I let my students out of their final and told them all, “Have a good summer.” I had to come down on them, this morning. There was a thing with grading, and grades, and whether they had to complete the last paper… (which yes, they did). On the one hand, it breaks my heart every time I’m hit with the reality that my students mostly read novels and write stuff because I make them. On the other hand, I understood. I wanted to let them go free and tell them I would miss their young energy and tell them that my advice was to get the hell done with this paper and then… Do nothing. Do as much nothing as possible. Spend time choosing popsicles. Turn around in circles on your stomach on the swing at the playground. Talk about what you like and don’t like. Preferably with friends, in 7-11 parking lots, possibly down by the marina, maybe with a boombox that only works if you tape it closed and hold it on your lap in the car, far from adults like me.
A student once asked me about summer internships in publishing. He wanted to write, and his dad was a cop and didn’t understand, and should he try to get an unpaid internship while he waited tables in New York? I encouraged him, instead, to try an Alaskan fishing boat. I suggested he try something that would give him material, something far from books and paper. Maybe this was naïve of me, in our business-major world. But he opted to work at a lumber yard. He was the only skinny white kid on the crew. He learned an entirely new vocabulary. He came back the next fall with a swagger. I guarantee the lumber yard stories got him more dates.
Here are three eighth graders who made a video of themselves goofing around to this summer’s perfect pop song by Carly Rae Jensen. They dedicated it to the “Girls We Like”:
The original Call Me, Maybe video has provoked commentary because of its sweet and carefree take on gender politics, which have been echoed by its many imitators. It’s also an illustration of what grassroots YouTube buzz can do when combined with the promotional might of the Bieber.
M., who works in reality tv casting, talks about how the younger generations she interviews now are way, way ahead, when it comes to letting go of prejudice about same-sex love. For young girls today, the idea that a male crush might be gay is — as in lived experience — not so much a political issue as a bummer. And the Call Me, Maybe trend certainly supports that rosy view. Its gender politics are mostly goofy.
But Call Me, Maybe also just taps into my craving for…. endless summer. It’s the energy of Breakfast Club and Sixteen Candles (because I am ancient), but also… Remember the video for Hit Me Baby, One More Time? As feminists, we talked about Britney’s crazy stage mother controlling her life and her pervy Catholic school girl outfits. But that video is about getting out of class and getting the straight-laced principal to loosen up and shake her ass.
Katy Perry’s entire persona seems framed around a bell ringing on her strict Christian upbringing. She’s perpetually thrilled that she gets to wear cupcake bras and say she kissed a girl — out loud!! — and she’s living her Teenage Dream. It’s about being young, or feeling young, but mostly it’s about that first moment when the top comes down on the convertible and you are free, free at last. Summer, summer, summer.
In France, everyone checks out for the entire month of August. In Rio, they used to knock off early at the office to go to the beach. But here, now, U.S. adult-style, summer is a figment. The hammer is coming down. I’m organizing a Breakfast of Accountability with friends who also have major writing deadlines. H. ran away from me in a driveway last night, right in front of a car turning into the lot, and I had nothing to give, I lost my temper and dragged her and she kicked me in the stomach and I tore her Cinderella dress wrestling her into her car seat and I hate the chokehold that Disney princess gear has on her imagination and I have so much to do this summer. Will H. ever have time to make stupid movies with her friends? Will I?
This morning, she asked for Katy Perry. “The Mustang song.” By which she meant, Make out in your Mustang, to Radiohead… She is not yet four. How many times has she even heard The One That Got Away? Or rather, how many times have I played it for her?
“Play it, mama,” she said. I rolled down the windows. The wipers scraped at the jacaranda on the windshield, the marine layer was just burning off in a hot L.A. wind. I thought I probably shouldn’t play her this song anymore. But hit me baby, one more time. I turned the volume up. I could see her lips moving in the rear view mirror. My little girl. Summer after high school, when we first met…