"She was in my Auto Mechanics class!". When my young, male conversationalist made that innocent statement yesterday I was as startled as if he had said that he was going to grow his hair long enough for a ponytail. A water polo player with long hair! Ridiculous! Just as ridiculous as the thought of girls being allowed to take Auto Mechanics classes when I was in high school.
"Weren't girls allowed to take Auto Mechanics when you went to school?" he asked me. I laughed and said, "Do you want to hear a story about once upon a time?"
I loved to learn, but the start of school always filled me with apprehension because I didn't love the things that happened to me at school. The high school was built on a hill. There were slants, stairs, and slopes everywhere. Every year when I had to go back to school after an absence for more surgery I would have a heavy cast from hip to toe. I had to learn to navigate that school all over again. In my sophomore year I had had some exceptionaly painful surgery. The doctor was worried about me being able to tolerate a whole day with my leg hanging downward so he advised me to take two aspirin when the pain started creeping into my brain. One afternoon I did just that and one of the teachers cruising the hall yelled, "Stop!". He grabbed my arm and made a geat production of yelling that students were not allowed to take drugs at school. As if the humiliation of having a teacher accuse you of taking drugs in the main hall wasn't enough he made a great show of dragging me and my crutches down the length of the hall; all the time loudly lecturing about the evils of drugs and my disregard of school policy. The aspirin taking was blown so out of proportion that I could hardly keep my crutches and cast in step with his indignation. Remember, I was the quiet girl. I tried to stay out of the line of sight. But after that incident EVERYONE in the fricken school thought I was the local drug addict. I was dragged into the principal's office, my parents were called to come and get me, and I wasn't allowed back in school until the principal could talk to my doctor for verification that I had only been taking aspirin. The outcome of the incident was that the school nurse would dispense aspirin to me on an 'as needed basis' but I had to go to her office to get it. Seeing as her office was clear on the other side of the campus I gave up the relief that two aspirin would offer and made it through the school day with the leg thumping with nerve twitches.
There were dozens of incidents similar to that one. Like the time I got accused of being late to class because the boy, that had walked in behind me, and I had been "making out". The boy was an overweight, acne plagued teen that was in the throes of ackwardness and his humiliation was as horrifying as mine. Years later we met again and he was tall, handsome, and self assured. He introduced himself to me with, "Would you like to go make out NOW? We don't have to be in class any more."
So school starting in my Junior year wasn't the most exciting thing on the horizon. Then my parents got a phone call. It seems that my panic about making up lost time had given me more then enough credits to graduate in my Junior year and the school didn't know what to do with me. I had fulfilled all the requirements for college entrance so they wanted permission to do something unheard of. They wanted to put me in Print Shop. Print Shop was a boy's class and the school wanted to put me there until the end of the semester. The Print Shop teacher was skeptical, but he agreed to take me on. My parents weren't against it; they were forward thinking people and they thought the experience might be good for me. Me? I wasn't exactly the girl that you would pick to open a new field for women. I was quiet. But I was willing. I was on the staff of the school paper and I thought it would be fun to be listed as a member of the journalistic staff AND a member of the print staff. So I was chosen to break a barrier. I was going to take a 'gender specific' class and I was the wrong gender!
The teacher was a nice man and he tried to make my time in class as positive as possible, but the boys hated having a girl in the class. They hated it that my fingers could set type fast and efficiently, they hated it that I was promoted to the linotype machine before any of them, they hated it that the teacher would say, "If a girl can do this why can't you?", they hated it when they were told to carry another piece of lead to the linotype for "HER", they hated it that I got an A in the class while they were struggling to get C's, and they hated it that the teacher would brag about having a girl in his class. I was having a really good time. I had over worked myself in academic classes and I found Print Shop a breeze. The teacher was worried because I had taken typing and the linotype keyboard was different then the typewriter keyboard, but that too was a breeze. I was having fun!! The boys hated me. My two younger brothers, that eventually had to take the class after I was long gone, hated me too. "All he does is compare us to you!" I got straight "A's" in Print Shop, but I got straight F's with the boys and my brothers. I broke a barrier, but there wasn't a boy in that school that didn't think I was a pain in the butt!
The teacher thought I was talented and wanted me to expand my education in the field, but he cautioned my parents. If she thinks the boys resent her, wait until she gets with men. They will 'really' hate her. My father didn't think that was a good employment opportunity for his handicapped daughter to pursue so, although we all laughed about the boys and their feelings I never got the chance to see if I could handle the feelings the men would generate. Probably was smart of my father.My son took the same class in the same school with the same teacher and he hated me the whole time he took it too. The first girl that was allowed to take Print Shop. And to think, now girls are allowed to take everything.