How many of you remember the “Black Lipstick” affair, as it came to be known?
For those of you who don’t remember, or who really don’t know anything about it to begin with, it occurred 25 years or so ago a few miles up Pond Creek from Williamson and it involved the administration and a student at the former Runyon Elementary School.
It began unassumingly enough when an upper-grades female student there, who was an apparent enthusiastic follower of Goth music and fashion, started coming to school dressed for the part.
Along with her in-vogue clothes, her attire also included wearing Goth makeup such as the above-mentioned black lipstick.
Due to this garish apparel and makeup going against traditional school dress codes—apparel and makeup which at a minimum was considered by the administration as inappropriate and a negative distraction for other students—the principal ultimately presented the girl with a non-negotiable ultimatum: ditch the makeup and get with the dress code or stay at home.
The girl and her parents argued that she was only practicing the kind of harmless self-expression that most kids in every generation had been articulating since Cain and Abel.
After reconsidering some months later, I ultimately decided the principal had acted correctly by taking the controversial but unyielding stance she did. The bottom line is school rules are like laws and no one has the right to arbitrarily break and not follow them simply because he or she doesn’t particularly like or agree with the policies.
At the time all this drama was unfolding, however, I remembered something non-conforming about my own youthful days which got me to empathizing with this girl’s plight to a point that I actually found myself agreeing with her side of the argument.
That’s because when I was her age or maybe a tad older, self-expression, particularly for me, was long hair.
In fact, during my freshman year I self-expressed my long hair to the nth degree, probably more so than any other boy at Belfry, or, for that matter, any other high school in Pike County.
Just like the Goth fashion, long hair on a boy was not considered seemly and did not fit as tautly into the societal mold in which adults in general, and typically teachers and principals in particular, wanted and expected it to fit.
But the reality is, (and I suspect it was the same for this girl too) it wasn’t like I was attempting to start another American revolution with my atypically long mane.
Nor was I even trying to send some symbolic, “up yours,” counter culture anti-establishment message to my parents’ generation. Heck, I was too young to know or even care what any of that hippy anti-establishment stuff was all about in the first place.
I simply liked that hippy hairstyle, much in the same way this girl was enamored with all things Goth, and for the life of me I couldn’t understand why others didn’t like the style on boys too.
The truth is, just like this girl I was your typical obstinate teenager and I didn’t take to anyone telling me I couldn’t wear my hair as long as I chose simply because it went against the grain of what most others considered to be the normal way for boys to wear it.
The other day I read a story about a so-called heavily tattooed body modification addict who is affectionately known in his circle of friends as the “Human Satan.” What was even worse than reading the story about this guy was actually seeing his picture.
Nearly every square inch of his body is tattooed, with body modifications including “horns” implanted in and protruding from his forehead, the surgical removal of part of his nose and ears, and the pulling of his own teeth and replacing them with silver dentures. He also has a plethora of body piercings in just about every other crack and crevice you can imagine, as well as probably a few in locations you’d just as soon not know about.
Although not as self-mutilated, and least not in ways that could be as clearly seen in the photo, this guy’s wife is covered head to foot in tattoos and body piercings as well.
I realize these two people are extreme examples of the otherwise norm and would appear to be out there on a planet all to themselves, but tattoos and body alterations on at least some level seem to be the raging fad these days.
My guess, and this is strictly a guess, is this new wave of ink and nose rings is largely being considered as the long hair and black lipstick nonconformity movement of the current day.
And that’s all and good, I suppose, because this could be little more than some people’s way of saying they don’t like being told what they can and cannot do either. Coming from an old nonconformist, and as I already said, this is perfectly okay with me if that’s the way they choose to consider it.
The only thing I would point out is once you arrive at a time in life and realize conformity might not have been such a bad thing after all, and eventually the vast majority of people do realize this if they live long enough, some of you could be in for a rude and cruel awakening.
This would be when you one day discover that the removal of tattoos and replacement of noses and ears are tasks not as easily achieved as simply wiping off lipstick or visiting a local barbershop were for this girl and me.