This is me in middle school:
Okay, I was thirty-five in that photo, but I’m worried that will be my daughter Clare if she falls in with “the wrong crowd” in sixth grade. Today we took her on a tour of the middle school she’ll be attending next year. We’re going public, which means over-crowding and more of a “real life” vibe… and which I’m worried means shivs and nunchuks, or that she’ll be like Kwai Chang Caine in Kung Fu and have to take on all comers.
When I was in junior high there was a hellion named Lisa Peterson who scared the crap out of everyone, including the boys. She was about six feet tall, had the arms of a center linebacker and needed a daily fix of Kicking Someone’s Ass.
I’ll never forget coming back to school on a bus from a volleyball tournament with a neighboring school. Lisa was on the 8th grade volleyball squad and I was on the 7th grade team so I was able to fly under her radar, but some poor girl on my team made the mistake of trying to get off the bus before the 8th graders. I distinctly remember Lisa’s igneous-rocklike fist cocking back before she threatened to knock said girl into Sunday.
I can’t remember what happened next. I’ve blocked it out, along with my first menstrual cycle. Did Lisa beat her up then? Or did she wait until Sunday? And who was that other girl? Did she survive? I don’t remember ever hearing of her again.
Junior high was also the first time I had to seriously worry about sex. There was this game going around called, “Chicken,” where boys would put their hand on your knee and say, “Chicken?” To which you would reply, “No.” Then they would move their hand higher to your mid-thigh and say, “Chicken?” And then you’d say, “No.” And then they’d put their hand ever so close to the lady bits and say, “Chicken?” and you’d slap their hand and say, “I’m so sure! This is the stupidest game ever!”
And for some reason the boys you wouldn’t mind touching you never wanted to play chicken. Even if you followed them around saying things like, “I really love chicken for dinner. Chicken is my favorite food.” They’d never get the hint and then you’d go into the girl’s bathroom–first checking to make sure Lisa Peterson wasn’t hiding in one of the stalls with a hatchet–and you’d look at your sebacious pimples in the mirror and know that no boy you loved would ever want to play Chicken with you. Especially not Rob Bathish.
As I walked behind my daughter today on the middle school tour today, taking in her grade school braids, I thought, “That’s it! We’re fucking homeschooling!”
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