Express Yourself

To my children,
Lately, the idea of dress codes in school has been in the news. As always, I’ve heard quotes from students, administrators, an even parents an argument to the effect of: “We mustn’t stifle the students’ self-expression”. I’d like to let you know in advance how I feel about this.

Now, I KNOW that you are pre-teens, and that they already have uniforms at St. Bob’s Academy, so it would appear that this argument doesn’t affect you. Yet, I also know that the hormone body-snatchers will appear very soon, turning you into walking balls of nerves and sexual impulses, as well as the fact that there is no school on weekends. So, since we aren’t immune to this madness, I’d like to make a logical argument whilst both of you are still logical.

I’m not going to make the argument that dress is not expression; it is. However, it is a higher form of expression, not lower. You have to earn it. The fact is, for all the cheap talk, people who express themselves through their appearance often are completely unable to articulate in writing or spoken word just what it is they’re trying to say.

So, I’ll make you a deal. When you get to the age when you wish to “express” yourselves in such a non-verbal way (no matter how weird I find it), I will not reflexively say no. But FIRST, you have to convey to me, in writing, just what it is you wish to express. Want to wear a nose ring to display your angst over the suffering in Darfur? OK – convince me. Write it down, using correct form and grammar. It cannot be simply factual. It must be persuasive.

Zaphod, I know that you are more left brained than Trillian, and I’ll acknowledge that. You can, instead, make a convincing PowerPoint presentation. You must present it formally, using correct English. Then, if I’m convinced, you can bleach your hair.

I’m not really looking for candor. If I were, I would get some variation of one of these three essays:

I want to dress like ‘x’ so the other kids will think I’m cool.
I want to dress like ‘y’ so the opposite sex will like me.
I want to dress as weird as possible so other kids will notice me.

Full disclosure: when I was young, I fell into the third category. I was a very, shall we say, unusual teenager; I wouldn’t wish my high school experience on anyone. However, I seriously doubt that you will attempt to submit any of these arguments to me. First of all, no teenager will ever admit to himself that one of these situations is the case. Secondly, After you say, “I want to fit in” or “I want to be noticed”, what more is there to say? But, give it a shot, if you so desire.

If you are stuck – maybe you can’t come up with a good way to express yourselves verbally or in a literary way – I’ll get you started:

Write me a 500-word essay on irony. Use as the main illustration the fact that you want to dress like all the other non-conformists.


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