Authors: Courtney Kelley : Turk Ashley; Turk Juergens
Today I was sent to the principal’s office because Mrs. Sallinger claimed I flashed her when I raised my hand to tell her exactly when Custer’s Last Stand was. According to her, my shirt was so short my belly button was showing and it was distracting to her and the other students. Like they were even awake. I can’t believe she punished the only person actually following her lesson plan. She didn’t even let me answer the question, and if anyone cares, it was 1876. Isn’t whether or not I’m paying attention in class more important than what I’m wearing? Yes, I did really ask Mrs. Sallinger this question and I made it clear it was not meant to be rhetorical. It was at that moment my teacher used what little power she had to send me, Ashley Juergens, to the principal’s office.
I had to sit out in the hall next to a cheater, a class clown who got everyone to do the wave whenever his teacher turned to write on the board, and someone who had carved his name into his locker. And I was being reprimanded because my choice of clothes that day had been a poor one, or at least that’s what Principal Miller told me. Actually, she said my choice of clothes is always poor. It was poor last year and I’m continuing to make poor fashion choices this year. At least I’m consistent, because that’s one thing a lot of kids aren’t these days. She said she and the other teachers have been watching me. Apparently I’m on their “list.” Wow. They have a piece of paper in their possession with my name written on it. I’m really shaking now.
Principal Miller could see her attempts to frighten me into submission were not working so she went on to Phase Two of the school authority playbook: shame.
That didn’t work because I am not ashamed of my stomach or my belly button or any other part of my body. That’s why I wear clothes that show them off. If anything, she should be ashamed of the way she runs this school. I told Principal Miller if I ran the school I would add sex education to the curriculum, I would pass out free condoms to whichever students wanted them and even the ones who didn’t, and I would make
this year’s fall production. I think the parents would really enjoy it.
She told me she would take my suggestions into consideration. Yeah right. I could tell she was getting desperate because she started using words my parents always use when they lecture me. And since I’m missing my grammar test while she goes on and on and on, I will give you the words and how she used them in a sentence:
: “This is an institution of learning, Ashley, and it is just not
for you to be learning with your legs and stomach so exposed.”
: “You are thirteen years old and as a
it is important to carry yourself as such by wearing the correct attire.”
: “It is just not
to wear a skirt that is so short and leaves so little to the imagination.”
you are presenting to your peers is of someone who is more interested in showing off her physical assets than her mental ones.”
So unoriginal, right? And now, my rebuttal:
If this is an institution of learning, then why did you feel it was
to drag me out of class to talk about something that has absolutely nothing to do with the learning process? And as a
who is old enough to make up her own mind, I feel it is only
to leave my wardrobe decisions up to me. As for the
I present to my peers, it is of someone who is confident with her mind and body, which is why I was raising my hand to answer Mrs. Sallinger’s question, unconcerned with how I looked at the time.
I think the real reason I got into trouble was because I expressed my individuality. It tends to scare authority figures when someone my age does that. It’s a conspiracy, really. Think about it. At school I, as a student, am forced to follow the same schedule every day. I must respond to the call of bells that tell me where to go and when to eat and I have to raise my hand to ask and answer questions. It’s like some weird, constant Pavlovian experiment. I am sent to the principal’s office because I refuse to be conditioned. I told Principal Miller my theory and she said I was paranoid.
I made sure to get in a few eye rolls and heavy sighs to let Principal Miller know I wasn’t taking this conversation too seriously. She threw the attitude card at me, which I continued to hold up the entire time we talked. I thought I made some good points but she was too busy staring at my belly button to notice. She continued lecturing me by raising her voice like she was playing to the cheap seats even though we were the only people in the room and were sitting just a few feet apart. I could hear the cheater, class clown, and locker tagger snicker from out in the hallway. I wasn’t crazy about them being privy to our conversation but we were all in the same boat—I had to listen to the dumb reasons they were there when I was stuck waiting out in the hallway.
Then Principal Miller started fishing through the dreaded lost-and-found box. I told her I hadn’t lost anything I wanted found. She said that’s okay and then took out one of our ugly school sweatshirts. I told her I wasn’t cold but thanks for her concern. She said my belly button looked cold so she was giving me this sweatshirt to wear for the rest of the day. On second thought, she added, since it hadn’t been claimed for two weeks, it was mine to keep. I said I couldn’t take something that didn’t belong to me and then she said she insisted, which meant I either put on the sweatshirt or got detention, and as much as I dread going home, especially after my parents find out I was sent to the principal’s office, I hate detention more. They stick you in a room with all the creative and enlightened students and force you not to talk to each other. I know what you’re thinking, the locker tagger is enlightened? Well, for your information, we had a lovely conversation out in the hall where he explained that scratching his name into his locker was not a simple and uncouth act of rebellion, but rather a social commentary on what ownership really means in today’s public school system. He also thought my Pavlovian School Theory had some real validity.
Principal Miller made me put on my Scarlet sweatshirt as she continued talking about other ways I could respect the school community through my sartorial choices: pants (preferably long and baggy), skirts (length preferably below the knee), long-sleeve shirts (preferably to the wrist), sweatshirts (preferably the one she just gave me), hats, scarves, gloves, socks (preferably knee length), turtlenecks, coats, jackets (preferably big and bulky), sweaters (preferably long and loose), and, when in doubt, layer, layer, layer!
Too bad I like to peel, peel, peel!
