Sexual harassment – 80s style

Transcribing K’s note below made me wonder just how often this type of situation happened during my six years of intermediate school and high school, and to what extent it’s still happening.  I’m pretty sure if this occurred nowadays, the geometry teacher referenced would be suspended without pay–or possibly fired–and both he and Fairfax County Public Schools would be sued from here to eternity.

It is simply mortifiying to think about this happening to K or any girl around her age.  I can’t imagine how humiliating and embarrassing it must have been for her.  K was short and very amply endowed, even in seventh grade.  She was extremely self-conscious about her appearance:  she viewed herself as overweight and spent huge amounts of money, time and energy on losing weight, as well as her skin, makeup, hair and clothing.  Read more about her in If I had a bunny, I’d call it Led Zeppelin.

Hi Heather!
Geometry was embarassing! Mr. S. likes to make up stories about people in the class to help explain things.  So guess who was in his story today!  Me and P.D.!
He started out, “You all know K.D., don’t you?” and of course they didn’t because they were all sophomores, but one guy said, “She must be a freshman.”  Then Mr. S. said, “Have you ever seen her walk down the hall?  She’s no freshman!”
Then he proceeds to tell this story of me and P. driving down the highway when he hears this thumping which he thinks is my heart but it turns out to be a flat tire which I have to change while he watches the traffic.  So embarassing!  Hey there’s cute little R.L. walking along the road in the rain!  Poor baby!  How was the Ortho man?  Fun I bet!  I have to go to Dr. B. at 3:30.  Fun-ness!
R. is on the bus looking very cute in his red, black & white shirt and gorgeous new white Adidas jacket.
Well, almost home!

If I had a bunny, I’d call it Led Zeppelin.

Did you ever have a friend you thought was so much more sophisticated and worldly than you? I felt that way about one of my best friends in 8th and 9th grade.  Along with the perceived worldliness, and more so than any of my other girlfriends, K.’s notes can be counted on to mention various aspects of pop culture–sometimes at great length and in unexpectedly sophisticated language for a young teenager.

K. was what you’d call a latchkey kid, as many of her notes mentioned coming and going when no one was home–a completely alien concept to a kid like me whose grandmother lived with her.  K. and her parents lived lakeside in Reston, Virginia–“the first modern, post-war planned community in America,” as Wikipedia explains it.  They had their own dock and a small sailboat.  K. had a snake named Slither and took riding lessons on a leased horse named Hester. She was allowed to drink piña coladas, went to a Schick Weight Loss Center (more on that in a later post), had a prescription for one of the earliest available versions of Retin-A, knew how to cook, took public transportation by herself and had her own bathroom.  If that’s not sophistication, I don’t know what is.

K. even had a darkroom, of which I was immensely jealous, since she was able to make 11 x 14″ prints of her photographs of the boy we both had a massive crush on.  When I say massive, I mean M. A. S. S. I. V. E.–there is no way I could possibly overstate this.  We stalked this poor kid for two years.  More on that later as well . . .

