Take a Spelling Test? Or Apply for a Promotion?













“Take a Spelling Test? Or Apply for a Promotion?”

You cannot think this was easy.

Yes, that’s me in the back there, sandwiched between future cheerleaders. (As long as we’re all here together, can we stop a moment to admire the costly and chic backdrop used in this photograph? Too bad it didn’t occur to the photographer to zoom in a little, thereby cutting the overhead lights out of the shot. Och, look at me going on about this, when perhaps the framing of the shot was a very intentional artistic statement about how illuminating young minds are…)

So there I am: Jocelyn the Redwood, Precociously Pubescent Sixth Grader–the one in the white Polyester ‘Z Me cowl-necked shirt…in the “born for square dancing” red skirt…sportin’ them “if I were Native-American, these would be flesh-toned” nylons…towering supremely in my platform wedges.

Even better, take a moment to admire my glasses. You could take the triplets sledding on those babies, couldn’t you? And my hair…a soft-serve artist at the Dairy Queen worked many hours coming up with the prototype for that ‘do (“Jes’ a little swirl here on the sides, and we’ll call it feathered!”).

And, honey? The boobies. Tacked there on the front? They don’t show up so well in that class photo without the use of your Stalker Magnifying Glass, but trust me, they had not only made a reservation but had been checked in and using room service for two years by the time this picture was taken. Bane of my angst-addled existence, they were. (I know, I know. I was wretched and ungrateful. Who knew then they’d come in so very handy thirty years later? I mean, nowadays I can prop a snack on them, carry it around for a couple of hours, and then dig in when I’m getting peckish. And when I’m doing laundry? I can just toss a folded towel or two on the old rack and then head up to the linen closet, hands-free. If only I could get them to answer the cell phone while I’m driving).

At any rate, I did, indeed, find myself locked in some serious hormonal havoc–light inches ahead of my peers–for four or five years there. In 4th grade, I reached my adult height; in 5th grade, I could buy booze without getting carded; and by the time this picture was taken in 6th grade, I was well able to stand in for our teacher, Mrs. Surwill, if ever she was suddenly struck down by The Epizudy and had to take the afternoon off. I could literally fill her shoes: after a quick scan of the lesson plan, I could, realizing it was music time, break out some hand drums and lead my classmates through a quick “ta-ta-ti-ti-ta” and then announce it was time for social studies and a review of cultural geography before having everyone work on their diaramas of the marketplaces of South America.

Finally, at the end of the day, I could carpool everyone home in my two-toned station wagon.


The truth is that, even though I could just sit on the bullies to make them shut up, these years of looking like the mother of three when I really just wanted to play H-O-R-S-E at the basketball hoop and whoop it up during flashlight tag…well, they sucked. Certainly, I had my group of friends, remained a “smiley people pleaser” (as my mother aptly described me), and earned good grades. But my insides often hurt in ways that even the boobies couldn’t cover.

I felt the freak.

All the other kids were in that stage of unofficial dating–the whole “will you go with me?” time of life, which basically entailed everyone else whispering things like “They’re going with each other, so it’s okay” when Darrin and Andrea sat together on the same seat in the back of the school bus. Every six days or so, the “going together” couples would break up, mix up, and emerge reconfigured, Darrin now with Deanne and Andrea now with John.

It was all so frickin’ glamorous.

But I, with my intimidating height of 5′ 6″ and shouldering the boobies as I did, was sidelined during these social machinations, an observer of them, a cataloguer of them, but never a participant. I’ll spare you the litany of the resultant self-esteem issues, but if you want to bandy about some words like “weight issues” and “would date anyone who seemed to like her, all three of ’em” and “shopped to fill a void” here, I’ll wait.


Fingers tapping.

Tra-la-toodley-doo. “First, when there’s nothin’, but a slow, glowing dream/That your fears seemed to hide, deep insiiiiiiiide your mind…What a feelin’! I have rhythm now!”

Oh, huh, bwah? You back now? Are we ready to move on?

Okay, so my point was something about suckwadage–the cruelty of it all, the injustice of being “developed” when everyone else was still turning cartwheels in their Garanimals–some sort of blather like that, right?

