The Laughable Paradox of Naive Sophistication

Sexy baby pink patent platform high heelsNaive Sophistication

Some adults (parents, teachers and pundits) believe that today’s teens are very sophisticated (see my posts on sex education).  Some adults (mostly parents and politicians) believe that teens are still very naive (or you could say innocent).  What I have observed is a strange combination of both.  This can lead to very comedic situations.  And although this concept of naive sophistication applies to both boys and girls, the following narrative is about the girls.  Now don’t get upset.  This probably doesn’t apply to your daughter but it most probably applies to the girl sitting next to her.

The most glaring example of this laughable juxtaposition of worldliness and naiveté can be witnessed in the teenaged girl who comes to school in the morning dressed as if she was looking for love in all the wrong places on a Saturday night and then she flops down a ‘Little Mermaid’ backpack, takes out a ‘Winnie-the-Pooh’ pencil and begins writing in her ‘SpongeBob Squarepants’ notebook.

A more subtle example of precocious sophistication can be found in the lyrics of the Eagles song ‘Lying Eyes’ in which they sing about “girls… [who] find out early, how to open doors with just a smile.”  This is a story of just such a smile; but it didn’t work on me.

I distrust beauty and fame.

Now don’t get me wrong.  I prefer a pleasing person to a venomous viper.  I simply don’t break the rules just because someone is nice.  My years as a ne’er-do-well musician taught me to distrust beauty and fame.  In my life skills classes I would counsel my students thusly, “It’s okay to like the looks of the package, but fall in love with the heart and mind.  You’ll be happier longer.”  I followed my own advice and have been in a long term committed relationship with someone who shares my background and values (a teacher, my own age, raised in the Midwest, college educated and world traveled).  So whether I would be confronted by a female student who was the charming coquette or the spiteful shrew my stock answer would always be, “Don’t give me that look.  I’ve been married.  That look doesn’t work on me!”  That usually ended the discussion, so I never anticipated what happened when I used those lines on Jenny.

Jenny was beautiful.

No, not just beautiful, Jenny was stunning (see also: Gloria Mundi in What Happened to David).  Jenny was a senior and no longer a little girl.  She had a winning smile framed by a lovely, friendly face.  She had a traffic stopping figure that made Lara Croft look like a beanpole and Marilyn Monroe look like the Pillsbury Doughboy.  The only clue to tell you that Jenny wasn’t a decade older was the unfinished, experimental nature of her ‘look’.  Some days her wig didn’t fit right or her false eyelashes would droop a bit or very often her clothes didn’t fit right.  It wasn’t that she was trying to dress trashy, it was just that she had outgrown most of her clothes.  We would regularly have to have a female teacher or administrator tell her, “You can’t walk around here with that middle button unbuttoned and it won’t stay buttoned because that blouse no longer fits you.  Don’t wear it to school again.”  Jenny could have worn sackcloth and ashes and still stopped traffic.

Fortunately, Jenny was as sweet and down to earth as she was beautiful.  I never witnessed any drama between her and the other girls (a rarity in the world of jealous high school girls).  Of course guys would hit on Jenny all the time but she handled it with a maturity that was a joy to behold.  One day while I was standing in the doorway of my classroom, supervising students passing to the next period I got to see her in action.  A little freshman puppy-dog of a kid was nipping at her heels pleading with her, “But why won’t you go out with me?”  Jenny calmly turned to him and looking down at him (he was easily a foot shorter) she answered, “I keep telling you.  Boy, you are too small for this ride!”

A hard worker at a CDS School

So, if she was so clever and nice, what was Jenny doing at a CDS school?  Well, Jenny had fallen behind in her credits and was with us for the special attention we could give to those willing to work.  She was a hard worker.  She sang in her church choir and at some school functions.  She worked outside of class.  She came to me one day and proudly informed me that she had gotten a job as a waitress.  It turned out that her job was at a restaurant chain which prides itself on sports and buxom waitresses (perhaps you have one in your town).  I congratulated her.  I told her that my mom had worked most of her adult life as a waitress (at family joints) and that I had worked as a busboy.  I also told her that my music background (performing at hotels, restaurants, banquets and nightclubs) also put me in close contact with the food service industry.  I told her that I have great respect for people in food service and I’d be happy to give her any advice she might need regarding customer relations, taxes or tips.

But hard working though she was, there came a day when her work ethic deserted her and she tried the old charming coquette routine on me.  She raised her hand, batted her eyes, smiled her sweetest smile and pleaded, “Mr. D. do I really have to all these problems?”  To which I replied, “Yes you do!  And don’t give me that look.  I’ve been married.  That look doesn’t work on me.  That smile may get you better tips on the job but it won’t work here.”

Upon hearing the word “tips” and recognizing Jenny’s obvious assets one of the other girls respectfully blurted out, “Wow! Are you a stripper?”

If you liked this blog post, I’m sure you’ll like my book


What Happened to David

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