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So there we are, in French class. These are 8th graders. In 8th grade--just in case you don't remember--girls hit the point where their self-esteem plummets, their anxiety level skyrockets, and the rest of their body sort of reforms itself into a softer, curvier, more ample version of neurosis. The boys, of course, have problems as well but at this moment, that's not apparent. You see, we've just decided that as a French class, we're going to sample some French pastries. When I say "just decided," I mean my cooperating teacher and I planned this last week and finally let the class in on our idea oh, say, 30 seconds ago.

Across most of the faces is a distinctly joyous look. Eyes wide at the thought of the sugar high, mouths opening slightly and curling into hungry smiles. Yes, it's true, kids like food. Especially kids who are growing fast enough to fuel a 747 with their hormonal energy. These kids are, in fact, so into food that it seems only natural for them to take such delight in a $2 pastry. And then there's Rachel.

Rachel has a look of absolute terror. If you took all the smiles and happiness in the classroom, increased them exponentially and then took their exact opposite, you wouldn't even compare to a tenth of her horror. A huge red alarm goes off in my head. Danger! Danger! Alert! Help! Whoah! TEEN FIGHTING SUGAR! Dear Gawd! As if reading my mind, my cooperating teacher says, "What's wrong, Rachel?" Through a series of whines and whispered grunts and broken vocabulary--not to mention a string of "likes" and "umms"--we find out Rachel is, like, so totally on a diet that she just can't possibly eat something so sugary or she'll just diiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiie. The class begins a brief debate on whether Rachel (who can't weigh more than 110) should skip her diet just for an afternoon or for the rest of her life. She looks pained. She looks saddened. She looks--well, like she's in hell.

I am saddened, too. I know that some day, very soon, Rachel's obsession with counting calories will turn to something more. Maybe she'll vomit in the bathroom after lunch. Maybe she'll work out 3 hours a day. Whatever it is, it's just on the horizon. My heart breaks a little for her. I stand up and open my mouth to speak, hoping that I can distract her from further scrutiny. If she really is that unhealthy, embarassing her will only hurt more. But then it happens.

The girl who sits across the room puts her book down with much determination and says, "Life isn't a box of raisins, you know." And then it's settled. Rachel will get a pastry, even if she only eats half.

As I'm driving home, I'm reflecting on my day's student teaching. Not five minutes down the road, a smile plays out on my face and I'm thinking about that line. Life isn't a box of raisins, you know. Of course it isn't. Everyone knows it's a box of chocolates, and that you never know what you're gonna get. Does it matter, though? I mean, besides that hard-as-a-rock-semi-stale-toffeesque-nuggat-orange-flavored-thing, do you really care what flavor you get?

It's all chocolate, my friends, and chocolate is good.

Maybe for some, life has become a box of raisins. Shriveled up grapes that were once a fruitful promise, now identical in both their blandness and their bittersweet taste. Maybe, instead of taking a chance and wondering what sort of middle they'll get, some people choose a box of raisins. That way, at least, there are no surprises.

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