Back when I was in high school, there were all sorts of inane rules about how long your skirt could be and where it fell along the knee. Should you be caught violating said rule, little lady, you would be booted to the principal’s office, where some old, graying coach with breath that smelled of coffee and Swisher Sweets was all too eager to snap a ruler along your legs and measure your misdeeds. A lot of energy went into this charade — the girls tried to get away with our miniskirts, the administration ran after us, shaking their fists and their pink notepads. Years later, when I became a high school English teacher, the thorny issue was tank tops. Girls caught wearing tank tops were not to be tolerated, which of course meant that girls wore tank tops all the time but in increasingly ingenious ways. Girls looked one way in front of the principals, and one way in front of their peers. They were like Transformers! Necessity may be the mother of invention, but vanity is perhaps a crazy aunt.
I was reminded of this long history of creative cat-and-mouse by a recent story about girls who invented a disappearing fingernail polish to get around the school’s ban on it. “Part of the appeal was that the varnish would go clear indoors, so they could wear it in school. But back outside, it would react with the sun and change colour again.” Simply brilliant. As dumb as a ban on fingernail polish sounds — and am I alone in thinking that sounds pretty dumb? — I’m glad it gave them an excuse for such creative problem solving. “The polish has already been manufactured in China and the two teachers say the remaining task is to find outlets to stock it,” the story says. Hey, it’s not the cure for cancer, but it might be someday.