I went to an extremely strict private school when I was a kid. Strict. Very strict. Boys-must-keep-their-hair-short-strict. Girls-can’t-wear-dangly-earrings-strict. When gym class came around, we girls would huddle in the bathroom and change out of our below-the-kneecap skirts into white t-shirts and red culottes. In case you’re unaware, this is what culottes look like.
That girl is so cute, but you know little hon-bun is in culotte hell right now. Not sure how she plays tennis with all of that material swathed around her legs.
Modesty was the name of the game at this school, which I am ALL for. Except, their plan of attack was missing a whole lot of logic. Culottes are supposed to resemble skirts, unlike form-fitting pants, which can accentuate buttocks and the ba-gine-y. I get that. Awesome. But what happens when you have a fleet of seventh grade girls running towards the jungle gym in their billowy culottes, and they climb to the top? They’ve got a skirt for each leg, and the culottes have now turned into a Ringling Bros. Circus Tent with floral print Hanes Her Way as the center attraction to an audience of pubescent boys, slack-jawed on the blacktop.
Really? Sweatpants wouldn’t be the better option here?
One morning, when I was six years old, I started the day off just the same as I’d start any schoolday. Roll out of bed, go to the bathroom, brush my teeth, put on some undies, a shirt, a long jumper dress, socks with the lace and bow at the ankles, and black mary jane shoes. A bowl of Clusters (remember those?) and a glass of orange juice for breakfast. Mom puts a barrette in my hair and hands me lunch (or if I was lucky, lunch money – for a pizza slice, ice cream, and a chocolate milk), and I was out the door. Dad dropped me off early on his way to work.
I was part of the “Before School Care” crowd. For about thirty minutes before school started, all of the “early kids” played on the playground under the watchful eye of an adult – a teacher or a parent.
On this day, I had been hanging out on the swings, and was ready to climb up the slide when I saw everyone heading towards the school – meaning Before School Care was over, and school was getting ready to start. One slide down, and I’d walk in with the rest of my classmates. This was a fantastic slide. Steep, metal, rusty – a total death trap. I sat at the top of the slide and pushed off.
Slid. And suddenly stopped.
The hem of my dress had gotten snagged on a rusty bolt at the very top of the slide. I couldn’t catch myself. I was halfway down the slide, with the bottom of my dress pulled up past my chin, naked legs flailing against the metal slide – willing my feet to climb back up.
But I couldn’t. And here I was, enrolled at the School of All Things Amish, with my underwear on proud display. My skirt around my head, my arms completely useless. And I panicked.
What if someone SAW me on the playground like this? Worse yet, what if someone DIDN’T see me? I’d be stuck like this until recess, except I’d miss snack time and lunch and surely die of starvation before then.
I’d be a malnourished beacon of nudity, and my only hope would be that I passed out from hunger and the principal would pity me instead of kicking me out and sending me to public school. Kids join gangs in public school. Kids get beat up in public school. Kids expose their elbows in public school.
I kicked. I waved my arms about, reaching in vain for the hand holds at the top of the slide. I jerked my torso haphazardly, hoping my skirt would rip off the bolt and I would be free.
Nothing. Nothing worked.
And then I heard footsteps. A seventh grade boy walked up to the slide, mercifully ignored my ribbon trimmed undies, and yanked my skirt off the bolt. I silently slid down the slide, pulled my skirt back down over my knees, and ran inside the school.
I ate my pizza slice with a little more gratitude at lunch time, and gave that slide the side-eye for the rest of the week.