In all truth, there was actually a deeper cruelty in my late elementary years, and it proved that my character had yet to catch up to my body’s maturity. You see, one day I had the chance to join The Club of the Going Togethers. And I froze. For so long, my greatest dream had been to be going with someone because, for the love of Dancing with the Stars, it was what everyone was doing. If only someone, anyone, would ask me to go steady, then all my long years of existence would be validated and take on new meaning.

On that day, out of the blue, geeky, pencil-necked Robert Clark (in the class photo: front row, middle, striped shirt) suddenly leaned over during math time and whispered furtively, “Do you want to go with me?”

And I tell you, I froze. There was no “Um, sure” at the ready, no “gosh, yea” to be squeaked out. Rather, my internal monologue went something like “Ah, cripes, not you, Robert Clark. When this whole going with someone deal has played out in my mind, it’s not you who’s doing the asking. It’s someone, you know, taller–someone who can match me at tetherball, even. At the very least, it’s someone who likes the Hardy Boys or has a ten-speed. It’s never been you.”

Paralyzed with shock and dismay, I tossed out the clever rejoinder of “Huh?” I may have even gestured toward my ear with the international “I can’t seem to hear right now” sign.

So the brave, kind lad asked again, a little louder.

At this point, I did a very eleven-year-old thing: I crudely seized the opportunity for power, to feel myself moved up a tier in the social hierarchy on someone else’s shoulders; I looked him in the eye, wrinkled my brow in disgust, and, smirking, shook my head, silently telegraphing a vehement “No way, loser” his direction.

Needless to say, he never asked again, even though that night I rethought my hasty reaction and prayed for the fabled Second Chance. Good for him: he didn’t give it. Nor did anyone else in the sixth grade–or the seventh, or eighth–give me even a first.

Even though I know better now, I still like to think they were just afeared of The Boobies.






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36 responses to “Take a Spelling Test? Or Apply for a Promotion?”

  1. my4kids Avatar

    I always felt ackward in school mostly because I was always the new kid. I went to 13 schools in my years so I never knew anyone that well. Also I was a gymnast with shorter hair and very skinny (I miss those days) always practicing my gymnastics moves and could out do the boys so I think they were a little intimidated. I did have one boy aske to “go out” and was to scared to answer him for like to 2 days then he “broke up” with me after we had been “going out” for about 3 days.

  2. AmyTree Avatar

    “Afeared of The Boobies” – yes, I know what you mean. I had The Boobies when I was about 11, light years ahead of anyone else and much to the amusement of my mom, who is something like an A-cup. She took me to the department store lingerie department and asked the sales lady where the training bras were, whilst I hid behind a rack of purple lace and prayed no one I knew walked by. Years later, I worked in that same lingerie department, and when a mom came in with a young girl looking for the training bras, I didn’t snicker at all.

  3. actonbell Avatar

    Great post, as usual:) I can relate to a lot of it, though my body was at the opposite end of spectrum–I grew my last inch that dreaded summer of basic training at lovely Ft. Jackson, and got in all kinds of trouble for having my socks showing all the time, only to realize, at the end, that it had not been my fault: my fatigues really were too short.

    Oops, that was going off in a tangent. I never got to go with anyone, either, and it was probably lack of said boobage.And I had those those glasses AND a similar cowl-neck! We didn’t realize how stylish we were:)

  4. lime Avatar

    you know there is serious suckwadage in being either among the first to develop or the last to develop. you really just want to be right there in the middle of the bell curve with your bustline mimicking the shape of said stats chart right along with the bulk of everyone else. anything else just sucks.

    ack, the pain of early bloomming boobies….the other girls accused us of doing special exercises to hasten it all and the boys all assumed we were available for fondling…………ack…….ack………………ack!

    oh and i didn’t get asked to ‘go with anyone either’ well, unless you want to count harry, who got suspended for swiping a fetal pig from the science dept. and putting it on his lunch tray before he returned it…

  5. Jazz Avatar

    Actually, they probably were afraid of the Boobies.

    And for the record, I’m still waiting for the Boobies to show up. *sigh*

  6. furiousBall Avatar

    School was such a cruel time for me too. I had a sweet ass rack too and being a male playing ice hockey, it has it’s burden as well.