After listening to her you would think winter was twelve months out of the year. That or I should join a sorority for the perpetually cold.
I told her if I’m being forced to dress like I’m in Catholic school, then the least she could do is wear a habit. She didn’t go for it. Needless to say, I don’t have any of those things hanging in my closet. I could probably borrow a scarf from Amy to keep in my locker in case of emergencies, which brings us to Phase Three of Principal Miller’s lecture: Why can’t you be more like your sister, Amy?
Amy is fifteen and we are nothing alike. I’m opinionated, I’m sarcastic, I’m funny, and I will tell you what I really think even if it’s going to hurt your feelings because brutally honest is the best way to be. I like to wear short skirts and tight shirts while Amy wears long, loose tops and has never met a scarf she didn’t like. I wish everyone would stop telling me to be more like Amy and support my decision to be me. I’m not so bad if they would just give me a chance and not take everything I say and wear so personally.
I thought since Amy had moved on to high school the powers that be would leave me alone, but I’m still being compared to little Miss Goody Two-shoes. I’m sure Principal Miller really misses her. Amy never got into trouble. I don’t think she ever stepped foot inside this office. Amy actually got an award for perfect attendance. That means she didn’t take one sick day, even when she was sick. How am I supposed to compete with someone who shows up to school even when her immune system’s down? Plus, Amy always got good grades and did exactly as she was told. It was mortifying. They probably never had a file on her like mine, which Principal Miller is probably currently writing in. With a red pen.
Amy was never forced to wear a school sweatshirt that was two sizes too big and smelled like someone’s gym shoes. It looked hideous, but Principal Miller thought it looked great. It made me think I should have my own billboard like those anti-fur ads. But instead of saying, “I’d rather go naked than wear fur,” mine would say, “I’d rather go naked than follow this school’s dress code.” I wonder how much it costs to rent that billboard across the street. . . .
Principal Miller said she knows I dress the way I do for attention and if I wanted to express myself I should find another way to do it. Then I walked right into her trap and asked in what other way was I supposed to express myself? She searched in her desk and handed me a notebook. This notebook. I thought she was going to make me take notes as she went over the school dress code for the hundredth time but instead she told me keeping a journal is an excellent way to express oneself.
I just stared at her. I guess she couldn’t tell I was being sarcastic when I asked for another way to express myself, because I am very good at doing just that. I am extremely vocal about my thoughts and opinions. That is why I think journals are stupid. Because if you can’t say what you are feeling out loud, then what good does writing those feelings down in a book and then shoving it in your desk do? And those are the exact words I said to Principal Miller. She didn’t really answer me. She said I have to write in this stupid thing and turn it in at the end of each month so she can review how my new creative outlet is coming along. So I’m forced to fill up these pages with something or suffer the consequences. I wonder if she hands a notebook out to every student who’s called in here. I bet there are stacks of these in her closet she’s never even read. Oh well, on to the journaling . . . (and yes, I’m being sarcastic here, too).
I wanted to make sure my sweatshirt got back to the lost-and-found box safe and sound so as soon as I made it out of the principal’s office I went into the girls’ bathroom and left it hanging in one of the stalls. I know you will find a way to get this sweatshirt back to me, Principal Miller, but until then I would rather not smell like someone’s gym shoes. I think that would be more distracting to my teachers and fellow students than my deeply scandalous belly button.
Principal Miller actually called it a diary, but diaries are for girls ten years old and younger who write “Property Of” and their names on the outside while keeping it closed with a heart-shaped lock in order to hide the boring details of their lives no one wants to read anyway. So since I’m being forced to write one myself, I’m calling it a journal. Property of Ashley Juergens. Read at your own risk.
Principal Miller also took the liberty of calling my dad and letting him know about my indiscretion. I could hear my dad’s side of the phone call from the hallway: “Ashley did what? . . . Belly button? . . . No, I agree, it’s completely inappropriate and her mother and I will have a talk with her about this. . . . You are absolutely right, she is a
and needs to dress like one. . . . No, this is not the
our daughter should be putting out there and we will make sure she wears more
clothes from now on.”
See, there are those lecture words again. I hope next time we meet, Principal Miller, you have come up with some new ones. Let’s at least try to mix things up a little bit. I also have plenty of other conspiracy theories I would like to share with you. They involve the Pep Squad and the school’s drinking fountains.
Dad was still on the phone with Principal Miller when I heard him move on to Phase Three: “I agree, she could learn a thing or two from her sister. . . . I’m sorry, what did you say? . . . Sex education? . . . Condoms? . . .
I’m in trouble now.
Wait until my mom finds out about this. The last time this happened she made me put on a “modest fashion show” so she could approve my school outfits ahead of time. Ugh, I can hear the lecture already: I’ll walk back and forth in front of her modeling the latest Amish trends while she tells me how a cardigan buttoned up to my chin really brings out my eyes. That’s when I’ll tell her an unbuttoned cardigan really brings out my boobs. Being rebellious is so much work with all the talking and the listening you have to do.
Dad’s lecture was pretty standard: it involved telling me I’m not sexy and shouldn’t dress that way because I’m not ready to have sex. I actually agree with my dad, not that I told him that. I’m not ready to have sex, so I’m not having sex. But just because I’m dressing the way I dress doesn’t mean I’m sending out some kind of bat signal to all the boys that I’m ready to have sex with them. I just want to dress how I want to dress. I’m thirteen! Next year, like Amy, I will be in high school.