Hi H.!
Guess who’s pen I got hold of again!  Just kidding, this one is my old papermate.
Did you know (oops, stupid pen!) that I owe you 3 notes!  I don’t like this pen, hold on.
That’s better, I guess.
Back to the note you wrote last Friday.  Even no empty barrel would look good on T.!  Why do you always go to the band room?  You know, I think T. is getting his brain back (Thank God!).  We’re getting soft, H.!  I don’t have the heart to do the “trick” anymore (at least not yet).  But when we do get fired up again we have plenty of “stuff.”  Thanks for T.’s phone number.  You wouldn’t know his address, would you?  It’s too bad you didn’t get to shake G.’s hand, Oh well.  You wouldn’t want to shake it now though, with a tick in it!  I can’t stand ticks!  They make me sick!  I don’t think T. is going on the Walk for Mankind either, By the way, when is it?  You’re right about my needing glasses, they’re coming in soon I think.  But I’m nearsighted so I didn’t have any trouble seeing your picture from last year!  It was good!  My school pictures never turn out!  I don’t even know why they bother to take them.  I bet T.’s turned out good!  He’s absolutely photogenic!  T. is so-o-o-o-o wonderful!  He’s helping me to overcome my shyness by his just being nice to me!  I don’t have much problem looking into those GORGEOUS Blue-Grey eyes of his!  I’ve heard that you can learn almost everything about a person by looking into their eyes, too.  And it’s true!  I think it’s fantastic that a person’s eyes are the “most revealing part of their face” because T. has been “Gifted” with such beautiful ones!
Mr. H. never lets our class see anything backwards!  I guess he doesn’t like us [sniff].
The guys that threw pudding at us were that kid G. with the red hair (you know, he beat up S.) and some friends of his.
I bet when T., T.P., D.R. (ick) and C.R. wore their Adidas (sp?) shirts it was planned.  That’s just to much of a coincidence.  I didn’t know C. had an A. shirt.  But of course!  You have to have an A. shirt to be cool!
T.P. is cute.  He was in my Industrial Arts class last year.  So sweet!  So was J. (J.)!  Did you know him?  He moved to Fairfax, poor thing.  He says it’s pretty scary over there.  Once he found a dead body when he was doing his paper route, and people keep setting things on fire!
Oh, Love of My Life come home!  So adorable!  He’s even cuter now than he was last year!
My poor knees!  They don’t like to run.  This afternoon I left my jacket in French so I took my books out to the bus and ran back in to find that Mlle. S. had locked the room (terrific!) so I had to run all the way back out to the bus.
You are so lucky to have all that stuff in your basement!  I bet you could really build up your muscles lifting weights!
T. asked me the same question a couple of days ago.  I don’t have a favorite group really.  I’m not one to buy records that much.  I’m content with my radio.  But I do like the Beatles (Yeah!), Styx, Blondie (hey wow! my nickname) and of course, the wonderful Queen!  Have you heard that new song by Alice Cooper that’s sad.  Let’s see, I like Nights in White Satin by the Moody Blues and the Pink Floyd album Dark Side of the Moon.  I like Renegade, (doesn’t everybody) and have you heard Superman by Herbie Mann?  It’s so neat!  I like the beginning best.
It is pretty nice living on the lake.
I love to go sailing and swimming in it except that I’m alergic to something in the water.  I also just like to look out my window at it.  It’s so pretty!
I would LOVE to live on the beach!   I know who you would like to take long Romantic walks with!
I love riding but I quit for the winter.  I’m no pro but I’m okay.  I ride English.  I’d love to learn Western, it would be so fun, but they don’t teach that ‘round here (can’t spell today)  Have you ever tried jumping?  It’s so fun!  But I don’t think I’d ever get over 3 feet.   I’m too chicken too.  I’m at about 1-1 ½ feet now, maybe 2.
What happened on Battlestar Galactica?

I love babysitting for the kid I babysit for, he’s so cute (cute eyes)  Hes just a little over 2 years old.  
I’m glad you enjoyed last Saturday.  I had fun too.  Maybe we could go again sometime.
I am just about to finish my Poetry project.  What a pain!  Wasn’t T.’s good?  What was your dad an usher for?  That was nice of him to give you that chain.
You never told me about your “very good” dream!  You probably won’t remember it now since it’s taken me a week to write you back!
We have a dart board too.  I’ll have to get it out and set up my own little 3-way game of darts (with T. and N.)
Yes!  I got zapped!  What a pain!  Oh well, I did it all the times I had to and my wish was supposed to come true today but it didn’t.  RATS!  Did your come true?  I didn’t see the Charlie Brown show.  Rast again!
Oh good!  “Hey Jude” is on the radio (W-P-G-C!)!  Yeah Beatles!
I’ve started saving my notes.   Most of which are from you!
That was a cute little note you gave me today!
Are your cousins nice?  W. seems like the perfect age.  D. sounds like he’s at the cute age.  And A. sounds like she’s at the nice age.
I wish those pictures had turned out better.  I’m going to take a whole bunch tomorrow to make up for it all.  What a bummer!  Only 2 really printable photos of T.!  The copies are not expensive but I wouldn’t make you pay anyway!  ‘Cause you’re my friend (Right?)!
I’m just the same way, it’s so boring staying home when we don’t have school!
When is Memorial Day?  I’ll have to check that.
Those articles from the Police Report are really cheery!  What do they mean by “committing an unnatural act?”  Nobody had better commit any unnatural act against our sweet T.!  I’m not really suprised that so much happen’s in Herndon!
Wow!  That’s amazing that T.only weighs 130 lbs. especially if its all muscle (which of course it is) because muscle weighs more than flab!  G. weighs 160 (about) and he’s 6’2” so that makes a difference of 30 lbs and 6” which is 5 lbs per inch!  G. must have heavy bones.
I love your doodles!  They’re so cute!  I wish I could draw but I still draw like I did in 5th grade!
Guess who sings backups on Blondie’s “Heart of Glass”.  You won’t believe this, Brooke Shields!
Oh, I was walking home from the bus looking at those beautiful pictures and J. strolled up beside me (he rides my bus) and asked to see them.  So I handed him the one where it says “Best Wishes” and then the one “To one of my best friends” and he laughed at that one.  Then he asked me if I liked T., now what am I going to say?  “Yes” then he goes into his “aw-w-w-w-s”.  Then he said something I didn’t hear so I come back with this intelligent remark, “What?”  “Are you going to go for it?” and not wanting to sound dumb but not really understanding what he meant, another intelligent answer, “Yeah, I guess.”   J. can be so nice.  Since he knows T. maybe he could put in a good word.  Naw.
I forgot to tell you about this, but in Science (thrilling!) I showed T. my picture of my bunny and he said it was cute and asked if I had named it yet.  “No, I can’t think of a good name” (I’ve been calling it Bunny”)  So he said “How ‘bout T.?”
Me:  “I thought of that.”
T:  “Or Led Zepplin?  If I had a bunny I’d call it Led Zepplin.”
Well, not really wanting to call my sweetie Led Zepplin I’ve decided to name it T.  Almost perfect eyes too.  If you just added a dab of blue to them you couldn’t tell the difference between T. and T.  You have to see my T.!
Today I was so happy when I got home, after having such a fantastic day and getting that little bit of “support” from J.  I walked in the door, threw down my books, and
I just had to let all that happy excitement out!
Well, since it’s 7:15 and I haven’t touched my homework, or my poetry I should go, although I hate to.
See ya tomorrow!
P.S.  Smile for the shutterbug!

