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I started to speak out in class. It suddenly seemed completely ridiculous that girls were not allowed to wear pants to school—even in winter, when we had to navigate snowdrifts in dresses and rubber boots. We weren’t allowed to wear panty hose either. What was this nonsense? I asked the principal, Mr. Toole.
Mr. Toole, with his big, square, black-rimmed glasses that looked like twin TV sets, said, “Janice, if you can get the majority of the girls in your class to sign a petition, I will allow you and them to wear pants.” He said this to me then smiled. I thought, This is too easy. You are a fool, Mr. Toole! This thing will be knocked out by the end of week. I was in fifth grade.
That night, with the help of my dad, I created a petition. It simply said, “We, the undersigned, wish to be granted the right to wear pants to school.” I thought there couldn’t be a simpler thing. All the girls wanted to wear pants. All the girls complained about having to wear dresses. All I had to do to change that was round up a posse and have them sign their names.
I was about to get my first lesson in reality.
Mr. Toole had the benefit of wisdom and cynicism on his side. He watched with a bemused grin as I was rejected, one after another, by every girl in my class. I was at once outraged, perplexed, and crushed that no one would support what I thought was a group cause.
“But don’t you want to wear pants to school?” I pleaded with Joan White.
“Of course I do,” she answered, “but I’ll get in trouble if I sign that thing.” Girls weren’t supposed to assert themselves back then or get involved in any sort of “controversy,” which apparently my pants petition was. Some girls wouldn’t speak to me at all that day. I went home defeated.
“Don’t give up,” Dad told me. “Go back and try a different approach.” I thought about what had worked with Rocky. The next day I approached the girls in my class.
“Sign this,” I told them, brandishing the pen like a whip, “or you don’t want to even think about what will happen.” The whip proved once again victorious, and with the majority of the girls’ names on my petition, I knocked on Mr. Toole’s door.
“Here it is,” I told him when he ushered me inside. “We will start wearing pants tomorrow.”
“Janice,” he said, tossing the petition into the garbage without giving it a glance, “you can come to school in a bathing suit, you can come to school naked, but you will never, ever come to school in pants.”
“But what about . . . ?” I pleaded, pointing at the wastebasket.
“I repeat,” he said, bringing his big, fat face close to mine. He paused for effect and I watched my reflection in his glasses, my face turning a furious red. “You will never come to school in pants.”
I staggered out of his office and stood in the hallway. What just happened? I’d followed the rules, but it was all a trick. The injustice! There was no going back to class now, only to admit to failure. Were adults really so treacherous and full of deceit? Was I completely naive? I’d done everything I was supposed to do, and therefore, the fair thing was that I should have won this round.
It was only because I was a child and powerless that I was about to be humiliated and shamed into submission. The next day, careful not to reveal my plan to my mother, I wore a bathing suit under my dress, and when I arrived at school I disrobed. The principal was summoned to our class and, gasping, ordered me to “put some clothes on, for God’s sake!” My mother was called to Mr. Toole’s office on “an emergency basis,” and after he related my “insubordination,” I was placed on suspension. In his office, in front of my mother, I confronted him.
“But you told me I could come to school in a bathing suit or naked.”
“I said no such thing,” he bellowed.
“Mr. Toole,” I said, “you’re lying.”
It was a while before I saw the inside of my classroom again. Two years later Mr. Toole was transferred, and girls were finally allowed to wear pants.
Posted April 20, 2011
If you love traveling and need a kick in the pants to get going and start living your life to the fullest, you should read this book. I wasn't sure if I was up for another self-help book, but it really is much more than that and stood out because it approaches some of those old issues in a new light. What made this really enjoyable and inspiring was getting to know the writer through reading the stories about all the challenging circumstances she's encountered, from divorce, to job loss, to serious health problems, that lead her to acquire and live the wisdom she shares in her book. It's funny, engaging, and beautifully written through the voice and experiences of an author who's lived life near the edge, sometimes by fate and other times by choice. She does things I could never see myself doing but inspires me to do my own version of living and pursuing my dreams. I would recommend this book to anybody who knows how important time is in the big scheme of things and is ready to stop letting fear get in the way of pursuing your goals.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted October 24, 2011
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Posted March 17, 2011
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