Saturday, April 29, 2017

That "awkward" age...

Me at eleven... Probably the only time I ever wore a helmet.

Yesterday, a guy I've known since we were both about eight years old shared a funny picture on Facebook. It was a picture of people who were in his sixth grade class.  Sixth grade wasn't a bad year for me, but I do remember that was the time when we were all kind of blossoming into adolescence.  Those were awkward days.

I don't know how it is now, but in those days, teachers were paired up and traded classes.  One teacher taught math and science.  The other taught English, spelling, reading, and such.  The teachers would have a homeroom class.  They would teach the kids whatever  subject they taught, then the class would switch to the other teacher for the other subjects.  We had other teachers that taught social studies and P.E. and any electives we chose.  I remember my social studies teacher also taught me home economics.

In my case, my homeroom teacher normally taught special ed students, so I only had her for homeroom.  My class had a math and science teacher and a English/reading/teacher that we shared with two other classes.  Those teachers also had "homeroom classes" who had them for regular subjects, too. 

Anyway, in the funny picture my friend shared, the two homeroom classes were involved in some kind of activity (in the heady days before No Child Left Behind ruined school).  Most everyone in the photo is wearing some shade of purple.  Apparently, very few boys were in either class or, for some reason, they weren't in the picture.  Maybe they weren't in the picture because they didn't want to have to wear purple that day.  

I knew a lot of the people in the picture because, in the 80s, the town where we lived was small and close knit.  I wasn't in the photo myself; I was in a different class.  My ex best friend is in the photo, looking very awkward.  Actually, a whole lot of the kids in that picture, most of whom were about eleven years old, were at the horrible awkward stage of hitting puberty.

I don't remember age eleven as a terrible year for me.  I didn't really hit a growth spurt until I was about twelve or thirteen.  Didn't start having periods until I was thirteen and a half.  But I look at my classmates in that picture-- most of those kids did stay in Gloucester County and graduated in my class with me-- and it's obvious that many of them were in the throes of adolescent hell.  A lot of them were wearing hideous glasses.  I seem to recall back in the 80s, glasses for kids were made of actual glass and were heavy.  Several of my friends wore them.  I didn't require vision correction until I was sixteen and I started with contact lenses.

A lot of the kids had braces, too.  I got braces when I was sixteen and only on my top teeth.  I had ceramic ones that you couldn't really see from a distance and I wore them for about ten months.  They were a waste of money because they didn't end up fixing the problem they were supposed to fix.  I still have a gap between my front teeth.

I see some of the girls were rather chubby or very skinny as their bodies developed into maturity.  Some were growing breasts and some had hips and some were straight as an arrow.  Almost everyone was wearing ugly clothes.  I distinctly remember in the 80s thinking that 70s era clothes were ugly.  Now I can see how ugly fashions were in the 80s!  One guy in that photo was actually wearing a purple Member's Only jacket!  And he was considered one of the "cool kids"!  That particular class was chock full of "cool kids".  It's probably a blessing I was in a different class.

Some of the poses are pretty funny.  I see several who were obviously friends and still are over thirty years later.  I see my ex best friend standing near the popular crowd, looking like she hopes to fit in, but doesn't really.  I see one girl who I remember was extremely serious all the time.  She's wearing what looks like a business suit for adolescents.  The blouse even has a "pussy bow" on it.  She looks like a pint sized bank executive.  I see another girl who used to bully me, standing off to the side and striking an almost sexy, provocative pose.  Her eyes are intense as she stares at the camera defiantly.

It doesn't really seem like it was that long ago that I was a kid about to cross into teenhood.  Thirty years goes by so fast.  I see that so many people I knew back in those days have kids who are about to finish high school or are in college.  Some of my friends are grandparents.  Here I sit, career free, child free, and mostly looking younger than my years (or so people have told me).  I have led an interesting life that definitely isn't turning out the way I thought it would.  Like, I'll never be a grandmother and will probably never make any real money.  And yet, I have gotten to see and do a lot of things my classmates never will.

The guy who posted that picture, by the way, also lives in the Stuttgart area of Germany.  He retired from the Army recently and, like my husband, scored a job here.  I haven't yet run into him, though.  He lives in a different Stuttgart suburb than I do and runs in different circles.  It's weird how life pushes you into different places and sometimes you run into people you knew from a different time.  Another person in the photo is a friend of mine who is about to start her last assignment as an Air Force Colonel.  Looking at that picture, I never would have guessed she'd end up in the military, but she's had a very successful career.  She moved to Romania from Germany last year and in a few months, will move to Alaska.  

Back in the 80s, we had no concept of Facebook or even blogs.  I never could have dreamed of a day when whatever money I earned came from the words I write.  It's amazing how things evolve.  If I had made one or two different decisions, my life probably would have turned out very differently...  Or would it?  Who knows?

I feel so old... and yet this doesn't seem like that long ago at all!

For those who are wondering... I am on the pony in front--my beloved Rusty.  I think we were about to participate in the Gloucester Homecoming Parade.  It was 1984 and I was about twelve.  I see I was wearing Jordache jeans.  They were the shit back then!

One of the few pictures I have of myself in braces.  Can you tell?

Four years later... still riding Rusty!


  1. Even though the number six is an even number, sixth grade is an odd grade. You have, as you mentioned, the complete panorama of both physical and emotional maturation. I remember seeing a picture of you in a classroom that you posted quite some time ago, and I believe it was in sixth grade. You were still a little girl in sixth grade, as I was. Some girls are already well o their way to being women in a physical sense by the time they first walk through the doors of sixth grade classrooms, while others such as you and I are still light years away.

    My aunt taught sixth grade about six years ago in Utah. Sixth grade classes at her school were then totally self-contained except for those students who were pulled for band or for special programs. It was that way at my school in CA approximately twelve years ago as well. I remember cousins roughly my age whose sixth grades switched classrooms and teachers halfway through the day. I have an uncle who teaches sixth grade now, and he teaches math and science to two classes, trading about forty-five minutes before lunch each day. A friend from high school teaches sixth grade, and she teaches her own class all day.

    I'm glad you mentioned "No Child Left Behind." I had almost forgotten that it ever existed. Now the current bete noire is "Common Core." I don't think Common Core is quite as bad as "No Child Left Behind" was. Both place undue emphasis on standardized testing. Your mention of NCLB serves as a reminder that Common Core, too, shall pass, and will possibly be replaced by something even worse. I don't need to go into a lengthy description of Common Core here, but I may blog about it if I continue to remain in my present state of wakefulness.

    1. I am very grateful I got to attend school before the huge emphasis on testing and homework. School was hard enough without that added pressure. As I found out today, I was definitely not the only one who was bullied by the sexy posing sixth grader.


Comments on older posts will be moderated until further notice.