To be printed 26/08/10.
It was an odd feeling, last Thursday, to realise that I'm probably never going to get exam results again. Excepting blood tests, eye exams, pregnancy tests, potentially a driving test if I ever learn to steer a Morrisons trolley without causing a pile-up in the cereal aisle, my results-receiving years are over.
This is no bad thing, of course. I can happily go the rest of my years without the crippling nausea, the sweaty palms, the phantom memories of ridiculous answers looming up in your dreams. Did I accidentally answer 8b entirely in reference to Kylie lyrics? Did that HAPPEN?
It's great prep for all kinds of social awkwardness later in life, getting exam results - all that publicly expressed emotion, walking around with the knowledge that at any moment, for no reason at all, you might burst out and accidentally hug a teacher.
Then there's the diplomatic 'what-did-you-get-no-what-did-you-get' shuffle, a minefield of potential face-palm moments. There will always be one acquaintance who tells you, with a completely neutral expression, that they got two Ds and an E. Always. This leaves you with two choices - either to guess wildly at an appropriate emotion and run with it ("Two Ds AND an E?? Whoooah there, amazing! Wonderful! Congrats! Shall we hug now?") or to just nod, adopt a similarly neutral expression and hope they'll jump in and save you* ("Riiiiight….that's… yeah, cool….mm. Shall we hug now?").
But more than unwittingly insulting people and pandemic hugging, the main evil to be dodged on results day has got to be the photographer. Are you female? Reasonably attractive? Wearing a flimsy t-shirt? Can you jump off a bench? Darling, we're gonna make you a star.
Notwithstanding the excellent publication in which I'm writing (the Herald never stoops to clichés, no siree), newspaper coverage of results days is becoming a cult phenomenon, for all the wrong reasons. There's even a blog, sexyalevels.tumblr.com, to celebrate results photos in all their backwards glory. It is fair enough, I feel, to gently remind the media that boys do exams too. They do, I've seen them! Fat girls as well. And spotty girls. And girls wearing loose, high-necked clothing who never feel the urge to leap in the air, throw their arms round each other or make excited faces with their ear clamped to a phone.
It's hard to escape the irony, though – that after years of telling us completely the opposite, the media now seem only to believe that nubile blonde females have a shot at academic success. Do we want our children to grow up believing that only attractive women have brains? What about an attractive woman's right to be thick, if she so wishes? At this rate, all the pretty teenage girls in this fine country will be racing off to do biochemistry degrees, and then where will we find our glamour models and reality TV contestants? Eh?
And it's comprehensive arguments like that, folks, that got me results just about worth jumping off a bench for.
*They won't. But you probably never need to see them again.