a unique take on life from some unique women
Ah, puberty. What magical times those were. Even now at 26, I still can’t get over the horror of middle school. I look back on it as a time of braces, acne, and a lot of sweating. Over interpreting any contact longer than one second (ohmigod does he LIKE me?), incredible insecurity (well, if he likes me, I guess I should like him back – although I always thought he was annoying, but NOW…), and a body that made no sense to me.
I entered school a bit late, and was older than most of my classmates. This had its advantages: I believe I had an easier time grasping academics because my brain was a little more developed. Mostly, though, it had disadvantages: I was taller, heavier, and just bigger in general than most of my classmates. I had boobs first; and I think many women will agree that the first time you get boobs is not an attractive time. You have a child’s face with odd little mounds that, in my case, looked like awkward fat deposits…and I also had acne first… all the good stuff. On top of that glamorous picture, I was born with what I”ll call Extremely British Teeth, so my middle school years were spent enveloped in braces (to say nothing of retainers, spacers, and several corrective oral surgeries). Today, when people tell me I have nice teeth, I have to laugh to myself and always think how much these nice teeth must have cost my parents…
So why am I talking about the fun of puberty? Well, when I was shaving today with a razor that really ought to be replaced, it brought back all those fears of grown-up stuff I suddenly had to start doing in middle school. I distinctly remember swimming at a local health club in 6th grade with my friend Katie. I remember Katie and I discussing that some of the popular girls had started shaving their legs, wearing deodorant, and did not fear tampons. I myself was wearing a tampon for maybe the second time ever, and was terrified that I was in the pool with it… newbie.
I remember Katie and I realizing that it was time that we, too, begin shaving our legs. My mother was never clued in to this sort of thing (shouldn’t I have had deodorant by then? I was 12), so it was a journey I had to embark on mostly alone. Consequently, I decided I wasn’t quite ready, and avoided shorts and skirts. It wasn’t until that summer when I headed off to a 4-week summer camp in the Berkshires that my older bunkmates generously showed me how to shave. I had never had shaving cream before, and was amazed at how easy it all suddenly seemed. In addition to shaving, we also used our shaving cream to kill giant spiders that lived above the showers. Oh, summer camp.
Just wanted to start my day today with some morning nostalgia, and I’d like to conclude this post by saying that as much as I admire firefighters and our military and doctors without borders for their sacrifices, there is no one I have as great a respect for as the middle school teacher. What motivates a person to be back in that scene is beyond me, but I send them all my gratitude for going out onto the front lines of a battle I never won but only ran away from, and one that today, eleven years later, I still reflect on with a sense of fear and awkwardness. Here’s a toast to you – the middle school teacher – the bravest soul I’ve ever encountered. Thanks for trying to teach us while we all focused entirely on our own hormones.