Copy of a girl's note

Battlestar Galactica photo courtesy ABC-TV

Some idiot on Uranus

Il ya trios très, très étudiants ennyue (‘cuz 2 boys) dans cette class.  (There are 3 very, very bored students in this class.)  J.S, C.R. & Moi.  HELP!  I’m all done with my homeowork so I is faking doing it in order to fill my desire to write to you.  The 3 of us elected not to take the test.  Ain’t we smart?  We get to put it off until Friday.  Mr. C (hope he doesn’t come over here) gave us a lecture on things to come.  Blew my mind!  Talk about things from outer space!  Some idiot on Uranus decided to give us these stupid formulas to confuse us and weaken our minds.  Then they’re gonna invade our souls!  Watch out!  I feel them crawling through my skull!  Help!
Oh-oh!  National emergency.  Here he comes.  Gotta go for a sec.  Hope you studied some more for the spelling test.  I didn’t.  I guess I’d better if I have time after bestowing you with my wonderous flow of elegant & colloquial vocabulary & enhancing your unfortunate surroundings.
I’ve been thinking about it, & I really do want my jewelry back.  I really love my Frampton ring, my French ring & my skeleton necklace; plus the others.  Problem:  I don’t want to create trouble.  I’m almost sure that that’s the girl who took my stuff.  If I see her again & she has my stuff, I’m gonna get Mr. P.  No, Ms. H.  She’s more into it.  I really don’t want to get beat up, but I’ve got to look at the bright(?) side of things.  Maybe it’ll improve my looks.  If not, then at least I’ll have a ligit excuse to cover my face.  Also, I’ve wanted to get in a good knock-down fight, but it’s just be dreaming.  I certainly don’t want a gang fight.  At least I never go anywhere alone.  Maybe they’re like C.W.; all words but no action.  I sure hope so.
I gotta game today.  I’m soooooo nervous!  This is gonna be the real test if I made the team, what string, & what position.  So far I’ve been playing left & right wing, 1st string, no substitutes.  But with my ankle, I don’t don’t know.  I usually don’t express pain very well, even if I’m dying.  So when I mutter & complain ‘bout something, that means it seriously hurts.  And this is about to do me in.  I’m in so much pain & agony.  It hurt so bad to walk down the stairs.  Going up is not too bad, there’s not much pressure on my foot.  But going down, “THUD”, it hurts like merde.  I don’t know how I’m going to play today.  Is it better to be a benchwarmer or play crappily?  Maybe I’ll play then keel over when I inevitably get kicked in the same place.  Make it look good.
Well, I’ve got 30 seconds ‘til the bell rings.  Luv ya,
C. briiing

Organizing these notes first by school year, then by writer, made it easy for me to see patterns in their subject matter.  These are the main topics I noticed, in order of their prominence:

  • Boys
  • Girlfriends and associated activities (sleepovers, roller skating, shopping, bicycle-riding, watching soap operas)
  • Academia (classes, homework, tests, teachers, grades, extracurricular activities)
  • Popular culture (movies, music, products, TV shows, etc.)
  • Family/parents/siblings
  • Riding the bus

If I were to make a word cloud out of the above topics, “Boys” would be in, like, 150-point font, and everything else would be maybe 14-point.

