GOOD MORNING! Thank you for your continued interest in reading Indignity. We continue to be interested in writing it for you! If you've been with us since the beginning, or if you read our back numbers to the beginning, you may recall that the goal here is to establish this Substack publication as a viable subscriber-driven business.
Today, to that end, we are moving into Phase Two of our not-at-all-improvised business plan, with the long-anticipated raising of the Official Indignity Substack Paywall™! All of you, nonpaying subscribers and paying subscribers alike, will continue to receive at least one free edition of Indignity each week. But today's essay, Indignity Vol. 1, No. 35, is the first in a series of posts that will be available in full only to our paying supporters.
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If you're a paid supporter, feel free to skip ahead to the main post, a literary essay on the problem of how to teach children the art of the literary essay, and/or how to get them a decent haircut. If you've been enjoying Indignity for free, we hope you'll read the available sample of the essay and consider joining our paid supporters. Thanks again!
The Small Moment
THE YOUNGER BOY is sitting in the chair at the hair salon. This is where he would have begun: His hair is wet, he's got the haircutting cape on, and he's sitting all by himself, blind without his glasses and still wearing his KN-95 mask, as on all sides of him the people at the hair salon bustle doing other things for other people and not for him. I don't even know if he can see me on the sidewalk outside, on the far side of the glass, with his brother, whose hair is newly cut. I see him sitting there, alone, absolutely ignored.
Here's where my side begins: I picked him up from school, a week or two after the haircut, and right away, by the time we reached the first corner, he was telling me the end of the day went badly. When a thing goes wrong, he usually goes ahead and says so, more or less immediately. His brother will privately brood on or fret about a thing for literally years, but this one just downloads, to get the problem out there. So: the teacher took him out in the hall to lecture him about what he'd put down on his writing worksheet, because he'd used a swear word, even though he'd asterisked most of it out.
His fifth-grade class was supposed to be planning their essay projects about nonfiction Small Moments, he said. So he wrote down how he wanted to write about how that [expletive] at the hair place made him wait 20 minutes for a haircut. Along with the lecture about bad language, he had gotten a post-it stuck to his idea-drafting sheet admonishing him that every person deserves respect.
He knows not to put cusses in his schoolwork. Why did he think the planning process for the schoolwork would be exempt? They may tell you anything goes, to let your ideas out and judge them later, but you have to understand they're lying to you. It's one of the real lessons you need to master at school, that there is no such thing as "no wrong answers." Better to learn it in the fifth grade than from the HR department at work, or from the FBI.