The informant, RD, recounts how her mother used to stretch her out every morning to make her taller
RD: ” My mother would tell me to hold onto the headboard and then she’d grab my feet and pull really hard, it was supposed to make me taller or something. My mom made me do all kinds of weird stuff when I was younger and I’d always do them. She told me to eat prunes in order to restore blood levels too.”
Did her mother do it to her?
RD: “Yes. Her mom used to do it to her back in China. They think that in the morning you are at your tallest so if you get stretched out when you’re at your tallest you will get even taller. I think my mom knew even then that I was gonna be short.”
Did she do it everyday?
RD: “No, it was only when we had extra time in the morning. I’d say a couple times a week, it wasn’t like an exactly timed thing”
How long did she do it for?
RD: “I think from when I was in elementary school until I was in about 7th grade? I don’t know, sometime in middle school. I think she realized I was just gonna stay short.”
Do you think it did anything?
RD: “(laughs) no it was just some weird thing my mom made me do.”
I thought this piece was interesting because it showed a clash between the Chinese culture and American culture. Obviously for RD’s mother, who lived in China until she was an adult, it made sense that stretching someone out in the morning would make them taller. She also must have believed it worked if her mother used to do it to her and then she did it to her own daughter. However, RD, who was born in America, thought it was preposterous and would never work. I think this demonstrates Americans supreme belief in Western medicine. It would probably seem silly to most people in the United States that yanking on someone’s body would make them taller because they believe being tall is something you get from genetics. This could also be an example of dying folklore because folklore has to contemporary. Since RD thought it was an outdated practice that didn’t work she probably won’t do it to her children and it will die out in her lineage.
KB is from Denver, Colorado and graduated from high school in 2013.
Could you describe senior scooter day?
KB: “Senior scooter day was during the seniors last week of school. Basically each senior got to bring a razor scooter to school and ride it around all day. In one of my classes a guy made an entire presentation on his razor scooter, it was awesome. It was also super cool because our campus was big, we had 4 separate building so a scooter was really convenient. And everyone would know you were a senior. But then people were getting hurt on their scooters or hitting people or something so they tried to get rid of it. The year before I was a senior people tried to be rebellious and still ride them, but the deans would take them away. Then when I was a senior they said you couldn’t walk at graduation if you were a senior. So senior scooter day is basically gone now, in a couple years they probably won’t remember what it was. I was super pissed we couldn’t do it, but I don’t think anyone tried. I think they gave us a senior party in the quad instead, but senior scooter day was way cooler”
Senior scooter day is interesting because it relates to the liminal period in a person’s life. Senior’s are on the brink of starting a new life after high school so there are all types of rituals to distinguish the seniors from everyone else and also to celebrate the next chapter in their life. I think this ritual is particularly interesting because it is slightly anti-authority. It was discouraged before it was completely banned which I think goes hand in hand with it coming at a liminal period. The activity would only become more appealing because it allowed seniors to feel powerful and above high school.
RS is a member of the group WYSE. WYSE is a student organization on campus that stands for Woman and Youth Supporting Eachother. Each week members of the group go to a local middle school and teach health classes to a small group of 8th grade girls.
RS: “We usually just call it power but basically it’s a song and a game that we play during the breaks. Basically all the girls stand in a circle and we say the chant “P-O-W-E-R we got the power cause we are the women of WYSE”. Then one person goes in the circle and like if I went into the cirle I would say “My name is Reegan” and everyone would else would say “Yeah” and then I say “and I’m next on the list” and they go “yeah” and then I go “and I get my reputation cause I do it like this” and then I do a goofy dance in the middle and everyone repeats “and she does it like this” and repeats the move.
To make it more clear:
Middle Person “My name is —–”
Middle Person “And I’m next on the list
Middle Person “And I get my reputation cause I do it like this” (dances)
Everyone “She does it like this” (copies dance)
How long does it go on for?
RS: “As long as people keep jumping in the middle. A lot of the girls are pretty shy and take some convincing. It’s a good way to get them not to be so embarrassed. They always want to play but sometimes it takes a while to convince them to go in the middle”
Do you know where it came from?
RS: “I think it was just a basic chant and someone decided to change the words to make it about WYSE. I remember doing a similar one at cheer camp over the summer. Everyone in WYSE knows it though, you just kind of learn it once you go to your school site. They do it and you just kind of have to join in”
JG describes lingo used within the gay community that arised in the 1980s but wasn’t mainstream until more recently:
JG: “A lot of the terms you will see on RuPaul’s Drag Race. One is called “executive realness” which is when the men are supposed to dress in drag that looks like a business woman. So you’d be giving “executive realness” if you look like a business woman in charge. Another one is “throwing shade”. This is when you say something “shady” or bitchy. Like if I said I thought Jenny was a slut then I’d be throwing shade at Jenny. They are terms usually used in the gay community but I think they are spread outwards by shows like RuPaul’s Drag Race where people who have never seen a drag queen in real life can learn their lingo”
Do you know where these words came from?
JG: “They came from the underground drag ball scene in the 1980s. The only reason I know that is from the documentary “Paris is Burning”. Basically the terms have been around for a long time but it was avant guard back then cause the drag scene was more underground. It was big in the downtown gay club scene but didn’t make its way into the mainstream until 20 or 20 years later.”
KB: “Each year all the senior girls would get into groups and decorate overalls to wear on the first day of school. Basically you wold buy painting overalls and paint them red and blue because those were our school colors. Then you would put like your last name and other fun decorations.”
When would you wear them?
KB:”You would wear them on the first day of school and on game days and stuff. They were supposed to show school spirit because they were our school colors. But it was also a way to see who was friends with who because each group of overalls would look different. My year the popular girls did theirs tie dye so everyone could tell them apart.”