Tuesday, July 16, 2013

THE HOTNESS: A Modern Teen Pride and Prejudice (chapter twelve: Opening Statements)

Chapter Twelve
Opening Statements
Paige was ready bright and early the following morning. She tried not to look too happy when Darcy arrived late to class with shadows under his eyes, looking as if he hadn’t bothered to shower.
     While Paige got up to speak first, it was clear Darcy was still texting under his desk (even though cell phones in class were banned). Paige smoothed her new plaid skirt over her long knee socks, covered by her sister’s best knee high brown boots and walked to the podium anyway.
     Paige had wanted to look her best today and Shiloh had insisted on her borrowing the boots even though they had cost Shiloh her entire month’s pay working at the ice-creamery in Century City on Saturdays. Paige also smoothed her pony tail because she knew her hair had a tendency towards flyaway unruliness. This, according to Teen Fash Wow!, was not fashion forward.
    Try as he might, Darcy sneaked a peak at Paige’s stunning new look. Her dark hair was in a high ponytail down her back, her entire outfit was freshly steamed and color co-ordinated. She clearly wore mascara to, “bring out her eyes.” She looked hot. But how could that be? He was the only hot one.
     Darcy looked away because he didn’t want her to think any more highly of herself than she already did. Darcy’s long black jeaned legs, stretched out from under the desk as he yawned slightly. Just before Paige began to speak, he made a man-sigh and placed his hand over his mouth.
    The entire class laughed but Mrs Tartt was reviewing notes so Darcy’s behavior was overlooked. Then, some boy whom Paige had once turned down at a homecoming dance, made some sort of snorting noise with his nose and Mrs Tartt was so unimpressed she sent him to the Principal’s office.
     The rest of the class sat up straight and listened in.
“Peer Pressure is More Beneficial Than Harmful by Paige Bennet”

Paige cleared her throat before speaking clearly…

“I’m not going to lie. Nor am I going to bore you all with fancy words and statistics. When I heard the title of this debate, I thought, how is it possible to argue in favor of a statement that is so clearly wrong. It’s so obvious, isn’t it? Peer pressure is harmful – but only if used in the negative sense. Of course, being pressured to drink or smoke or take drugs (some of the kids in class rolled their eyes) is bad. We all know that feeling, but being pressured to make friends, go out, have a good time and socialize, being pressured to be part of something bigger and greater than yourself, a school community and a family; that’s important. Where would you be without other people to rely upon? Where would you be without high standards by which to measure yourself? Some psychologists who specialize in teen mental health think the way to a happier life is to lower your standards to those standards which are considered more obtainable, and some people might acknowledge their point in some instances…”

   At this moment, observers in the room noted that Paige looked directly at Darcy who was crumpled on his desk, apparently half asleep, half awake and using the edge of a compass to clean out under his nails. He was not looking at Paige and appeared to barely be listening to her speech. Paige cleared her throat again and continued speaking…
    “…I disagree. I say, keep your standards high and measure yourself by your peers who also keep their standards high – who want good, clean, honest fun on a Friday night, who want to do well in school and sports and arts and the things that interest them. In short, choose good role models and peer pressure is the best kind of pressure there is.”
    After Paige spoke with passion, most of the class clapped. Darcy appeared the most enthusiastic, so enthusiastic in fact, that he made very loud, rebellious claps on the top of his desk. He couldn’t help himself. 
    Rys Wickham whispered, “Dude? What are you on?”
    Darcy ignored him and stood up. He knew to back out now would look cowardly and he’d never do that.
    He smoothed his dark hair out of his eyes and walked towards the podium as Paige sat down.
    Of course, he hadn’t prepared the way Paige had. He’d had more important things to do last night, but that wouldn’t stop him speaking with passion. After all, he’d won the Schoolboys State Debating Championships back home in Sydney two years in a row. He could come up with a better argument than Paige’s and speak with even more authority.

“Why Peer Pressure Is More Harmful Than Beneficial by Darcy Donovan”
Darcy spoke in a deep, authoritative voice. Peeps immediately sat up and listened in…  

“My fellow students (already Paige bristled at the use of the word ‘fellow’ – already Darcy had unintentionally isolated the females in the class using a male dominated word instead of a gender neutral one, she thought, but since there were only six other students, he didn’t need to rely on their vote)… I’m not going to lie either, since it’s not in my nature (Paige bristled again at his inference that it was in hers…) but I am going to tell you all a story. You may have noticed my appearance right now, I look as if I haven’t showered or changed my clothes for a day (the class laughed – he had them in the palm of his hand already) and that’s because I haven’t… The reason that I haven’t… the reason is…because…”
    At this point Darcy paused. He was going to tell them he’d been up all night visiting his sister who had been recovering from her emotional breakdown at least partly brought on by peer pressure. He knew a personal story would win the captaincy. Personal stories often swayed a side that was sitting on the fence. He realized what he was about to do could have a good outcome for himself but a very harmful one for Blair. If he told the truth about where he was last night and why, that ‘peer pressure’ at an all girl’s school had Blair striving to be the thinnest and most popular and helped to create her OCD, her eating disorder and her depression – that that would be bad for Blair were her news ever to go public. 
    Darcy stopped in his tracks. He paused as the students, hanging on his every word, were stunned to see his mouth close.
    “I’m sorry,” he said to Mrs Tartt. “I really didn’t prepare this as well as I should have.” He turned to the class, “You should vote for Paige, her speech was… impassioned.”
    Then Darcy looked at Paige who was seated at her desk and couldn’t resist adding as he walked out of the room, (under his breath so that only Paige could hear), “even though she was wrong.”

   That night, Paige told Shiloh all about what had happened in debate class that day.    “Of course, I knew he had a point but he didn’t need to say it in such an ungracious way. That’s what debate class is all about - being able to create an argument for or against any topic, regardless of your personal feelings.”
    Shiloh was wide eyed. “Oh Paige, one day your opinions are going to come out when they are least wanted and then you’ll see just what peer pressure is like…”
   “Well, Shiloh, you told me not to hide my light.”
   “And that’s true, you should use your talents and your voice only that… I worry it makes people not realize what a sweet person you are. They don’t know you like I do.”
   “I suppose, but what’s more important, popularity or being true to myself?”
    Shiloh shrugged.
    “Of course I didn’t wholly agree with the argument I had to take, either, but the point is, I won. That’s how it’s going to be when I go to law school. Besides, now I’m captain of the debate team.”
   “I’m happy for you Paige, but at what cost? Just remember, ambition isn’t everything... it makes girls… unpopular.”
    “I know, but being popular isn’t really important to me.”
    “It might be…”
     “We both know you are the sweetest, prettiest most popular girl in school and what sense would there be in competing with you?” Paige joked.
      “Oh, Paige, that’s not true. I envy your conviction. Just be careful. Darcy doesn’t seem like the sort of boy to let a girl win. Besides, we still have to see Darcy and Ryan and Mackenzie at homecoming next Friday night.