|Jinny has been very ill and is currently undergoing rehabilitation in a Bangor facility so she will not be writing her article for awhile. She is making excellent progress and hopes to be able to return to writing her column in the near future... Adele.
For the past several weeks I have been spending at least 8 hours a day in the company of college students on Spring Break. A lot of people can't stand the thought of thousands of young people all crowded together and assume that they spend all their time being juvenile delinquents. There is no question that some of them do qualify as the poster children for bad behavior, but they are not as many incidents as you may think and usually, it’s the same tiresome little crumb snatchers acting out over and over again.
I have been observing them day after day and week after week and there are some things that have made me laugh and others that have caused me great puzzlement. For one thing, they all seemed to show up pre-tanned. I assume that they spent a great many hours in tanning beds in preparation for Spring Break. That makes some kind of sense, I guess, since it often helps to prevent sunburns, but there is something else that really threw me. It would seem that modern young men no longer have any hair on their bodies. Somehow, I don't think this phenomenon has anything to do with evolution.
I watch one young man after another walk by me with not a single hair on a single chest. On further examination I noticed that many of them also had utterly hairless legs, arms, and even underarms. Evidently, all the cool kids are hairless.
It isn't that I really care one way or the other, after all, Ancient Rome had a hairless fad going for awhile and I don't know that it had anything to do with the actual fall of the empire or anything. The thing that gets me is the time and effort it must take for these young men to render themselves entirely hairless . They must go through cartloads of razor blades or boatloads of disposable razors. Do they use electric razors instead? Or do they wax themselves, I wonder, because I tried that on my legs once and I'm here to tell you, it was painful. Do they save all their pennies and pay for electrolysis, because that is a process that costs a dime or two. You've got to wonder.
I hate shaving my legs, it is boring and time consuming and irritating. I can't imagine how I would feel about the process if I also had to shave my arms, chest, stomach, and face as well. That would be way more of a time commitment than I would want to have to make. But I suppose that there is no sacrifice too great in the pursuit of hairless beauty.
The girls are all wearing very small bikinis; I think I only saw one or two one-piece bathing suits, and for the most part, the young ladies are all super skinny. Maybe there is some rule about how much you have to weigh in order to be allowed to go on Spring Break. I talked with a great many of the girls and discovered that they had planned for their vacation far in advance. They told me that they had started dieting back at the beginning of the 2008 school year in order to be appropriately skinny by March. Some of them took some kind of diet aid or other, some of them starved themselves by consuming no more than 500 calories a day, and some of them deliberately made themselves throw up everything they ate. I'll admit it - I was completely horrified.
There is no doubt about it, a great many of them were very attractive young people, but I kind of struggle with the relative attractiveness of waxing and throwing up; it seems a little extreme to me. From their point of view, it is all perfectly reasonable because there is such a powerful emphasis on the physical and the pressure to achieve beauty is unrelenting. I watched them march about in the hallways, by the pool, down the boardwalk, and on the beach and it was obvious to me that they were all infinitely aware of how they looked. There were constant little glances into glass doors and windows as they watched themselves walk by. They glanced and posed and lounged with an intricately choreographed nonchalance, all designed to fool observers into thinking that they were not looking, posing or lounging with anything but the most natural ease. If I had to compare it to something I would go with the members of Victorian and Edwardian British society who created a carefully crafted ritual around afternoon rides and strolls in Hyde Park, which were not all about getting exercise or air but rather, about the importance of being seen wearing the right thing, in company of the right people, and sporting those articles and accoutrement that indicated both status and value. The point, of course, was to show off oneself while appearing to be utterly oblivious. It was almost an art form.
That is where the comparison ends. No one in Hyde Park was drinking beer or frighteningly sweet cocktails with 22 bizarre ingredients and suggestive or outright obscene names. No one was flashing about most of their flesh, their painful looking piercings, or their tattoos. And I'm pretty sure that there were no young ladies hanging out on balconies and exposing themselves to the chanted encouragement of hundreds of young men. On the other hand, maybe Dickens just didn't write about it.