C. has been one of my closest friends since sixth grade.  She was a competitive athlete and our class valedictorian.  Needless to say, much of the content of her notes has to do with A) field hockey and soccer practices and games, and B) classes, tests, homework and grades.  As you can see, she also took French, as did several other of my girlfriends.  I was quite vexed when they wrote in French, because the only French words I knew were “moi,” “bonjour,” “adieu,” and “merde.”  (I took four years of German, which was far more useful in my very ethnic family.)

By the way, I selected the title phrase because I recently shared a Facebook post entitled “What is Uranus Made Of?” on Husband’s Wall.  We’ve been asking each other this question for weeks.  It never gets old.

Clark Kent was cuter than Superman.

How do, you know I don’t have a think to talk about except SUPERMAN the movie, you will believe a man can fly.  I saw it Thursday night, isn’t that great?  Now I don’t have a thing to talk about except cute Clark Kent, boy was he cute, I wouldn’t mind being Lois Lane, Clark was cuter than Superman, you know they are one and the same.  Now I don’t have anything at all to talk about, you know, how do you find enough things to write your letters that long.  Did you sell any subscriptions?  I didn’t.
This is a very boring letter because I don’t have a thing to write!  Guess what!  It’s snowing!  I’m sooooooooooo informative.  By the way, Nooooooooooooo.  You are making me sick with this Lover boy stuff.  Hee Hee.  You know I like T.  I hope mole man and everyone worked out.
Well bye now,
T (felix)
((spy #1))

Who is cuter?  You be the judge.  Visit

One of the many delightful things about transcribing these notes has been researching all the references to 70s and 80s pop culture in an effort to date them.  Because Superman was released on 12/15/78, I know this note was written in 8th grade.  One of my closest friends, bless her, dated almost all her notes–but the vast majority of them are undated, requiring the highest caliber investigatory skills to figure out when they were written.  Though I haven’t been able to date all of them, most of the time–using references to teachers or classes, boyfriends, songs or albums–I’ve at least been able to deduce what grade we were in.

Then there’s the juxtaposition of my life now, in comparison.  When I first started this project last December, I’d seclude myself in my office for six hours at a time, enjoying hot flashes and drinking copious amounts of wine, listening to BestNetRadio 70s & 80s Hits, bawling my head off as I thought about how long ago all this was and how old I am now.  Poor Husband.

Okay, I’m not really all that old now.  But it sure feels like it sometimes.  Seven months and several hundred notes later, I’m much more in control.  At least the hot flashes have stopped for the time being.

Valerie photo courtesy Act III Communications

Finding my way back to me. For realsies.

Recently, while Husband was on a business trip, I re-watched “Julie & Julia.”  I still like the book way better than the movie.  But this time Julie Powell’s experience really spoke to me.  Here’s why:

My family and friends know that I’m a little . . . um . . . different, and that one of the more irritating characteristics of this difference is my obsession with the past.  Apparently I started working on this obsession at an early age because, from seventh grade through twelfth grade, I saved close to 600 notes my girlfriends and I passed to each other during those years.  These notes have moved cross-country with me multiple times, biding their time in a large plastic storage bin with other assorted detritus from the 1970s and 1980s.  I’ve transcribed more than 400 of them since December, and they’re going in my book My True North:  Finding My Way Back To Me.

I’m not going to commit to releasing one note every day for the next year, like Julie Powell cooked her way through Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking.  But I am going to dive in and hope you enjoy this as much as I know I will.  I figure if so many others can morph from bloggers to book writers, so can I.

Well here I am babysitting again. My mom found out that we broke-up. She said D’s mom told her that she didn’t think that we were getting along or something. My mom kept asking me why he didn’t come over or call, all I said was “don’t know.” Then she kept asking me if there was another girl. I said “I don’t know” (as usual.) This dumb dog is jumping all over the house (she’s about as big as a wild boar & acts like one) I didn’t exactly tell her that we broke up cause she thinks that “going together” is what you do when you’re about 18 or 17 maybe 16 or 15. So if I tell her that, she’ll tell a long stupid story or sompin’. My mom says that I shouldn’t like just one boy. So I told her “Well, T.’s nice & P. plays tennis. And then there’s T. but he’s taken.” So then she says, well just be sure that there nice. Then I told her what a butt & a jerk S. is. She tells me to be nice to him. Like hell! (‘scuse my Portugese) She says that . . . . Better just tell ya. Re-mind me to.

We were in seventh grade when this was written.  As you can see, things haven’t changed much in more than 30 years–except maybe the means of communication.  We’ve gone from pen and paper to texting and tweeting.  One of the things I hope to get across in the coming months is how blessed I feel for having access to this window into the past through the pages of these notes.  Most other people may not care about reliving times like these (or even want to), but I enjoy it immensely.  It’s both entertaining and humbling.