Sunday, October 14, 2007


When I was a teenager (from about age 14 to 16), I danced on a television show called Dance Party USA. Every Saturday, for two years, I made my way to Philly and danced my little heart out on camera. Yes, it is a source of embarrassment, and not something I talk about a whole lot...mostly to avoid the good-natured teasing I get from my husband and family. But the fact is, it was a huge part of my formative years, especially because it was just good, clean fun. Oh, there were relationship dramas --who was dating who, and such -- but that was really the extent of it. Nobody fought, nobody said an unkind word to one another; we all just danced off some of that teenage angst we were feeling and occasionally made out behind the set. Good times.

Because it was a national show, those of us who danced every week were considered "regulars" and got fan mail. I'm sure you can imagine what this did for my self-image, since I was a skinny, lanky teenager, and definitely in my "awkward phase." (Never mind that some of the mail was from convicted felons in prison...) Since we were young, the producers of the show would screen any mail that came in, and weed out anything that was inappropriate, lewd, or hurtful. And they usually did a fine job of it. But one day, I opened an anonymous letter and was shocked by the things that a female viewer had written to me. She opened the letter by telling me, in her eloquent 14-year-old vocabulary, how unattractive I was. She also quipped that "my mother must be blind because she dresses me funny" and that I "smile too much." (I didn't know there was such a thing!) She closed the letter by telling me that she was my "#1 Hater." Now, my ego was bruised a little, but mostly I just couldn't believe that someone took the time out of their day to actually write this letter and send it off somewhere. In my sheltered, suburban existence, it was a foreign idea to me that someone could harbor so much hate over something so innocuous, something that had so little impact on their own life. I remember this event not because it hurt my feelings, but because it was my first experience with someone who hated just for hate's sake, and who felt the need to direct that hatred at someone, someone they didn't even know.

I'm glad I grew up in a time and a home where that letter was the most malicious thing I could imagine. I'm sure my parents sheltered me from a lot of the ugliness going on in the world. Now that I'm a parent, I'm thinking a lot more about the things I'm going to have to shelter Charlotte and Gavin from: nooses hanging from trees in Jena, kids egging on classmates in schoolyard fights, filming the fights with their cell phones, and posting the footage on You-Tube. Right down the road from us, in the school district where my sister teaches, a 14-year-old boy was just caught plotting an attack reminiscent of Columbine, and his mother was charged with buying her son the weapons. Can you even imagine?

To steal a quote from "Eat, Pray, Love" by Elizabeth Gilbert...."Why is life all crazy like this?"

1 comment:

  1. No. I cannot - I WILL NOT - imagine a woman buying her child weapons for a Columbine style attack. The very idea is horrifying so I am going to bury my head in the sand on this one.

    You make such a good point about sheltering kids. Media, school, friends - all of it seems to combine to make children meaner so they can seem cooler. What to do?


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