It’s the first day of September and that means two things for me:
- Frantically checking that my parents’ wedding anniversary is indeed on Sept. 2 so I didn’t miss it. (Check. It is indeed tomorrow.)
- Back to school.
While it has been many years since I’ve “gone back to school,” the beginning of September feels like a new start. In my world, I get three to celebrate new beginnings — New Year’s, My Birthday, and Back to School. Yes, I was one of those kids who loved school. I used to admit that only shyly, almost apologetically. But now I own it: I love learning and I loved school. And while I may not be sitting in homeroom every morning, I still see September as a time to shift my focus a bit. I tackle different types of projects. I read different kinds of book. I turn bit more “academic” so to speak and look for new ways to expand my knowledge, whether it’s a formal class, workshop or lecture or something as informal as finally finishing Doris Kearns Goodwin’s epic No Ordinary Time; Franklin & Eleanor Roosevelt: The Home Front in World War II.
So I had to shake my head when my brother’s Facebook page pointed me toward a t-shirt on sale at J.C. Penny’s which reads: “I’m too pretty to do homework so my brother has to do it for me.” According to a blog on The Village Voice, The sales pitch with the tee reads, “Who has time for homework when there’s a new Justin Bieber album out? She’ll love this tee that’s just as cute and sassy as she is.”
Um. Really folks? Really? Yes, I get that it’s a joke, but really? While I have never considered myself close to being a fashionista, back-to-school time did mean shopping for new clothes and picking out that all-important first-day-of-school outfit. I like shopping and make no apologies for that, either. Some days, I like to dress up. Other days if I get out of my gym clothes it’s a major fashion accomplishment. Some days I throw my credit card to the wind to get my Sephora fix. Other days brushing my hair would be a good first step. Just as some days I like to read thick American histories and other days laugh with Jennifer Lancaster or dull my mind with my 50th viewing of the Law & Order episode featuring the prosecution of the New Sons of Liberty. (Sadly, most things I know about the criminal justice system come from my Law & Order viewing habits.)
I’m not particularly outraged at the “I’m too pretty to do homework” t-shirt, but rather befuddled. This is not a gender equality rant (trust me, you’ll know those by me when you see it) but rather disappointment in mass-marketing the concept of selling ourselves short. My niece turns 1 next month and I want her to believe she can do and be whatever and whomever she wants. Life is not either-or. It is not black or white; this or that. (In academic speak we call this “binary thinking.”) No, my niece can be whomever she wants and that can be someone who is pretty, enjoys the musical stylings of whomever has the teen crowd’s attention at the time and loves to do her homework.