Friday, August 28, 2009

Lather, Rinse, Repeat

I went to the PTA meeting for my son's class today. As a general rule, I try to avoid any place where large groups of women congregate unless shoes or purses for purchase are involved. However, I went in today armed with an open mind and low expectations.

Actually, this was the second PTA meeting I have gone to. The first was the "business" meeting, this was more of a get to know each other coffee. It was pleasant, as these things always are in the beginning. It isn't until later that you realize it is still very much like the social constructs you left behind in high school.

During the meeting the nurse came in to talk about the swine flu and immunizations. Then an American woman took the stage and went into a 20 minute lesson about head lice. It was a full demonstration. She had some special small comb and a homeopathic tincture she bought from the health food store. She was showing us how she combed her kids' hair each morning as a preventative measure. I nodded off about three minutes into the presentation, as I generally do so I really could not tell you what other tips of the trade she was sharing.

She was clearly spending a lot of time, effort, thought and resources into combatting these little head squatting creatures. As I looked around the questions were coming at her rapid fire and everyone had the same look of abject fear I must have.

Initially, before slipping under, I was horrified. Lice? "Is this a common thing?" I asked the two Swedish women I was sitting with. One woman who looked extremely irritated answered, "No, this is crazy".

Another American woman in the room, maybe her assistant in all this, was as animated and as concerned about the impending lice epidemic. And it hit me. Aaaaaaah, good old American neuroticism. So, I laughed and said to the Swedish woman, "Oh, it's an American thing". We kind of laughed a bit about the hand sanitizer and the antibacterial soaps. A little self deprecating humor is always a good thing and a little disarming. She then said "Yes, anytime there is anyone on the room asking 100 questions it's always the Americans"

Hey now... they may be neurotics but they are MY neurotics.

Anyhow, I figure the truth is probably somewhere in the middle. True--American's tend to over worry and try to control their environments to a huge extent. Also though, Swedes tend to gloss over negative attributes about their society, avoid unpleasantries or to even be in denial about many things.


  1. I remember those lice inspections at my school!!! that damn comb! haha.

    this swedish band Dungen is playing here tonight. They are from Stockholm and are amazing! I'm going to get some tips on things for us to do while I'm there!!!

    ps. What's the constant need to generalize everyone?

  2. I am fascinated by these "society wide" characteristics.

    Everyone generalizes. We all do it. The woman I was talking to already had her American generalizations. Sure, they can be wrong but more often than not, they are right.

    I thought it was hilarious, the whole lice freak out by the Americans and the complete opposite reaction from the Swedish women.

  3. Yeah, yeah. It's def. fascinating. I just can't help but wonder... if we didn't hold such preconceived notions, would people still act to fit the name.. to fit the label?

    Does that make sense?

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