Apr 8, 2013

The {7th-Grade} Power Within

In 1972 in a suburb of D.C., some Smart People in the Public School Powers-That-Be Room decide junior high school will begin in seventh grade. Then these same Smart People decide that junior high should continue through 9th grade. So, you will spend your first year of high school in junior high. Yes, you will enter High School as a Sophomore.

Keep with me.

Like I said, it is 1972. You've been wearing dresses and skirts to school your whole elementary life up until a year ago when those Smart People realized that the boys were way too eagerly anticipating the new trampoline lessons on P.E. Day. That's when those people agree to let you wear pants---but only on P.E. Day. If it's 20 degrees with a wind-chill, but NOT P.E. Day, you wear a skirt. Because that's what the Smart People said to do.

So now it is 7th grade and you are going to Junior High School.

For the first time, you have to ride a school bus, you change classes and teachers til you're dizzy, you get lost in a never-ending circle of painted cinderblock, you go unrecognized by scores of kids streaming in from other elementary schools, you can't walk home for lunch, you see girls wearing bras, you see girls smoking in the bathrooms. And as if that wasn't enough already, there is Gym!

You discover that Gym will be every day. It will be a huge deal. You will learn to play all kinds of sports, some you've never even watched, because it's 1972 and the only sport girls are playing is softball. Not even soccer. BOYS are hardly playing soccer. 

But the hugest deal of all is that you will have to CHANGE YOUR CLOTHES! In public! In front of those unknown girls from the other elementary schools that are cooler than your elementary school was.
And just when your life, your very fragile sense of self, is at the breaking point, those Smart People
deal one more cruel blow. They issue you:

A Gym Uniform.

These girls are not smiling about the uniforms.

On the second day of Junior High you and the other 7th-graders are lined up on the sunny asphalt in full view of the passing boys gym class, and are handed plastic packages of blue serge cloth. You and the other bewildered girls open them to reveal these one-piece rompers with snap fronts and elastic waists. The short sleeves aren't short enough; they hang almost to your elbows. The legs likewise are to the knees. They have prim little shirt-collars, but that is all that can be called styling. They will be inadequate as clothing in just a few weeks so you will have one more reason to hate them by November.

You don't have an older sister to warn you about this. Some of the other girls obviously do. You can tell they are the ones who will rise to the top of the social strata because they make such a big deal about how dork-worthy these things are. Kids like you, well...you knew they were ugly, but you wouldn't have thought to roll the legs and sleeves up as high as they could go so that you looked sexier. 

You are responsible for taking them home every Friday to be washed and bringing them back every Monday  to begin another week of drills and vocabulary tests on sports that you would play for six weeks or so, never really gaining any proficiency in, only embarrassment. You will stand on the field in that thing while a snotty little bee-atch reams you in front of all your soccer teammates for your lousy kicking. And your mother, who never had to play soccer, will call HER mother and demand an apology. And then you will want to die.

Of course the day will come when you DON'T  have it washed by Monday because your Mom who never played soccer has three other kids with equally demanding teachers and that particular load of laundry didn't get done. Then you will have to face the woman with the very short hair who makes ugly marks next to your name. And feel the sting of embarrassment that comes from having to wear your school clothes to gym!

But wait...
Isn't that what you'd prefer anyway? Losing the uniform?

And it's then that you take your biggest step in your education. You begin thinking for yourself.

And in two more years when you should be allowed to create your own schedule because it is, after all, your Freshman year even though you're still in a Junior High building, you don't back down when the Very Smart Powers argue against it. And you win. 

And it's then you get your first taste of what bucking the system feels like. And later in life, when you have daughters of your own, you'll remember the decisions of the very Smart Powers-That-Be, and you'll say...

I think we'll homeschool.

Inspired by Mama Kat's Pretty Much World Famous Writing Prompt: " a 7th grade memory."

Mama’s Losin’ It
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