As always we hung out all of the time, but I would catch him staring at me for a little longer than he used to and the constant teasing turned into more of a flirting gesture. I thought very little of these changes and continued my life and friendships as I usually did.
I often wonder where I accumulated my confidence and strength from. I knew who I was and had a clear definition of myself. This clear identification and awareness very gradually would begin to alter. Two months before graduating from fifth grade, teachers thought it would be a great idea to plan an informal dance for our class. The dance took place during school hours so everyone in the fifth grade attended. “Cotton-Eye-Joe” played as the fifth grade cautiously entered the gymnasium. Oddly, girls drifted to one side of the room while boys slowly shifted to the other side. This separation of the sexes was something new and unfamiliar to all of us. I had had friends of both sexes for as long as I can remember and there were seldom divisions between the two. Of course girls liked Barbies and boys like Power Rangers, but except for these inherent differences, this awkwardness between the two sexes had never existed before. Several of our fifth grade teachers thought it would be cute to pair some students together, a boy and a girl, to dance together when a slower song came on. We all nervously, yet excitedly watched in amazement as some of our friends had their arms grazing the shoulder of one of our classmates. The beginning of an ever growing uneasiness infiltrated my consciousness that day and even now, over ten years later I can assert that it will never will completely dissipate. Relations between classmates changed at the fifth grade dance in a way that divided classmates into boys and girls which would soon enough be men and women. It had begun…
An obnoxious, screaming siren went off around five thirty in the morning. I quickly turned it off and drifted back to sleep. Twenty minutes later my mom frantically woke me, informing me that I had overslept again and that I better get up quickly if I was to make the school bus. She wasn’t going to take me to school yet again, just because of my slow, sluggish behavior in the morning due to my lack of enthusiasm and sheer dread of what the day might bring. An uneasiness spread from my stomach all over my body and I sat up in bed. After taking a long shower, I spent an forty-five minutes agonizing over my wardrobe, complaining that I had nothing to wear and that none of my clothing looked good one me. I wasn’t sure if anything would look good on me anyway…
Staring at myself in the mirror, I was overall dissatisfied with what I saw. I saw a shapeless, pale, frail, weak girl with cold, distant, hopeless eyes staring back at me and as much as I didn’t want to look at my reflection, I couldn’t help myself from shuddering slightly at what I saw. Every outfit I tried on, didn’t fit correctly or made me look too young, skinny, or just plain awkward. I dreaded getting up in the morning, dragging myself out of bed just to go to school where numerous boys and girls would prod me with their eyes, wondering why I was so skinny and shapeless at the age of thirteen.
I nervously walked through the dismal hall of my middle school as I heard the sound of the first tardy bell. I slid into my seat in the back of the class and avoided eye contact, knowing that the boys in the classroom if not the girls as well probably thought my outfit didn’t fit correctly and that I should just go home and back to bed. I just wanted to curl up in my bed and stay there forever. I could escape the probing eye of boys who no longer were concerned with having friends that were girls but in fact girl friends. Ever since that fifth grade dance things had never been the same and it seemed they never would. There was this new feeling in relations between boys and girls that never went away. It didn’t matter if the subject was school, sports, entertainment, parties, clothes…anything…everything was infiltrated with a sense that image was everything. No longer could you be strictly friends with a boy. A boy only wanted to be your friend if you were pretty, wore the latest trendy clothes and was overall attractive. Any other quality or matter of importance came second and only mattered if you had this first highly essential asset. If you were one of those girls that looked good then you were set. Disregard that you were the smartest, fastest, nicest, funniest, that didn’t matter. Essential qualities had dramatically changed and the friendly environment based on one’s successes and personality was gone forever. Appearance is everything for a girl. Abercrombie, American Eagle, Gap, Covergirl, Maybelline, Hollister, Cosmopolitan, GQ, Glamour, cartoons, Power Rangers, Barbie, music, MTV, Vogue, Dawson’s Creek, Friends…almost anywhere a girl turns she is bombarded ith a reminder of how she should look and act. Girls are supposed to be foremost pretty and if they have this most important attribute, then everything else will surely follow. Our culture conveys this message to young girls every day and suddenly the girl with a less than perfect complexion and the girl with a slightly flabby butt doesn’t measure up to standards. Up to whose standards is another question?
Perfection. A word that describes the ultimate dream that every girl tries to obtain at some point in her life. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to be able to float through life with the perfect slim physique, smooth tan glow, and radiant, gorgeous face? Manage to be bubbly and full of energy all of the time and always be well put together physically as well as mentally? Although this goal seems highly impossible to obtain, women attempt to obtain some level of this goal every day. Unfortunately they discover all too quickly that they cannot live up to this out of reach obtainment and find themselves depressed and hopeless…
This hopelessness and feeling of being lost has been a prevalent theme throughout the women’s history in the United States. Virginia Wolf, one of the most influential feminists of the twentieth century, states “once conform, once do what other people do because they do it, and a lethargy steals over all the finer nerves and faculties of the soul. She becomes all outer show and inward emptiness; dull, callous, and indifferent.”.(link to rest of article…)

The history of feminism as noted by more recent feminist authors such as Susan Faludi in Backlash and Betty Halcomb in Not Guilty, originated in the early twentieth century with the establishment of the National Women’s party campaigning for an equal rights amendment. Substantial progress has been made in the last century in the establishment or more equal rights between men and women. Women won suffrage in 1920 and acted as replacements in many jobs when men were sent to fight in world war two. In the last several decades women have made even more substantial gains in the workplace: obtaining a multitude of job opportunities. Women have gained ground in many ways, but the overall underlying message that society still pronounces suggests there are still obvious inequalities. A woman may be able to be the corporate executive of their prosperous company, but you better believe that in such cases the woman probably had to sacrifice a great deal to accomplish such a task. Yes, women have the freedom to obtain any position that they want to, but they will most likely have to work harder than a man would for a similar position.


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