Varsity Blues. What Is It Really About?

Personal Essays, Uncategorized

I’ve been thinking a lot about the Varsity Blues college scam. I have two kids in college and it brings up interesting issues and concerns. Most of my friends have college aged or nearly college aged kids and the scam is certainly a hot bed of emotion for a lot of people.

The subject is so multi-faceted. I’ve heard both extreme criticism from some. Others have a level of understanding for the accused. While I’m no psychologist, I’ve been wondering about the psychology behind the need for people to get their undeserving kids into elite schools.

I think what it all boils down to is the need for belonging. We all need to feel as if we belong.  We know when people feel shunned or turned away – whether by a particular person or organization, painful feelings ensue. As parents, we know how much it hurts to feel shut out of a friendship, social group or organization. In our deep love for our children, we often make the mistake of attempting to shelter our kids from disappointment.  We have all lived long enough to know the sting of being left out so trying to save our kids feels natural. Sometimes we have to recognize how we feel but resist the temptation of fixing every boo boo which can be, I admit, sheer agony.

The college scam is not about education. It’s about belonging to an elite club. Think about how much energy we dedicate to joining the right organizations. We love to categorize ourselves. Whether it’s a fraternity/sorority, a team, a church, a country club, a philanthropic group, Skull and Bones Society, Gryffindor, Slytherine  — it’s all the same. And we don’t just want to belong. Usually, we want some bragging rights too. We use the group to define ourselves for other people. Families involved in this scandal were looking to attach themselves to a prestigious university, not for the assumed high level of education their children stood to gain, but for the bragging rights of belonging to a glamorous group.

I think, if we are honest with ourselves, most of us agree that big time universities don’t necessarily offer a better education. I have the sincere privilege of working with high school students who largely come from financially challenged families. Many of my students attend community colleges and work hard to transfer to state schools. They don’t take this path because their test scores and grades are poor. They take this route because they are seeking affordability.

I’ve seen bright, engaged, motivated students who have a love of learning and go on to seek excellent educations through the community college system because they take advantage of office hours, ask for supplemental reading material, take on extra credit challenges, work long hours at internships all while working jobs to pay their tuitions. Conversely, we all know folks who attended top schools who spent lots of time partying, graduated with gentlemen’s C’s and generally cheated themselves out of the full, meaningful education available to them.

Families involved in cheating and bribery were not looking for a superior education for their kids. They were looking for what they put value on – superior bragging rights. They were looking to belong to a group they would ordinarily be excluded from and they were willing to commit crimes to save their kids from the reality that their talents were not the right fit for those schools.

The sad irony, of course, is that had these kids been left to attend schools appropriate for them, they would have likely thrived. When it all sifts out, these people value ego over education and there in lies the real problem.

 

 

A Drone Saw Me Naked

Personal Essays, Uncategorized

Here’s what happened.

Often, in the early evenings I like to swim and then relax in my jacuzzi. Recently, one evening after I had taken a long walk and then a hot shower, pulling on a swimsuit just felt like an unnecessary hassle. Let me remind you my children are far away in college and my backyard is fully private save for a little peek view from the balcony of my neighbor’s guest house. I was almost certain nobody was staying there, so I weighed my options and decided to move forth with timid nudity

Just after I had shimmied out of my robe and stepped onto the top step of the jacuzzi, I noticed a drone overhead – quite low and just hovering. Without thinking, I jumped in and smashed myself into the most bubble-aggressive corner. Looking down at the white swirl of water that thankfully camouflaged me, I waited for the uninvited visitor to move on. It didn’t. It didn’t move on for a two-minute eternity.

Finally I  looked directly at the offensive cyber-peeper as if to say I see you. I see what you’re doing. Move on. But It Didn’t Move On. Finally, with no other conceivable choice, bathed in shame and humiliation, I turned my body around and studied my black and white pool tile like it was the most interesting thing I had ever seen until the thing eventually moved on, ostensibly,  in search of other backyard exhibitionists.

The experience brings up all sorts of issues about privacy and drones and technology. I googled drones boundaries laws and according to the state of California it is illegal for a drone operator to fly over someone’s home, but it is not a crime which sounds like a crazy, imagined law unless you live in California. There are rules about airspace which I’ve only heard of before because airspace was a featured sub-story on an episode of Million Dollar Listing.

What I’m more interested in is what my actions taught me about me. I wish I could be one of those people who faces embarrassment with complete bravery. I wish I was that person whose instinct was to stand there, unabashedly naked, in the face of the intruder as if to say Here I am. This is my space. I’m a confident woman who has every right to be unclothed on my own private property. I know women who would have faced the situation with that kind of top-shelf grit and fortitude. I wish I could have channeled that spunk in the moment.

What also nags me is the thought that some neighborhood milenilals, (with nothing better to do at five o’clock in the afternoon) could have been piloting the metal creeper. I can see them now, laughing their heads off and saying “Oh My God, it’s Mrs. G. the PTA mom who directed all those school plays?” I live in a tight-knit community and feel it’s absolutely possible that my privacy could have been compromised by someone I know. But, That sounds paranoid, right? I’m not sure.

At this point I guess I can be mad but anger just requires too much energy. So, I think I will remain embarrassed which doesn’t really take much energy at all. After a little time passes I hope I can laugh which seems the most livable option. Maybe I should even feel a little grateful the experience gave me something to write about. The scenario might turn up in my next book…..Stay tuned.

 

 

 

Ten Best Movies Set In The South

Uncategorized

I hadn’t intended this site to be solely about movies. However, in the spirit of Southern Charm’s new season (Bravo Television), I have put myself to the test of listing ten worthwhile movies set in the south (although there are many, many more).

  1. Walk The Line, 2005 – The haunting and mostly disfunctional burning love between Johnny Cash and June Carter is movingly haunting
  2. Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, 2002 – The story of a damaged mother-daughter relationship set against a tribute to lifelong friendship
  3. The Help, 2011 – Painful yet optomistic story of one woman’s research into racism in 1960’s Mississippi
  4. To Kill A Mockingbird, 1963 – Gregory Peck’s flawless portrayl of Harper Lee’s Atticus Finch
  5. Fried Green Tomatoes, 1992 – A story that takes on themes of  women’s friendship and  lesbianism in a small town
  6. Midnight In The Garden Of Good And Evil, 1997 – Brilliant adaptation of John Berendt’s Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil: A Savannah Story
  7. The Man in the Moon, 1991 – Reese Witherspoon’s breatkthrough movie. A tender and touching summer coming-of-age movie
  8. Steel Magnolias, 1989 (when everyone wantd to be Julia Roberts) – Funny and heartwarming. Set in a small Louisianna parish
  9. Cat On A Hot Tin Roof, 1958 – The film adaptation of Tenesee William’s play known to be his favortie work
  10. Everybody’s All American, 1988 – Two college sweethearts take on the complexities of life after their football star/beauty queen beginnings