    Wait, I was pretending to have gigantic melons, because I read that was what Bobby Orr did. Not really, but still, yes.

  7. Mike M Avatar
    Mike M

    Great post!!

  8. Jeannie Avatar

    I was short with boobies. Plus I was a year younger than everyone else. Boys started grabbing when I was 9. But I never got asked to ‘go with” anyone either. I don’t want to think about it any more. Where did I put my beer?

  9. velvet girl Avatar
    velvet girl

    In sixth grade I was about 4’3″ tall, skinny as a stick, and had no boobies at all. I’m still waiting for the boobies. sigh.

    I “went out” with this guy in sixth grade, but I knew that it was over when I saw him outside the house with a hammer banging our initials out of the pavement. Chicken.

  10. Diesel Avatar

    You and I were like opposite sides of the same coin. I looked like I was 14 when I was a senior in high school, and I’m still waiting for my boobies to come in. The girls in my 7th grade class rated all the boys in our class from 1 to 10 and I WASN’T ON THE LIST. Like it was understood that I didn’t actually qualify as a guy. Good times.

  11. Shari Avatar

    I wasn’t a “go-with” askee either. I was tall. The deaf boys thought I had “too much hearing” and the hearing boys probably didn’t know how to talk to me. I mainstreamed in 8th through 12 grades, but I was not asked out by anyone from my school. I did date a hearing boy from a different school.

    I was, and I like to think, still an attractive person. I guess I just intimidated them. I wasn’t popular. I was very shy and I think that shyness, combined with my hearing loss, made me look stuck-up because I didn’t hear them and passed them without stopping.

  12. Voyager Avatar

    I recognise that Robert Clark you dissed. Oh yes, I saw him yesterday, strikingly handsome, kind to children and animals, CEO of a huge worldwide altruistic organisation, brilliant speaker, and I’m told brilliant in the sack. And happily married to the girl he asked to “go” with him right after you blew him off.

    There have been a few Robert Clarks in my life I’m afraid.

  13. mist1 Avatar

    I always had to sit in the front row for class pictures. I was always shortest and never had any boobies.

  14. Logophile Avatar

    We all have our traumas, don’t we?
    Whether eloquently stated, as in your case, or not, as in mine
    I do remember when in 7th or 8th grade the twins finally made their appearance I started whining about having to wear a bra.

  15. frannie Avatar

    I was *way* too afraid of boys…. I didn’t even date anyone until I was out of highschool. (I mean really date)

    and my problem was the opposite. I still wore toddler clothes in 6th grade… and was the one being sat on by the bullies.

    And my ninnies didn’t make an appearance until college. over winter break- freshman year. everyone thought I had gone home and got myself a ninny job. I grew two cup sizes over the break.

    more about me than you wanted to know.

  16. Claire Avatar

    Oh jocelyn, me too! me too! I towered over the boys in 6th grade, had very curly hair and some boobage. I was never comfortable in my own skin. I was shy and angst-ridden thru my teens. I would never go back and be a teenager again. Horrible times! Now I love being tall and I love my curly hair cuz it’s covering up my bald spots thank you very much!

  17. emily Avatar

    j-dawg! at first, i was like, dude how did jocelyn get a copy of my grade school picture!?!! the fashions are just so distinctive.

    we’re coming your way in a couple of weeks. can’t wait to see yous, and recount the the days of our youth, being freakishly tall at a young age. memories

  18. BeachMama Avatar

    You are so brave to even post such a photo. And then to discuss the insecurities that most of us felt, Wow.

    I think we all felt a little awkward, even the ones that eventually became cheerleaders. You brought back some painful reminders of that time for me, but it is good to see how far we have come.

  19. Stepping Over the Junk Avatar
    Stepping Over the Junk

    Hello LADY! I could write a post in your comments section about your posts! It is hard for me to somehow narrow it down to a mere comment, after reading you. So I will be writing a post inspired by this at some point soon…after the weekend sometime…about my gawkiness as a kid and school pictures!

