Monday, August 29, 2011

One Short Memory of School in the South

It was the time of year when the heat kicked in and windows opened wide. Sunlight touched every corner, and the school year drew near to another end. Down in the South, in the land of red dirt, black snakes and blue mountains, summer starts no later than May, while our neighbors to the North wonder if yet another Mother’s Day will be coated in thick white flakes of snow.

Back when I was in school, we couldn’t use calculators for much – that would be considered cheating. We relied on our memories and pencil leads that would notoriously break during any test. The music over the airwaves came from the local radio station, and MTV was still in diapers.  The South was still known for its strict sense of discipline and order, where even the toughest kids said, “ma’am” and “sir”.

And air conditioning was a luxury not everyone could afford, which included the school districts.

April turned to May. It got hot. We sweat. We opened windows. We turned on fans. We survived. Sure, it wasn’t the most comfortable, but it was part of life and we dealt with it. Along with other classmates, I wore skirts to school when it got hot. Shorts were taboo, but girls have always been allowed to wear skirts, which helped us sit through stale lectures in stifling hot classrooms.

But the South being the South, there are standards, still. And boys were not allowed to wear shorts. It didn’t matter that the mercury rose above 90. It didn’t matter that a petition was signed by the entire tenth grade.

Or that mini-skirts were in vogue, and as long as they were no more than three inches (7.5 cm) above the knee, they were acceptable, which allowed girls to stay cool while guys roasted.

But it was hot. Darn hot. The boys were tired of sweating, and the girls thought the dress code was ridiculous. Then someone– I can’t remember who – found a loophole.

I remember standing in the corridor that morning, waiting for the first bell to ring when a flash of pink caught my eye. Several of the guys marched into the school – in miniskirts. It was a hard site to miss, especially as one of the guys in the front was confidently wearing a bright pink one. It was hysterical.

To us.

The administration didn’t think so.

When the guys pointed out that nowhere in the handbook did it say that boys could not wear skirts, the administration did what it could to address the situation.

They changed the rules, and added in a, “no boys in skirts” policy.

And left in, “no shorts allowed”, skirting the issue.

But that was way back when, and so much has changed, hasn’t it? But how ironic is it that now students can finally wear shorts – but now they have Air Conditioning. 

And my daughter often goes to school in jeans, as it’s simply too cold in the high school building in May.