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Friday, March 22, 2013

GUEST POST: A 1980s Time Capsule

A time capsule was recently discovered on the planet Pennsylvania, in the continent of Middle School (formerly known as Junior High School). Carbon dating places the composition of the following intriguing bit of participant sociology about thirty years ago, in the Epoch of the Big Hair.
Warning to Seventh Graders
People in eighth grade divide themselves into six groups as follows:
1. Toughs—Toughs are six inches taller and ten times more muscular than anyone else (and this includes the Authorities.) They tend to lord this fact over anyone shorter and weaker than they are. Other distinguishing features include the denim jacket, filthy jeans, and Grateful Dead or Led Zeppelin cutoff T-shirt. The saving grace for the rest of us is the Toughs’ one weakness—a 2-pack-a-day cigarette habit that will leave them dead from lung cancer by age 18.
2. Pseudo-Toughs—Pseudo-Toughs are six inches shorter and half as muscular as everyone else. Mostly they do not smoke. However, they do put on denim jackets, filthy jeans, cut-off T-shirts, and tough airs. The saving grace here is that these annoying little buggers are bound to get trampled in the rush hours at lunch and before and after school. Note that pseudo-toughs are often also Brainy Weirdos.
3. Averages—Averages are exactly what the name implies. They have I.Q.’s of 100, regular strengths and weaknesses, and 1.7 brothers and sisters. In short, they are your normal everyday conforming teenager. Usually they are quite amiable—but beware of them when the bell rings.
4. Brainy Averages—These are the same as averages except for unusually high I.Q. scores. You can look on them as either Averages who have high I.Q.s or Brainy Weirdos who aren’t weird.
5. Brainy Weirdos—These have even higher I.Q.s than Brainy Averages. They are usually wimps. They do not conform to any usual style of dress (unless they are Pseudo-toughs) and are likely to become nuclear physicists, cellular biologists, or something like that. They are not usually dangerous except when you trip over them.
6. Authorities—These include teachers, principals, etc. Except for their age, clothes, and larger desks, they look like anyone else. They are, however, very powerful, and can punish anyone else simply for being “fresh.” Stay out of their way.
Got all that? Good. You are now ready to enter eighth grade.
Martin Gorvine, circa 1983
Exegesis, 2013:
It is believed that the participant observer thought the "Brainy Averages" were primarily Girls and the "Brainy Weirdos" primarily if not exclusively Boys. This Male individual's lifelong confusion and guilt feelings when it came to Girls can be deduced from two facts: (a) The canny concealment of the gender distinction in his own mind; and (b) the self-contradiction built into the description of Brainy Averages as "either Averages who have high I.Q.s or Brainy Weirdos who aren’t weird," when he claims Averages to have I.Q.s of 100 and Brainy Weirdos super-high I.Q.s, and, to further muddy the issue, also asserts that the Brainy Weirdos "have even higher I.Q.s than Brainy Averages." This befuddlement easily survived the Epoch of the Big Hair.
We note, too, that if the participant observer was correct, the Toughs should have become extinct around the time George Bush the Elder took office. We leave it to other observers to assess the accuracy of this prediction.

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