  20. Dorky Dad Avatar
    Dorky Dad

    Late elementary school is probably the toughest time in a kid’s life. At least it was that way for me. I didn’t ask anyone to “go with me” because I was too chicken to ask, fearing the dreaded “rejection.”

    And as a dude, I can say with certainty that boobies were frightening things at 11.

  21. Glamourpuss Avatar

    I went shopping for work clothes last Monday, the outift you describe is everywhere. Man, you were so fashion-forward it hurts – clearly, your classmates were intimidated by this visionary attitude to fashion.

    I bow at your feet.


  22. Fresh Hell Avatar
    Fresh Hell

    My belly was bigger than my boobies until I was in high school. Even so, they didn’t really fill in until I was in my 20’s. On the other hand, my bootie… it showed up before I was out of primary school and has been driving my curves ever since. Adolescence is a cruel mistress.

  23. Patience Avatar

    Jocelyn – I can’t find an email address for you! I have an award button to send you!!

    Please email me at patienceinthespring@yahoo.com!!

  24. Diana Avatar

    Good lord! I had no idea that we were in the same class! I’ve never gone to…whatsit?…Boulder Elementary, but there I seem to be, standing just below you and to the left, in the striped shirt and ‘oh, my god, they’re eating your face!!!’ glasses.

    I would have been all over your pencil necked geek, though. Yeah. He was the stuff of my loser dreams. (Funny, though, I was under the impression all these years that his name was Glenn Day.)

  25. actonbell Avatar

    Um, I’ve had the unmitigated NERVE to tag you for a meme. Only if you wanna, of course…(didja ever knock on a door and run? Me either)

  26. Mother of Invention Avatar
    Mother of Invention

    I always did wonder where exactly they went! I never went with anyone until 3rd year university! A few dates but never a steady boyfriend. Guess I was too fussy, but I’d rather go out with the “stag bags” than go out with someone I really wasn’t that thrilled about.

    (And I’m still waiting for boobies!!)

  27. Malnurtured Snay Avatar
    Malnurtured Snay

    “Afeared” – great word!

  28. ldbug Avatar

    Awww, the cruel awkward years.

  29. Spider Girl Avatar
    Spider Girl

    Jocelyn, you somehow have managed to convey the true horror and pathos of sixth-grade (and oh, for me personally, at least the three or four years following…)

    My consolation, looking back on that socially embarrassing time in my life (when I was teased for my unfashionable hair and clothes) is that when I look back at the class photos of the time it really is hard to see the differences between the cool kids and me. We ALL sort of looked awkward. Hurrah for that!

    I want to add more (cuz I am in the 6th grade angst club too), but my brain is blurry from jet-lag. 🙂

  30. jen Avatar

    i never had the boobies, thus, was always fascinated by the boobies.

  31. Pendullum Avatar

    Such a frustrating time to live through(and I remember what you so eloquently described)… and now as I waitfor my daughter afterschool,I watch this same thing, daily inthe schoolyard… and it sends shivers… as my wee girl is nine but going to be there soon,real soon…and Boobies or not… what a time… Too old for dolls, too young for boys…

  32. Mother of Invention Avatar
    Mother of Invention

    I was as tall as you in this grade! I’m feeling rather old..I got out of Teachers College in ’77!

  33. Infinitesimal Avatar

    And then you made it to high school, things came full circle… Darrin was now going with John, and Deanne with Andrea.

  34. urban-urchin Avatar

    I feel your pain about the boobies and the height my friend. Mine took up camp in 3rd grade. By the time I moved to London at the end of 6th I was given the nickname big tits. Needless to say I only wore rugby shirts and formless clothing. I think boys asked me to dance at our 8th grade dance because my boobs were eye level for them.

  35. Theresa Avatar

    Oh my Gawd! I had glasses just like those, and the same hairstyle, only mine wasn’t red. I dyed mine red in college, and when I met my husband he thought I was a natural redhead -What a deception he had later on, when he learned the truth. Oh, the boobies, I remember that too, and I remember (when I was around 11) one kid telling me I should get a bra. I was mortified! After having my kids my boobies seem to have shrunk, now I’d love to have my old ones back.

  36. Top cat Avatar
    Top cat

    This reminds me of something you would see on the Wonder Years.
    *no way loser* lmao!

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