July 28, 2010

The Importance of Education...and Rubbing Your Neighbor's Back


Earlier tonight I gave a presentation to the teenage girls in my church about the importance of education. I came to the class armed with statistics and handouts out the ying yang... and old photographs of me from middle and high school. Everyone was impressed with the amount of gel I managed to squeeze in my hair.

How bad are the pictures? It will suffice to say that my cousin uses one of them as her profile picture on Facebook.

I digress.

Usually I can hold my own in front of a crowd, especially if I bring brownies for that crowd to eat after my presentation. This group, however, gave me a run for my money. A few minutes, I was fumbling around like crazy. Maybe it was my unbridled enthusiasm about the subject matter, or the fact that all of the girls were sitting sideways in their chairs and rubbing their neighbors' backs during my whole presentation, but for whatever reason, I had a tough time staying focused.

Now that I've thought about it some more, I'm pretty sure it was the back rubbing.

"This isn't a massage parlor, so knock it off," I told them.

To the girls' credit, they did listen. One by one, they pivoted around in their seats so they were facing forward. I continued with my presentation.

A few minutes later, one of the girls developed an itch on the inside of her arm. Her neighbor volunteered to scratch it. It only took a few minutes for the room to turn into a communal scratching post.

I was a little creeped out about the whole thing until my husband a) made me watch a video of gorillas picking fleas off other gorillas' backs on the Internet and b) reminded me of the time when I got kicked out Home Ec for "tickling" my friend's arm when I should have been watching the teacher make meatloaf. In my defense, I was only returning the favor: my friend tickled my arm throughout a school assembly earlier that day. My teacher said that whatever we were doing, it made her feel uncomfortable.

I didn't understand what the teacher meant then, but now I kind of do.

My husband said, "What goes around, comes around."

24 comments

Kathy Boyer said...

Haha! Reminds me of the time my husband and I were forced to watch a girl clean her boyfriend's facial pores out on a ferry in Puerto Rico. Talk about feeling uncomfortable! Odd.

Carrie Stuart said...

This makes me feel better. I get bothered by people rubbing each other during Sacrament Mtg. REALLY bothered. Like I want to ask them to stop (but I seethe instead). Even the sound of their hands on the fabric is like fingernails on a chalkboard. Don't get me wrong...I'm ALL for rubbing...in the privacy of your own home!

Mrs. M. said...

Haha! I make my husband tickle my arm in public all the time. I should probably stop that.

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Kristin said...

I just got back from girls camp and finally told one girl she needed to sit on her own butt and stop sitting on everyone else's laps. It creeped me out, but maybe it's more normal than I thought. (P.S. I hope that with my move I don't get called back into YW for awhile.)

EliB said...

oh my goodness! so the girls inside of our ward are always scratching each other's backs as well! i don't get it--especially since i'm slightly homophobic...

Lisa said...

I don't know what it is but teenage girls seem to be touching each other all the time - hugging, handholding, sitting on each other, grooming each other, legs sprawled across one another... It's just weird. I must be too old. I don't recall my girlfriends and I touching each other EVER unless we had to all squeeze together in the backseat of a car or something. Now they are exactly like a monkey family. Disturbs me on a daily basis.

HW said...

This seems very bizarre to me.

My daughter is 16 and is constantly with four other girls. They are never rubbing and touching each other except for the occasional hello or goodbye hug. They do each others' hair for homecoming or prom. Other than that, no hair grooming either.

My most disturbing sight with this was last year at a wrestling meet when the oppononents would strip the top half of their uniform off, then sit in front of a row of teenage girls to have their shoulders and backs rubbed. I can't believe the coaches allowed it.

My husband said "If we ever see our daughter doing that, she's grounded for life; and if our son ever strips down like that for a girl in a high school gym - OFF THE TEAM." It was a very disturbing day.

Paula said...

That's weird. I'm 33 and have touched another woman, other than a hello or goodbye hug, exactly six times since I was ten years old. What gives with this tween/teen generation and the touchy feelies? I'm all for affection but scratching someone else's arm for them? You can reach your own arm, honey. Thanks for the heads up for my own daughter up and coming!

Kelley Flint said...

Got to love the YW. They're the same everywhere.

