I have a habit of finding television shows and watching them through from beginning to end. I’ve done it with The Golden Girls/The Golden Palace (many, many times), Pokemon, Boy Meets World, and more. My current obsession is The Facts of Life.
There’s one scene in particular that Nick at Nite used in its old advertisements for the show. It comes from a season one episode where several of the girls are going on diets to lose a few extra pounds. One of the girls, Cindy, asks Natalie if she would join the others in dieting to become “pencil-thin.” Natalie refuses: “Who wants to be a skinny pencil? I’d rather be a happy magic marker.”
Now, Natalie’s character was known for being overweight (later on, they had to dress Mindy Cohn in baggy clothes because she lost weight due to a new love of dancing; it was their way of compromising the situation).
However, I don’t feel like that comment was the character advertising that she wanted to stay fat.
Pencils are thin, dull instruments of writing. I cannot recall the last time I used a pencil. It was probably for a Scantron test in school. That’s all I ever use pencils: for filling in test bubbles.
Sure, they do have “fat” pencils, but those are generally reserved for young children who are just learning to write. I find it interesting that they were comparing thin people with pencils. After all, isn’t the general view on weight that a little baby fat is acceptable on a young child?
A young child uses fatter pencils, but grows up to use skinny ones.
A young child has a little bit of baby fat, but is expected to grow out of it and be thin as a teenager/adult.
The thing is, when people hear that line from The Facts of Life, they seem to come to one conclusion:
There’s a significant flaw in that thought process, however. Have you been down the Crayola aisle at the store lately? Markers come in all sizes. Thin and thick. Some markers are short, and others that are tall. Some markers have points meant for drawing and coloring, while others simply have little stamps on the end. Some markers are seemingly useless, but a new color will appear when you color over another marker. There are even markers that will only show their true colors if you use them on particular paper and wait a moment.
How is that such a bad thing? All of the markers have the same purpose: to make art. Some might be better for simple coloring on scrap paper, some might be better suited for decorating a t-shirt, and there are even some that only show their true colors among the company of certain other markers or using special paper.
That’s not much unlike us. We all have a calling to do something, but different people shine in different areas. Some of us don’t really shine unless we are in a certain environment, or with the right people, and that’s okay.
We come in all colors, shapes, and sizes. We all have a different purpose and work best in different environments. Meanwhile, the media is trying to get us to conform to some bizarre concept of “beauty” where we are all walking skeletons. Talents and personalities do not matter as long as you fit the image. When taking a scantron test, it doesn’t matter what color your pencil is- just as long as it’s a number 2 pencil [Why is it called the number 2? Who uses any other kind?] It’s just like putting a different color dress on each member group of identical, size 00 fashion models. It means nothing.
Why be like a boring, skinny pencil that’s best used for a generic “one-size-fits-all” test when you have the option of being a happy magic maker?