Archive for July 18th, 2007


The Ring Thing

By now nothing that goes on in public schools should surprise me. We live in a through-the-looking-glass world where students are suspended for smoking cigarettes, but can get free condoms from the school nurse, where prayer is not allowed but t-shirts glorifying rap music and its odious messages are commonly worn, and where students graduate knowing how to TM while barely being able to read and speak articulately.

So why should it surprise me that an English school has forbidden a fifteen year old Christian girl from wearing a small silver ring that symbolizes her commitment to chastity until marriage? If you want the details, see this article here, although a Google search of Lydia Playfoot turns up quite a bit of material. Suffice to say, she has been told by the school to remove the ring or face expulsion.

I have two BIG problems with this.

First, this same school allows Muslim girls to wear their head scarves, and Sikh girls to wear the silver bracelets of their faiths. This I have no problem with. Freedom to express one’s religion is a basic human right. But don’t Christian girls have the same rights as Muslims and Sikhs?

And perhaps more importantly, does anyone really think it’s such a hot idea to punish a teenager when she’s actually trying to do the right thing? Anyone who has ever been the parent of a teenager knows what a demoralizing experience this can be. There are just so many ways teens can screw up their lives: drugs, alcohol, sex, violence, gangs. No matter how hard you try to steer them away from these, many just blithely embrace some or all of these self destructive behaviors while regarding their parents as hopelessly out of touch simpletons. Any parent who can shepherd their teen to adulthood while keeping them in one piece has done something to be proud of.

This process is made harder than ever because there are just so many other influences on teens that parents must now compete with. Peer pressure used to mean the kids at school. Now, thanks to the Internet, it means kids all over the world. Kids are being urged by way too many people to make really, really bad decisions.

So in a world where teenagers kill just because they want to “see what it feels like”, it is refreshing to hear about a girl like Lydia Playfoot, who is actually doing the right thing and encouraging others to do the same. But instead of getting the praise she deserves, all she’s getting is a whole lot of undeserved aggravation. It is a sad indictment of our culture when a teenage girl is turned into a pariah for NOT having sex. The scarlet letter A used to stand for “adulteress”. I guess now it stands for “abstinence”.

In our increasingly secular world, there are many who find her extroverted brand of Christian faith cloying, but that is more of a reflection of our society than it is on her. I find it rather ironic that while the western world is predominantly Christian, Christianity itself is becoming ever more marginalized. Devout Christians are often looked down upon by the intelligentsia as rubes and simpletons. And yet in Muslim, Jewish, and other cultures, religious faith is still viewed as a virtue.

But one does not need to embrace devout Christianity to recognize the value of her message, or to be disturbed by the school administration’s attempts to squash that message, which should be regarded as a breath of fresh air. What parent in the world wouldn’t sell their soul just to hear their teen say, “Mom, Dad, I’ve been thinking about it, and I’ve decided not to have sex until I’m married. Is that OK?” In a world where so many influences are telling her to do otherwise, Lydia Playfoot is doing the right thing. Ring or no ring.



The Clowns are gonna getcha!!

In just the past week, no less than two of my friends, both normal, well adjusted men, have told me that they suffered from a phobia that I’ve never encountered in real life, the fear of clowns. It turns out it even has a name: coulrophobia.

So I did a little research, and what I found was fascinating. While it’s quite common for children to be afraid of clowns, I discovered that some experts believe that as many as one in seven adults never outgrow this fear. Like most phobias, symptoms can include shortness of breath, irregular heartbeat, sweating, nausea and overall feelings of dread.

Like most phobias, it is difficult to explain where this comes from. The most common cause is usually a bad childhood experience involving a clown. But there is another interesting theory about how this phobia develops. Because a clown’s smile is painted on, you can’t tell what the clown is really thinking. Is he going to give you a flower or go for your throat? That perpetual smile does something in the mind of the coulrophobe, who finds this inability to “read” the clown, along with the clown’s historic propensity for acting outside social norms (and getting away with it) so unsettling that it creates an unreasonable panic.

Google “fear of clowns” and a whole plethora of websites come up devoted to explaining and helping people overcome the phobia. Clearly, coulrophobia is no laughing matter.

Many famous fictional characters suffer from coulrophobia, encompassing such wide ranging types from Cosmo Kramer to obsessive compulsive detective Adrian Monk. Pasquale, the perpetual child in the comic strip “Rose is Rose” is terrified of clowns, as is Bart Simpson.

Alan Shore, the wily lawyer from the TV series “Boston Legal”, is so afraid of clowns that the normally glib attorney actually froze in a courtroom when the plaintiff, a clown, unexpectedly showed up for the trial in full clown regalia. Later in the episode, Shore claimed there was nothing unreasonable about his fear, describing clowns as “evil” and taking issue with parents who encourage their children to “simply trust them”. He eventually overcame his fear–with the help of colleague and former Marine Brad Chase–to the point where he is able to approach the clown, who allows Alan to squeeze his nose. (There’s a reason this is one of my favorite TV shows. I’m a big fan of the surreal.)

For a comprehensive list, (and boy, is it a long one!) click here.

And I always thought the lions were scary. By the way, if you suffer from coulrophobia, do not, under any circumstances, look at the picture below.

But if you LIKE scary clowns, check out this link.

Hey, I warned you!


taking up a glowing cinder with the tongs and lighting with it the long cherry-wood pipe which was wont to replace his clay when he was in a disputatious rather than a meditative mood" ~ Dr. John H. Watson ************************
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