Private schools have a fascination with camping. Taking large groups of young humans, fluent in the art of whining into the wilderness to sleep for a day or two is a task I’ve faced at all but one of my six private school employers. The one school that didn’t camp was in Turkey and they were trying to get parents to sign on to the madness just about the time I went on maternity leave. Schools claim it instills independence, survival skills and most of all, teacher/student bonding (which it does) but in all honesty, I’m pretty sure it’s about the money. If I could pay someone to take my kids camping so I didn’t have to, I’d write that tuition check so fast I’d leave skid marks with my Bic.
My new school is no different and our camping trip was this week, just a few days into the new year. Thanks to my advanced age, years of teaching experience and the fact that I had Nugget and Number One Son at home, I was off the hook on the sleep-over end. (To quote a coworker when I asked if he’d be camping he simply replied, “There comes an age when one no longer has to do that kind of crap.” Amen my brother. Thankfully, I’ve finally reached that age.) Instead, I led a carpool line to the campsite (and then a ½ mile right past it) the next morning, bright eyed and coffee-filled.
If you’ve never headed into the wilderness alone with a pack of 20 middle schoolers, I’d recommend it. While it often feels like something akin to herding cats, it is entertainment like no other. If you’ve never headed into the wilderness with a pack of kids who bring with them a variety of issues ranging from anxiety to Autism Spectrum Disorder, I’d recommend it even more highly. Watching them tip-toe out of their comfort zones and try things they were adamantly opposed to at the mere mention –like kickball- but somehow decided to try eventually, evokes a self-confidence like no other and is a sight to behold.
About thirty minutes into our teacher/student bonding adventure involving a steep hill, lots of rocks in shoes and ending in a creek, one of my homeroom kids put her arm around me and said, “Mrs. O, you know who you look like?”
I hate when people say that. I have one of those faces that have caused people to say that my entire life. While it might be flattering to some to be told they resemble a famous figure, for me, it’s always the same – I’m always a dead-ringer for the C-List chubby, brunette du jour. I’ve been Ricki Lake and Thora Birch. I was even once the fat one from Wilson Phillips when I mistakenly dyed my hair red. (Thankfully that was after her first gastric bypass.) I’ve been Delta Burke during her rotund days at the end of Designing Women and most often, Ann Wilson. Who? You know, the brunette sister from Heart that got fat in the 90’s. (“What about love? Don’t you want someone to care about you? What about loooo-ve, don’t let it slip away.” Thank you Jesus, for the 80’s.)
That question – do you know who you look like- never ends well for me. (No offense Ann Wilson. You were always my favorite sister and I totally thought it was BS in the 90’s when they hid you behind curtains in every video after you chubbed out.) But looking into the eyes of this thirteen year old who had no clue there was even a band named Heart and likely was not hip to Designing Women, I was a bit curious. Who, in the name of God, do I look like now?
“I don’t know, who do I look like?”
“You look exactly like the lady from Ghostbusters. The new one. My mom and I have been talking about this since we met you.”
Of course I knew who she was talking about. There is only one chubby brunette in the new Ghostbusters but I can never resist the urge to mess with someone. “Oh, you mean Leslie Jones, right? The tall, hot black lady.”
This poor kid, who actually does look a lot like a thirteen-year-old Leslie Jones with coke-bottle glasses, looked at me like I’d lost my damn mind. Deadpan, she said, “No Mrs. O, you are way too short to look like Leslie Jones.” Riiiight…
Since I’m growing accustomed to the fact that I often need to tell my students when it’s a joke, I let her off the hook. “I’m just messin’ with ya. I know I look like the chubby one.”
Still confused, she said, “No. The one with big glasses and hair like yours.” In her eyes, the chub was secondary.
That evening at home, I Googled the cast of Ghostbusters and with little surprise, I do look a lot like Melissa McCarthy in the new Ghostbusters, same nerdy glasses, same messy up do and pretty close to the same thunder thighs.
Years ago when someone pointed out my resemblance to a famous member of the celebrity chub club, I’d immediately sink into a rabbit hole of self-loathing, followed by a crash diet. The fact that no matter how much weight I lost the world still saw me as a chub was devastating. But now? Hells no.
Now I’m too old and too damn busy for that crap. I’ve had these thunder thighs for 44 years and I’m learning to accept them. (Sorry Nugget, they’re genetic but I think they’ll work out better for a boy.) This body, in all it’s extra glory, has been good to me and I now try to do the same in return. I’m proud to look like Melissa McCarthy. She’s awesome. (Though Nugget is madly in love with Leslie Jones.)
As we hiked back up the big hill to the campground, my student said, “And the other reason you remind me of the Ghostbusters lady is because she’s tough and you are too Mrs. O.”
Damn right kid. Mrs. O ain’t afraid of no ghosts.