Boyfriends | Part 1 of 3
There’s this boy in my life. He thinks he’s my boyfriend, and he won’t go away. He’s a bother and a pest. Constantly pushing the limits. I think he’s coming to our school because someone (his grandmother, who takes care of him?) wants him to be turned into a well-behaved young man. Not a chance, if you ask me.
Meet Artie (name changed to protect me)
I first meet Artie in fall, 1953, when I begin 5th grade. He’s a troublemaker. Short, bright, way too familiar with me and with other girls. For reasons I will never understand, he’s been after me since the 5th grade when I was only 9 years old.
An early sign of trouble: In 5th grade, all the girls get to watch that film about how wonderful it is when girls start bleeding. After the film, Artie can’t stop making sly comments and dumb jokes about the film–as though he has seen it and knows all about it. I don’t laugh. Not once. Who gave him permission to pester us?
Then, in 6th grade he asks Daddy for permission to kiss me! The reason? Because every time Artie tries to get me to agree to this, I tell him about our family rule. I’m a good girl. Besides, I get disgusted at the thought of Artie kissing me. Yuck!
So Artie takes matters into his own hands. One day when Daddy comes to pick me up from school, Artie just barges into the front seat of the car and asks Daddy for permission to kiss me. And wouldn’t you know it—Daddy, the Great Rule Enforcer, has the nerve to tell Artie that would be up to me!
Double-crossed. Betrayed. Thrown to the wolves. In fact, Daddy seems to enjoy putting me on the spot, which in itself makes me sick to my stomach.
So of course, Artie starts pestering me every day of my life with The Question: “Can I please kiss you? Pretty please??? Just on the cheek—I promise!” After about 100 days of this, I cave. I make him promise, “Just this once!” Then I point to the spot on my cheek, hold my breath, close my eyes and hold my breath until it’s done.
Which, of course, it isn’t, even though he never asks to kiss me again. That’s because by the time I get to 7th grade, there are other ways to embarrass and humiliate me.
Along the way he picks up a bad habit of giving me gifts—like the big heart-shaped box of chocolates he give me on Valentine’s Day. By the time we get to 7th grade, I’m his identified girlfriend whether I like it or not.
A Bad Scene
Though he’s bright, Artie doesn’t make good grades because he doesn’t turn in his homework, study hard, or seem to care anything about his grades. One day in 7th grade he gets on Mrs. Wilson’s last nerve (her language, not mine).
Besides misbehaving like he always does, he fails a really easy pop test in arithmetic. Mrs. W is pulling her hair out (she said so!). “Elouise, take Artie to the next-door room and see if you can get him to work out these math problems correctly. You’re the only person he seems to listen to!”
That’s a hoot! He never pays attention to what I say. But I’m a good girl. Reluctantly, I leave class and go with him to the small room next door.
My school is in a church educational building. So the little room in the side hall is a Sunday School room. It has big glass windows so anybody and everybody walking by can see what’s going on inside the room. There’s a table with chairs around it, and a chalkboard.
I put my math book and the math problems on the table. Artie sits down—sort of. He never did sit anywhere for long. The minute he hits the chair half-sitting, he reaches into his book bag and pulls out an art book, a sketch pad and art pencils.
No math problems. No math book. Nothing at all related to math. I protest. Inside I’m angry that I’m in this situation. There’s no way Artie is going to cooperate with Mrs. W’s agenda for him and for me. I want to go back into the classroom. I’m losing valuable time that I could be spending on my homework for tomorrow! I stay.
Without looking at me at all, Artie opens his art book and starts practicing pencil sketching. He ignores me. Or so it seems. Then, after a minute or two he holds up his sketch pad and turns his art book around so I can see what he’s working on.
Nude women??? That’s what he’s intent on drawing?! He goes on and on about what a wonderful art book this is. It’s teaching him all about how to draw human bodies. I notice there are no men on the pages he’s showing me.
I feel trapped. He offers to let me look at his book, and wants to show me all his sketches! I’m tongue-tied, and utterly unable to stand up and leave the room. I avert my eyes and look at the clock on the wall to see how much longer I will have to endure this.
As you already know, this is the year I begin wearing bras. You can read all about it here. As it happens, this is also the year when sheer nylon blouses are all the rage. Sometimes sheer front and back. More often, however, not-so-sheer in the front, and very sheer in the back. Frequently worn proudly without any slip or half-slip to spoil the view.
For reasons I will never understand, I am given one of these blouses—the not-so-sheer in the front style. One day I’m in class, wearing my new blouse. I feel a little self-conscious, but a few of my friends also wear them.
It’s time for recess. Complication: It’s raining outside. So Mrs. W tells us we’ll have to stay inside for recess and play indoor games.
Everybody likes 7-Up. That means we put our heads down on our desks, eyes closed—no peeking. Then 7 classmates—already chosen and standing up front—walk around and tap one other classmate on the shoulder. Then we try to guess who tapped us.
So here I am, head obediently down on my desk with my eyes tightly closed. Suddenly someone—guess who—comes walking by and snaps the back of my bra! I’m mortified.
Then and there I decide I will never again wear that blouse to school or anywhere else without a sweater over it or a slip under it. And I don’t. I also decide not to say anything to Mrs. W. about this because it’s too embarrassing. My face is burning with shame.
Oh, I almost forgot. I don’t say anything to Artie, either.
To be continued. . . .
© Elouise Renich Fraser, 14 June 2014