Thoughts from the ammo line

Ammo Grrrll recalls and reflects: SKOOL DAZE or THE MORE THINGS CHANGE. She writes:

Columnist, historian, farmer, intellectual giant, Professor Victor Davis Hanson never fails to deliver a brilliant take on whatever he weighs in on. One of his outstanding traits as an essayist is his clarity. But, sometimes he lapses into Greek, Latin, Swahili or Sanskrit without providing a translation. I don’t even think he is showing off; he seems like a very down-to-earth person. I think it’s just normal for someone at his intellectual level. I find it sweet that he believes everyone is as smart as he is, even though, speaking strictly for myself, he is severely mistaken.

It does make me feel inadequate when I don’t know what the foreign phrase means, like a few of Steve Hayward’s The Week In Pictures offerings that I don’t get but am too embarrassed to ask about. If I were in public, I would laugh anyway, like a kid who doesn’t get the dirty joke but has to pretend to. Sadly, it is not yet illegal here in the United States to make someone feel “inadequate,” but it probably will be soon. I just read an article that warned teachers in the UK – not at the kindergarten level, but at university! — to be careful in their teaching materials not to USE ALL CAPS, because it can frighten some of the students.

Oh, dear God. This, in a former empire on which, famously, the “sun never set.” When Mr. AG visited The British Museum several decades ago and wandered about the incredible exhibits for days, he called me and said, “Apparently, if you conquer the entire world, you can get a lot of great souvenirs!” Mr. AG is a funny man.

So soon all that will be left of The British Museum will be the Exhibit of Unterrifying Lower Case Letters. And you thought there would never be a category weaker or more pusillanimous than “Snowflakes.” Anyone scared of upper case letters is not even a snowflake, but a little melted puddle of yellow snow.

So, anyway, I do speak a “petite” amount of French, so I know that there is a phrase in French that goes plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose. Unlike VDH, I will translate: “The more things change, the more they remain the same.” And ain’t it the truth?

This was brought home to me most vividly one night in 1980 at 3:00 a.m., on my “lunch break” from my third shift job. A co-worker and I, who normally brown-bagged it, had left the typesetting plant and gone out to “dine” at Dunkin’ Donuts in Minneapolis, to load up on sugar and caffeine to make it through one more night. It was located in a section of Minneapolis known as Uptown whose hipster residents had to show no fewer than 3 tattoos and 6 piercings to live there.

We sat in an uncomfortable plastic booth typical of fast food places where they want customers to move along briskly rather than lingering. Behind me I could hear the young singsong voices of two obvious teenage girls:

“So, like, do you think he LIKES me, you know, as a friend or does he ‘like, like’ me as a girlfriend?”
“I don’t know, did he talk to you at your locker?”
“He said, ‘hi’.”
“Did he said “hi” with your name or not with your name?”
“He said, ‘hi, Vanessa.’ I’m pretty sure.”
“So, like, he knows your name then.”
“Well, yeah, he’s in my Remedial Algebra class and was also, like, in Summer School, I think, but, like, we didn’t go that often. Like, I have to go again this summer.”

Suddenly I was transported back to about 1962. It reminded me of a hundred conversations with my two besties in their basement, parsing the nuances of extremely abbreviated conversations with boys we fancied who were blissfully unaware of our existence. We were looking for the most minute clues and indications of any slight interest in us. We all should have become Forensic Detectives. Without advanced voice detection equipment or any of the modern wonders, we tried to figure out whether smiling and just saying “Hi” indicated greater interest than not smiling but saying, “Hi, Susan.”

Oh, God. I wouldn’t go back to high school for a billion trillion dollars. Although, I guess with that kind of walkin’ around money, I could just BRIBE boys to talk to me.

“Hi, Barry, would you like to go to a movie and get a burger? You can drive my Corvette, and keep it afterwards. I’ll buy the burger. With fries. Would you by chance be interested in owning Osterberg’s restaurant? Cuz I could make that happen.”

I am now closing in on my point. Back at the Dunkin’ Donuts, my curiosity finally got the best of me and I turned around to sneak a peek at the young ladies behind me. I half expected to see girls in bobby sox and pleated skirts, white blouses with circle pins on the Peter Pan collar, saddle shoes or penny loafers.

But no. There were two young women with stark white makeup, black lined eyes, multiple piercings – eyebrows with safety pins, noses with rings, about 20 holes in each ear — all black raggedy clothing and blood red or white lipstick, what at least at the time was known as “Goths.” A comedian friend of mine, Dean Johnson, used to have a bit in his act where he described the Goths who lived in his building and then asked, “What do they do for Hallowe’en? Go out as investment bankers?”

There they were in all their Nihilistic Chic glory, trying so hard to make some kind of statement, but all they really wanted was someone to love them. Just like when we were teenagers. “The fundamental things apply as Time goes by.”

There are supposed to be 57 genders, give or take, which, theoretically, should double or quadruple the odds of finding SOMEONE to pay attention to us and love us, right? But transgender men trying their best to be “women” are still upset and disappointed that actual men do not want to date them. You just want to shake the person – not in a harsh way – and kind of scream – not in a cruel way – “WHAT THE HELL DID YOU THINK WAS GOING TO HAPPEN??” (Forgive the scary caps. I’m yelling. I admit it.)

My two little Goths in Uptown Minneapolis would be well into their 50s by now. I hope they found someone not just to LIKE them but to “like, like” them. Maybe even love. There’s nothing like it in the world. It changes everything.

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