Teen Queen said...

the young women are the same in my ward. last night i helped a girl buckle her seatbelt, another girl tie her shoe, and someone else fixed my hair for me.

[Stacia] said...

I am 100% creeped out by this and all the comments. Eeeww! What about personal space boundaries? So glad I have boys!

Jennifer said...

I don't remember doing this as a teen! It sounds creepy! During movies and school assemblies, we used to braid each other's hair.. but that's it.

Camille said...

I'm the opposite of everyone who has written. I think there is absolutely nothing wrong with scratching my friend's arm or giving/getting a back rub. It's not creepy at all.
We all need a little bit more love in this world. Who doesn't want to be shown affection and know that others care about them?
It would be different if it was inappropriate, but a little scratching, or back-rub. Absolutely nothing wrong with it!

As for the "facial pore cleaning"- now there's a time and a place for that. ;)

Russ and Em said...

I work with the yw as well. In my ward most of the girls come from very difficult backgrounds. Mostly all they want is a hug when I first see them, or when they go, but occasionally when life is hard. I don't see anything wrong with that. I think most girls at that age (whether or not they have a bad home life) are desperately trying to know they are loved - even in a platonic way.

I would rather have them know that I love and care about them then looking for it less healthy ways.

Camille said...

p.s. I love your blog. It always keeps me entertained. Thanks!

Audra said...

I LOVE having my back scratched or my arms tickled. I have even passed it one to my daughter. She begs me to lay in bed and tickle her arms. My sis-in-law used to tickle my arm all the time. It doesn't bother me to see girls touch each other. I think people need the good kind of physical touch. Maybe I'm still considered young, I turned 26 yesterday!

Nancy Sabina said...

I can certainly see how the middle of a lesson is not the right time or place for back-rubs, but I think it's a healthy way for these girls to feel a part of the group. It's a way of showing friendship-love. I'm in YW in my ward and I make a point of having a small moment of physical contact with each of them as often as possible - I mean just a pat on the shoulder or a half hug as I stand next to them. If they don't feel love in a good, healthy way from their family, friends and leaders, they'll go looking for it elsewhere. And THAT is NOT a healthy road that we want these girls on.
But, like I said, if I was teaching a lesson I would ask them to stop, too.

Lyndsey said...

I agree with Camille. Positive affection is a good thing. Some may not get it anywhere else. As long as it's platonic and everyone involved is ok with it, then I just see it as a sign of love. My sister is 17 and very close to her two best friends, like sisters they are always doing stuff like that. It seems natural. Like if she were to hug or tickle me. I am 24 and I'm a teacher. My students range from 18-35 and are mostly women. I love it when any of them will come over and give me a hug to say hi or thank me for helping them with something. And when I am reaaly impressed with something they did or learned I may hug or high five or pat on their back just to show them they deserve personal attention and affection in a school full of hundereds. They are away from their families to come to school here. They need positive energy and affection from somewhere. And if they don't get it in a healthy way from family and friends the will naturally seek it out and most likely find it in a much more unhealthy way. I also agree with the time and place issue. And when it is distracting from learning, that's not a good time.

Lorelei said...

I'm glad I still teach primary.

Hugs to greet each other or a pat on the back at touching moments is great. Rubbing and grooming each other like monkeys is not appropriate, respectful or reverent.

They need to feel love and acceptance, but they also need to learn proper respect and reverence. Which a lot of parents these days are also not teaching their children.

FabuLeslie said...

Crazy kids!

Warden of Chaos said...

I actually remember doing this in school - even to the point of linking arms and holding hands as we went down the school hallways. My best friend and I still cuddle on the couch, paint each other's toe nails, give back rubs - in private. However, I also believe there is a time and a place, and the middle of the lecture is not one of them.

Mal said...

ugh, no kidding. I remember being in that same organization of young women myself up in Maine and on an island in the Pacific where I spent my high school years. I don't know what it is about teenage girls, but we've gotten awfully touchy-feely lately. On of my first weeks in church when I started college in Idaho, we were instructed to "please keep our hands off of each other, and that went for boys and girls and girls and girls." (The boys obviously didn't have a problem like we did.) I thought about it and it struck me that really, I don't even particularly like being touched except by very close friends and family members--or a good, professional massage therapist--so why was I going along with this?

Who knows? Girls are weird.

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