You've got to love junior high bathrooms. If you haven't been in one in a while, you really should pay your local school a visit just to see one. At my school the faculty bathroom is clear up by the front office, which means it's much easier to just use the student one down the hall from my classroom. I really don't mind because despite the fact that the faculty bathroom has cute pictures on the walls and nice smelling lotions, the student facilities are ten times more interesting because they've got reading material. Yes, every stall comes complete with it's own graffiti and reading it has become one of my favorite pastimes.
I should explain that I don't particulary enjoy foul language or finding out that so-and-so is a *insert colorful term here*. I remember being in junior high and being terrified that someday I would see my name written on a bathroom stall and then my life would be over. But now as I read the bathroom walls I get a kind of satisfaction out of knowing that if I did see my name now, I wouldn't be crushed. In fact, I'd probably laugh and go home and brag about it to my roommates. It makes me feel wonderfully free to know that I have grown out of needing everybody to approve of me and to tell me that I'm o.k. because it's an uphill battle otherwise. No one ever has everyone on their side all of the time. What was it that Ben Franklin said about not being able to fool all of the people all of the time?
My favorite pieces of graffiti, however, are the declarations of love that you'll find scratched onto every blank surface: "I love Ryan B." "Justin is sooo hot" "M.B. + J.S.," etc. It's hilarious. It's also the only time I wish I was 13 again. I don't want the awkwardness or the identity crisis or the bad hair. I would like to be able to feel things the way I did back then when every emotion would build up inside you until it felt like you were going to explode if you didn't find some outlet for it--even if that outlet was just to declare your undying love in pencil on a corner of the toilet paper dispenser. I've been thinking about this a lot lately because sometimes I wonder if the ability to really feel things deeply is something I've lost along the way, kind of like the braces and puffy bangs.
My friend Mary Ann and I have a theory that most people can be put into one of two categories: chocolate and vanilla. Chocolates are emotional and passionate, and while they can be moody, they also feel things deeply. Vanillas, on the other hand, are even-tempered and easygoing. Not much ruffles their feathers or gets under their skin, but that sometimes leaves them feeling like they're missing something. "What about white chocolate or caramel or strawberry," you ask? Alright, so the theory's not perfect, but it's something to think about anyway. I am vanilla. Adolescents are chocolate. Little chocolate dipped students walking around writing on stall doors, getting into fights, laughing one minute, in the depths of despair the next, and utterly alive. That is why I love being a junior high teacher. And that is why I envy them a little every time I read the bathroom walls.