Chloe | Teen Ink


July 21, 2013
By CFPrince SILVER, Washington, District Of Columbia
CFPrince SILVER, Washington, District Of Columbia
5 articles 0 photos 0 comments

Case Study: Chloe Greene
Author: Christopher Dawkins, writing for the London Times in a report entitled The Social Predicaments of the American Teenage Girl

This morning, Chloe Greene awoke with in an incandescent instinct, a different disposition, an anxious alliteration of emotions. Her usual school year mornings were a unpleasant dichotomy: from Monday to Friday she rose wearily under the weight of another irksome school day; then Saturday and Sunday required she peel back the warmth of her blanketed plumage just to languish in the vacuousness of yet another day. Yes, Chloe's three years in high school had been dreary, but on the first day of senior year, she was excited.

On darker days, Chloe often yearned for the transient days of middle school, when it seemed her classmate's socialization had remained innocuous, not yet Darwinian, not yet consigning her pale complexion, her plump figure, and—worst of all—her crooked, misaligned nose to the bottom of the school’s food chain. (I should note that Chloe would not consider herself part of this theoretical food chain—she preferred thinking of herself as completely autonomous from the student body of Calvert High, separate from all their meddling and phoniness. It should also be mentioned that Meghan Greenbrier was at the top of the food chain.)

In any case, the expectantly dreary end to junior year solidified Chloe's determination to change her social stature during senior year. Chloe believed in the potential for such mobility because the majority of the Calvert High student body was unaware of her enrollment, in large part due to the aforementioned, self-enforced autonomy, so she had no negative reputation to overcome. In preparation for her propulsion into Calvert’s elite, Chloe, with the tenuous consent of her parents, had scheduled for a nose job in June ("Because I can’t breathe well," she would say unconvincingly). She was also committed to a summer long diet straight from the pages of Cosmopolitan, and she had even splurged on a bottle of Jergen's self tanning lotion in lieu of another romantic novel.

More elusive than Chloe's efforts to change were her motives. Did she, like most other teenagers, want inclusion in Meghan Greenbrier's crowd for the better parties, the hotter guys, and maybe even an easier, incentivized rising from bed? Possibly, but I believe Chloe's motives were more profound: perhaps she wanted rapid social ascension sourced in an altered appearance to prove to herself and to any keen observers that popularity required no merit, it signified no depth of character, but was founded purely on superficiality. But, most importantly, Chloe would prove that no matter how brightly Meghan Greenbrier's blond hair shined in the sun, or how much skin her designer clothes revealed, or how flawless the skin revealed was, Meghan Greenbrier was not better than anyone else.

Unfortunately, all of Chloe's investments in this victorious senior year crashed with a speed and severity seen only in the nightmares of Wall Street bankers.

Chloe had expected that the Calvert student body would notice her nose and welcome it as a perfection that they had previously overlooked. Of course, such acceptance in the cutthroat cliques of Calvert would require unawareness towards the surgical nature of Chloe’s nasal beautification (lest she become “the nose-job girl”). The reader must understand that while attractiveness is the highest female virtue in American high schools, the means by which it is achieved must be concealed to the utmost extent. This is the illusion of the American teenage girl, whose seemingly effortless pulchritude masks years of staring into mirrors, crying in bathrooms, hoarding polishes and ointments, worshipping photoshopped demigods in magazines, and hating themselves for it. This is why the portrait of the American teenage girl is a sad watercolor painted with cheap makeup.

Despite all of Chloe's entreatments, a bottle of wine so loosened her mother’s lips one night that she told Mrs. Goulden about Chloe's nose job, who told Mrs. O'Connell, who told Mrs. Wharton, and so on. When Chloe arrived at school on the first day of a once promising senior year, her new nose—concave where it had been convex, sharp where it had been broad—attracted a general attention she first relished, but soon resented as she realized the stares were sardonic not admiring, pitying not jealous. She was in hell by third period. Then Meghan Greenbrier walked by, gave Chloe a deriding glance, and Chloe realized she was in a place worse than Hell. Chloe was sure that Meghan Greenbrier had somehow told everyone about the nose job, which could have been so deliciously secret. Chloe hated Meghan Greenbrier. Hate is a strong word, mother would say. All the more appropriate, Chloe thought.

