By Rudolph Robertson, 18
A month into my senior year I was already being inundated with forms and information about graduation. I was still adjusting to being a senior. I was hardly prepared to order a cap and gown, and scarf, and sweatshirt, and mug, and photos, and 800 announcements, and blankets, bags, earbuds, envelope seals, tankards, tiaras and a $500 class ring. I just wanted to order my cap and gown as cheaply as possible and forget it until May (they still email me pretty much biweekly to buy their crap but that’s never gonna happen). But I tried to keep it as simple as possible and dutifully attended the presentation by the company from which we were to buy these items. The rep for this company was a perky, attractive lady of about 38 years old. The delightful slideshow of ... amazing things that we should buy... culminated in a picture of her at her own graduation. Now this wouldn't have been an issue had she not clearly made fun of the other girl in the picture.
“And that’s me at my graduation, no not the ugly one, yeah I don’t even remember her name.”
I was taken aback.
In The Guide: Managing Douchebags, Recruiting Wingmen, and Attracting Who You Want (as well as her other books), author Rosalind Wiseman describes a phenomenon known as the “act like a man/woman box.” Teenagers (and adults) with the most social power, the ones that people listen to, are “in the box,” with features like confidence, looking a certain way, having the right style, and popular. When the sales rep, obviously very “in the box,“ made this remark, it dawned on me why she said it so comfortably, she had said it 1,000 times before. It was because she had. She probably finished every presentation with it. Not cool, but who was I to say anything? Nobody else had said anything to this very “in the box” lady. There was no way that I could do anything about it.
When I went home and told my parents the story, they both agreed there was no chance I was getting commemorative earbuds and tankard, and also that I should say something to the rep. They told me that I, a senior guy, also wielded some “box” power and I needed to use it. So I pulled her aside at the next ordering session, and politely told her I didn’t appreciate her last remark and would prefer if she didn’t continue to say it. She pretty much blew me off; she said she would take the picture out, but never seemed sincere. At first this felt like a failure, but I was glad that I didn’t listen to myself. The whole “she won’t change or listen thing” going through my head was just an excuse to avoid having to do this and potentially losing some “coolness.” My friends did know that I confronted her and no coolness was lost. Even though she may or may not have changed her ways, I learned that there are fewer social consequences for someone “in the box.” This can be used, as she did, to put down a random girl to 400 high schoolers. But maybe, as my parents showed me, it can be used to do something good.