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What’s with these kids these days? Where’s the pride, the attention to detail? Lady Gaga is the most recent offender, but the trend is bigger than her. Kirsten Stewart, Rihanna, even Pink (who is old enough to know better), to name a few, are committing this affront to (my) standards.

What’s with the wingless bird? Looks like a ham with a fork stuck in it. A closed fist with a finger sticking up is not a bird. A proper bird, preferably flipped with angry or bored aplomb, should have wings. It should have knuckles out, thumb cocked and parallel. It should have tension in the tendons. It should look as if it is ready to take flight.

In middle school, my friends and I spent every bus ride for a week (or more) with pencils laced through our fingers so we could perfect the bird. It was uncomfortable. It took practice. It looked ridiculous. But we were committed. None of us were going to get caught using our thumbs to hold our fingers down. That was for babies. We were big kids now, and we watched the high schoolers, local celebrities simply by benefit of age, for the proper form. Improper form was met with scalding scorn.

Of course, a good bird needed to look effortless. Getting caught practicing was almost as bad as the ham-fisted fake bird. So we slumped in our bus seats as near the back row as we could get, the tall scarred metal seatbacks hiding our penciled fingers. A properly placed Trapper Keeper blocked our practice from nosy neighbors – not that anyone was looking; we were all doing the same thing and pretending not to notice. We were all trying to seem older and fit in and find acceptance with the right group. We were social scientists looking for every detail of coolness, every badge we could acquire, every piece of armor against invisibility.

We wore our Dove shorts, our Ditto jeans, our polo shirts with appliqués that screamed our financial status more loudly than the swoop of our Nikes. We leaned with aggressive nonchalance and scanned every other kid around us from behind our Wayfarers. We were masters of observation, instantly noticing if de rigueur white tennis shoe had stripes or a slightly off swoop or, worse, nothing at all. We could tell Ray Bans from Fake Bans. We sneered at a limp collar or loose jeans. All of this as a pre-emptive strike against anyone who might notice our own missteps in style or status.

And if they did? If anyone did call us out on fake Candies shoes or knockoff Levis? Easy. Flip ‘em the bird. A proper, cocked-thumb, winged bird.

Cindie Geddes

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