44. "Beautiful little fool"
Public speaking, Nic Cage, friendship
What I’m up to
We just got back from the mall, where we had dinner and I bought a dress for prom. The dress is not quite formal enough for the event, but no one cares what chaperones wear so I’m sure it will be fine. :) (One thing I didn’t anticipate about working at a school is how often I have to dress up — we have multiple formal events every school year.)
I spoke at our school’s chapel today. I gave the same talk as the one I gave at our sister school (my alma mater), the one I mentioned here. Since 2 pm, I’ve had a pounding headache and a pit in my stomach — post-public speaking nerves. Regardless of the fact that both my current and previous jobs require(d) regular public speaking, it is still never easy. (It doesn’t help that the subject matter of this talk was personal and difficult.) Very relieved to move on.
What I’m reading
I am still slowly making my way through Seth Rogan’s Yearbook (on audiobook). His stories are quite funny, but there are also some poignant moments. What stands out to me is how much his feelings get hurt, how disappointed he is when someone doesn’t like his work or when a movie doesn’t land. Actually, one of Rogan’s stories is about Nicolas Cage, who purportedly pitched playing a role as a “white Bahamian” (as in a white person from the Bahamas, completely random and irrelevant to the film in question). Rogan found Cage’s fake accent extremely uncomfortable and gently rejected the idea. Cage, visibly embarrassed, awkwardly fled the room. The point of this story was Cage’s weirdness, yes, but also that Rogan realized even Nic Cage is vulnerable to criticism and gets sad when he is rejected. So yeah, celebrities — they’re just like us.
I also started Disorientation by Elaine Hsieh Chou. It’s a satirical novel about academia and, I think, identity. So far it’s pretty funny.
What I’m thinking about
Lucy is ending the school year several weeks early because she is accompanying Paul to the US to spend some time with her grandparents while Paul works for Penn State. She literally has one more day left of her elementary education.
Paul and I will soon have a middle schooler and a high schooler.
At least for Western families, children live with their parents for only about a quarter of a lifetime.
I’m sad these days are passing so swiftly.
What I’m learning
I organized a short series of “adulting” workshops at school, on topics from budgeting to dating to social etiquette. (My talk was on productivity.) Yesterday I was on call in case our guest speakers needed support, and I got to listen in on part of a workshop on friendship.
The speaker said, “If you don’t want to get hurt, make sure your friendships stay shallow.”
This struck me. I’ve had several friendships in my adulthood that stalled right before developing into deep friendship because the person in question hurt my feelings, intentionally or unintentionally. Years ago, after spending what I thought was a really lovely evening chatting with a friend I’ll call N, someone else told me that N later told them she kept trying to leave but I just wouldn’t stop talking.
I was crushed when I heard this. I was so embarrassed. I stopped hanging out with this friend one on one, since clearly the friendship was one-sided.
In hindsight, my reaction was stupid. Wanting to leave didn’t necessarily mean N hadn’t enjoyed the evening; she was tired, it was a week night, etc. And the person who relayed the snarky comment to me wasn’t exactly known for her tact. And here’s the thing — it was one kind-of mean comment, but did that outweigh all the kindness, all the good times I’d experienced with N? No. But I was hurt, so I pulled away.
Have you read or seen Wonder? In one scene, Auggie experiences a betrayal a million times worse than mine. His closest friend, Jack, makes fun of Auggie in the cruelest way possible, not knowing Auggie is there to overhear the conversation. It was absolutely mean and wrong, but… Auggie forgives Jack. They’re maybe 10 years old.
Forgiving friends is a lesson little kids learn. I think I understood this at one point, since I remember my childhood friends and I fighting all the time. When did I forget how to do this? Why is it so tempting to become less vulnerable with age?
What I’m doing
We started The Great Gatsby in English 3. This is my 5th year teaching this book and I honestly love it more every year.
Here’s something that caught my attention this time around. Nick and Daisy have a conversation in which Daisy is bluntly expressing her cynicism about the world, her belief that for women, the best they can hope for is to be “beautiful little fools.” She’s heavy-handed in her flippancy even as she recounts her husband abandoning her for a mistress during childbirth; while what she’s saying is dark, her tone reminds me of teenagers who drop cuss words to sound edgy.
When she stops, Nick thinks,
“The instant her voice broke off, ceasing to compel my attention, my belief, I felt the basic insincerity of what she had said. It made me uneasy, as though the whole evening had been a trick of some sort to exact a contributory emotion from me. I waited, and sure enough, in a moment she looked at me with an absolute smirk on her lovely face…”
Different vibes, but it reminded me of the brownie scene from Notting Hill, only in that both scenes pose the question of whether a vulnerable moment is sincere. Is Daisy actually trying to express her pain, but hiding it under a facade of sophistication? Or is she messing with Nick?
I love that I notice different things every time I read this book.
What I’ve saved
The 8th graders give TED talks every year. Anna did hers on “The Effect of Gender Stereotypes on our Passions.” You can watch it here. I think she did a great job!
I also like S’s talk on “The Science of Changing Minds.”
Email is generational. Here one take, and another. (It’s funny to me that email is now considered a “slow” means of communication. I remember the last generation of old people complaining about how email is too fast.)
Here’s a great list of resources for teaching Asian American History. (LA Times)
Until next week,