At the start of her lunch period, Chloe rushed into the bathroom. The bathroom mirror both reflected and caused her horror. It seemed her fake tan had turned an even faker orange; she grabbed her suddenly bulging belly and cursed Cosmopolitan; worst of all, her nose looked even more disfigured than before. Of course none of this was true: Chloe was more beautiful than ever, but self-perception is a perpetual lie that is only further perverted by a mirror’s scrutinization. Chloe would learn that a mirror is infinitely less true than the reflection seen in another’s eyes.

Upon reflecting on the nose job/fake tan/diet (but mostly the nose job) and their implications, the Calvert students remembered other tidbits of Chloe (the quiet girl studying in the library, that time she fell on her face in PE, how she always rushes off after school). Chloe was not as irrelevant as she had once thought. Within days, the senior class arrived at a general consensus on who this Chloe character was: a nerdy wallflower, a mysterious reclusive, and—despite the highly-publicized, artificial means—suddenly attractive. In any case, student attitude towards Chloe was ambivalent, more inquisitive than anything. As Chloe foisted sociability with suggestive clothing and a welcoming mien, classmates began to talk to her, and she learned to talk to them, and—although certainly not popular—Chloe made a few friends.

Calvert High attracts many more arts/theatre type students than athletes. Consequently, a large portion of the students fall somewhere on the spectrum of slightly odd to very hipster. And of those who proximate towards the latter on this spectrum, a considerable portion share an affinity for marijuana. Given Chloe's peculiar standing at Calvert, the open-minded, weed-laced environment of said hipsters seemed to be her most accommodating environment. This relationship was very short lived.

It started with skinny-pants-wearing Dylan talking to Chloe in the halls. What she lacked in conversational skills was compensated by Dylan's THC-addled brain. Dylan's friends were soon acquainted with Chloe, and they talked in the halls, grouped up after school, and sat at the same lunch table. It was the Friday of the second week of September when Chloe would first be introduced to the group's binding plant. Chloe had been excluded from the smoking sessions partly of her own volition, partly of Dylan's, but it was going to happen on Friday—Friday during lunch. The group met in the parking lot at 12:15, climbed into Dylan's Jeep, and there was the spark of excitement felt when losing a virginity.

Chloe observed how Dylan sucked the wrinkly but tightly coiled joint with a meaningfulness, then inhaled deeply. She was sitting in the front seat next to him. She was next. Chloe took the joint—the miniaturized cornucopia bearing monochrome fruits of colorful fragrance—and held it with two fingers as she would a burning insect. Chloe's wet esophagus repelled the smoke's dryness with coughs; nevertheless some of the chemicals were absorbed. And, with the next inhale, more chemicals. And, with the next, more.

The group exited Dylan's car at 12:31. Chloe felt a little funny, a little tickle in her brain, a small shift of perspective, but nothing much. She almost thought, This is it? That whole marijuana culture based on a little tingly feeling. Now, back in front of Calvert, Chloe took a deep breath before she entered the main doors, closed her eyes for a moment, and exhaled. When she opened her eyes, the colors around her gained vibrancy, the school band's music wafted in from the music room with new clarity, the air smelled somehow sweet; Chloe was high.

Completely unaware of Dylan and his friends, Chloe sauntered into the main building and had to stifle giggles at the silliness of it all: of students writhing in their undersized, plastic desks; of Mr. Blake was directing their lamb-like gaze by pointing powerfully at his Power Point with pointed power (my IQ drops as I write); a Power Point so obviously composed the night before as Mr. Blake glared at his computer screen, trying to figure out how to embed a Google image into the damn slide, and smiling as he thinks of a little joke he'll use in class that relates Prohibition to teenage drinking, maybe even giggling to himself, which is a hard thing to do when you live alone in a studio apartment that smells of cat litter.

