The Sheltered Islander: Back to Skool

I remember when I was still in junior high and high school, the anticipation I always felt just before the first day of school. As a girl it was critical to have a new outfit.  Even if the look you were going for was the  “I am too cool to care how I look” look, you had to get it just right for the first day back to school. That first day back set the tone for your year.

First, since you only hung with a few select friends through the summer, you didn’t see most of your classmates until school started, and boy, what a difference the summer vacation could make. Girls came back with boobs, boys came back with fuzzy upper lips and height!  I was always one of the tallest kids in the class until sophomore year, when the boys finally got taller.  I remember feeling so relieved about that. From age 13 on, I was 5’10” in bare feet, 5’12” in heels.  No, I was never 6 feet tall, that’s way too tall for a girl. I refused to be taller than 5’12”.

Boys began talking to us without feeling the need to shove us or knock books out of our hands. And some of them began to understand the concept of personal hygiene and were even experimenting with deodorant and toothpaste. It was an amazing transformation. Even so, they were careful to look like they didn’t care how they looked. Between the sprouting facial hair and acne, they looked like the early stages of plague victims.

For girls, none of us could ever imagine that we were remotely attractive. We were all always dieting and fretting over our complexions and mentally magnifying the most minute flaw, convinced that it was the first thing everyone saw when they looked at us. But there’s not a women alive today who wouldn’t give anything to look as horribly fat and ugly as she thought she looked in high school. Early attempts at courtship were awkward. Girls tried writing meaningful poetry to read to the boys so they’d know we thought they were special. We spent hours analyzing everything they said and did for its true meaning.

I laugh now when I think of how many meanings we could extrapolate out of a simple “Good Morning,” or even cooler, if they looked at you and just said “Hey.”  “Hey” could mean “I’m checking you out and might even ask you out later.” “Hey” could mean “I think you’re cool, I’m going to sit next to you at lunch in front of the whole school.” If a boy made a point of sitting next to you at lunch, that was commitment. If he bought your lunch, you’d sit in class later practicing writing your new last name.  If he walked you home and carried your books, you could start picking out curtains.  Guys will never know how much mileage a woman can get out of a simple “Hey.”

As teen girls, we always thought that they were analyzing whatever we said as much as we dissected whatever they said.  It isn’t till way, way later that we finally accept that when a man says he isn’t thinking anything, what he really means is “I’m not thinking anything.”  I believe I was well into my 40s when I realized they had been telling the truth for years.

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