Last week I was waiting for The Merry Wives of Windsor to start, talking to my friend (date!) about a group (posse!) of adolescents who were also waiting to see the play. Adolescence is such a weird thing — they’re like semi-adult, on the verge of assuming normal shapes and behaviors and lives (so they think), but still pretty removed from actual adulthood (when we aren’t really more normal, but maybe find more comfort in our abnormalities?). Of course we remembered ourselves at that age — I certainly thought I was pretty adult at 14 or 15, and so did he, and we decided we were probably just different, more mature, etc.
Luckily I have a record of my teenage years (I wrote in a diary almost every day for five years), so I can just go back and prove how mature I was.
(artwork by Paul Giovanopoulos, similar to the pattern on the cover of my January 28,1997-September 27, 1997 diary (which locked))
Oh, if only. It’s mostly friend drama and school drama and boy craziness mixed in with fleeting moments of insight. I was specifically looking at entries from 11 years ago this week, and remembered something I’d forgotten about — I had all of these weird bumps on my hands that year, and joint pain. No one could figure out what it was, and they were testing me for arthritis and not really figuring anything out until my eye swelled shut that summer at a camp in Denver and it was determined to be the effect of some antibiotics I was taking. I think now that it was also connected to my food intolerances.
Anyway. Honestly, if I wrote uncensored in a diary every day now it would probably be friend drama and work drama and boy drama (less craziness, though it can’t be ruled out), with fleeting moments of insight. With some documentation of health issues probably related to food intolerances. So there you go.
The whole reason I’m writing about adolescents is that I ran across this news story about middle schoolers in Westby, Wisconsin (a little town of about 2,000) who are boycotting their school cafeteria. It sounds like something out of an inspiring but unrealistic YA novel, but no — the kids have organized, stated their grievances (things like objects in the food, cold food, running out of food, and use of plastic utensils), and their boycott has spread down to the 5th graders and even up to the high school kids.
Of course it’s a sticky issue — schools operate on very limited budgets, and the National School Lunch Program regulates things pretty heavily, from pricing to nutritional content (I’ve heard, even, that school lunches are constructed so that if it’s the only meal a kid eats in a day, he or she will have sufficient caloric intake!). And given the rising costs of food, I’m sure it’s no easy thing to satisfy kids’ palates and keep the budget balanced. Unless you work in a dorm cafeteria, of course, where there really isn’t a cap on cost (maybe avoid the dorm I lived in for a few more weeks — flu epidemic).
Anyway, I say “way to go” to the Westby kids for saying enough is enough. Creature-like as they may seem at times, even middle school kids deserve good, healthy food, and all too often they don’t get it. While they probably shouldn’t expect pho and lobster (which are probably not big sellers in Westby if Westby is anything like my similarly sized hometown), I hope it gets better. If nothing else, I hope students, parents, teachers, and administrators can have a dialogue about the issues surrounding school lunches, from budget, nutrition, and palate perspectives.