Chloe was passively blissful while she glided through the halls, at peace with the clumps of students she passed, although she had a lingering fear that they sensed her intoxication (Intoxication? She thought, More like . . . indoctrination . . . yeah . . . indescribable indoctrination of . . . independence . . .) Again, this indescribable indoctrination of independence was the effect of marijuana, and Chloe was high. Unfortunately, Chloe would not be independent for long, because she had chemistry sixth period, and they were doing a lab in chemistry today, and each student would have a lab partner in chemistry today, and Chloe's lab partner would be Meghan Greenbrier in chemistry today.

An ambiguous connectionist theory pervades among potheads, and, of its various forms, tenets maintain that every single thing is connected and the recognition of these connections brings us to our destinies. Alas, my sober mind lacks the keys that drug users claim open these doors of perception, so I cannot fully indulge in marijuana philosophies. However, it seemed that the chemistry lab on this Friday with lab partner Meghan Greenbrier represented a nexus purposed to alter whatever trajectory was set through Chloe's nose job/fake tan/diet.

Just by chance, or by an unconscious imperative, Chloe had been walking towards her chemistry class, and the callous sone of Calvert High’s bell signaled the beginning of sixth period and woke Chloe from her trance. Adrenalized by the bells volume, Chloe identified Mrs. Hart's classroom and commenced a power walk soon betrayed by the limpness in her limbs. Chloe arrived at the door right as Mrs. Hart closed it, and this timing allowed Mrs. Hart an intimacy with Chloe's red eyes as she reopened the door and scolded the tardiness. In the full effect of fluorescent limelight, Chloe focalized the class's attention, and, in that terrifying moment, Chloe saw Meghan Greenbrier simultaneously raise an eyebrow and narrow both eyes in pure accusation. Meghan Greenbrier was the only student without a lab partner.

"Chloe, Meghan will be your lab partner today. You'll need goggles and gloves for today’s experiment."

Chloe located the glove box, the goggles rack, and Meghan's position at the back of the room, then plotted a route through the labyrinth of octangular tables that would accommodate each destination. Needless to say, Chloe's maneuvering had made it clear that something was amiss by the time she sat down next to Meghan. Chloe avoided Meghan's gaze.

"Are you OK?" Meghan whispered too loudly.

"Yeah," Chloe murmured.

Meghan rolled her eyes and brushed a tuft of hair behind her shoulder. For the duration of Mr. Hart's fifteen minute explanation of the lab, Meghan tapped on her phone violently and Chloe looked at the lab equipment on the walls in wonder.

“One person from each group needs to get the hydrogen chlorite and sodium. And remember your safety goggles!” Mrs. Hart said before sitting at her desk.

Chloe just then became aware of the apparatus in front of her: a large graduated cylinder.

“Get the stuff,” murmured Meghan.

Chloe floated to the lab’s cabinet of chemicals, all contained in little white bottles. Chloe found the hydrogen chlorite, but, in her mental fugue, she failed to read the entire label of the second bottle she acquired. This bottle contained sodium hypochlorite, also know as bleach, and, as it happened, the very same chemical that Meghan Greenbrier used to color the hair that everyone thought was so naturally blonde.

Meghan accepted the two bottles from Chloe and sighed in expression of her indifference towards the lab. She poured the hydrogen chlorite into the graduated cylinder first. As Meghan poured the bleach, Chloe asked her why she wasn’t wearing safety goggles.

“Because they’re hideous and I have standards,” Meghan responded.

The two substances mixed at the bottom of the glass tube and their subsequent fizzling caused Meghan to peer into the top of the cylinder. In that instant, an eruption of hot, frothy liquid spewed forth, straight into Meghan’s face. She screamed and covered her face. Then, for a glorious instant, Meghan removed her hands and granted Chloe the glorious spectacle of a face that seemed to be melting as layers of makeup streamed downwards. For the first time in anyone’s memory, Meghan looked quite ugly.

After Meghan had stumbled out of the room, Chloe noticed a puddle on the lab table in which tan makeup mingled with the remnants of a failed experiment. Chloe saw her reflection on the puddle’s liquid surface, and, for the first time in her life, she liked what she saw.

The author's comments:
Account of Chloe Greene's senior year written from the perspective of an erudite British journalist. The piece discusses superficiality within American high schools.

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