Remember middle school?
Remember how that adolescent crock pot, whose initial ingredients are anxiety, fear and insecurity, is switched on to the "low" setting during September, then slowly percolates for one-hundred-eighty days?
The eleven-, twelve-, and thirteen-year-olds who occupy this bubbling cauldron are forced to mingle, simultaneously detesting each other and magnetically clinging together through unbridled animal magnetism.
Welcome or not, the tweener faces a roster of new found companions, from the peer-inspired introductions of eye makeup and deodorant to the cold morning reckoning of a fresh pimple below the left nostril.
Pressures abound. The adolescent dress code prescribes apparel which is flashy enough to not stand out.
Late for class? You run, you're done.
Want to save face? Better join Facebook.
What do you need? I know someone who can get it for you.
Okay, here's my point: my sixth-grade daughter has succumbed to the temptations of tweendom...and she's been caught.
I know, she's only eleven, and I never expected for this to happen, especially at such a young age, but what parent does?
All the signs were there—she started hanging with a new kid, even on weekends, and she'd spoken the names of boys and girls whom I'd never heard mentioned previously.
So, yeah, color me ignorant.
Then her English teacher called, day before yesterday. My wife answered.
"Hi, Terri, this is Kathy James."
"Hi, Kathy, how are you?"
"Oh, I'm okay. I just thought I should fill you in about something that Brittany (not her actual name) has been involved with at school."
"Oh, what is it? Has she been disrespectful?"
"No, she's a very nice girl, but she's been violating school rules and it needs to stop...
"She needs to stop selling cupcakes at school. They look beautiful, but we're not supposed to let the kids eat sugary snacks."
The jig was up.
For the past couple of months, my daughter's been running a black market cupcake operation within the hallowed halls of academia. Apparently, district policy dictates that only healthy snacks can be sold on school grounds; the vending machines provide baked chips, dehydrated fruit and juice as alternates to the fatty food stuffs and sugary soda of the past.
Throughout each school week, she and her friend have taken orders for weekend baking and Monday delivery. Quantity discounts don't exist; in fact, the opposite applies. Six cupcakes cost eight dollars, but twelve will set the sugar junkie back twenty.
Her teacher had thought she'd made it clear that the dealing was to stop, but evidently another teacher informed her that "the girl's still selling."
My wife and I, while proud of our daughter's entrepreneurial spirit, have told our little Mrs. Fields that she can still peddle her wares but must deliver them to the homes of her customers, and that we'll need to pinch a portion of her proceeds for gas money.
She wasn't too receptive to that idea. Since we've been springing for ingredients and delivery supplies, she and her friend have enjoyed a one hundred percent markup. Pure profit.
And because she's stopped soliciting orders, a few addicts have come out of the woodwork, some actually begging her to sneak a few baked goods into school.
Those customers had historically eaten their entire supply immediately upon receipt, and hey, I understand, because nothing matches the hell of cold turkey cupcake withdrawal. Nonetheless, her fledgling business has been ground up in the cogs of institutional control, and that in itself is a good lesson.
Now she's contemplating selling jewelry.