I had a really random memory from elementary school today. It must have been second or third grade, in Leningrad USSR, if that makes any difference. My mom had given me a little toiletry bag with some old makeup - dried up nail polish, used up eye lash or perhaps eyebrow color, the kind you had to spit into and rub to dissolve, old bright blue eye shadow, that sort of thing. So, treating it as the treasure that it was, I took it to school to show off to my girlfriends. School policy forbid makeup, but I wasn't wearing it, and it was unusable anyway, so I don't know why I ended up getting in trouble in the first place. But what was really odd was what I can only assume was the punishment.
Memory is hazy on some details but for some reason or another the principal of the school, who was a truly terrifying dame of sturdy proportions with hair in a bun, and who by an unfortunate coincidence was also my English teacher, ended up in our classroom. She told me to bring the makeup bag up to the teacher and give it to her. "No", said I - it was a treasure and a gift from my mother. Eventually, obviously, I lost that argument and had to give the bag over. She then told me to come over to the wall by where she stood, which was a common place to have to stand if you had been a brat in class and where being punished by humiliation or whatnot. Then she told me, and this befuddles me still, to bang my head against the wall. "No" I said again, and again she kept on until I finally gently tapped my head against said wall. "Do you always do what other people tell you to do?" she then asked, sending me back to my seat.
I am afraid that the moral of that lesson is not to clear to me to this day. Was it that by being interested in makeup I was trying to do as others do? But wouldn't my repeated refusal to obey her commands be answer enough that I do not, in fact, always do as others tell me to? Or should I not have given in and hit my head on the wall no matter how often she demanded it?