Sex education is never a joy-ride for a 13-year-old. I especially scoffed at the fact one even had a body, let alone certain parts. I dealt with the birds and the bees by covering my ears hollering, “I don’t want to hear it!”
It was July of 1973 when my family moved to
from Redding, California Cottonwood, the tiny town 30 minutes down I-5. The day we moved into our new home, Mr. Lee, the old man next door, drove his golf cart up to my parent’s front door and asked me to ride around the neighborhood with him. Although it felt creepy to have an “old” man in his 40’s ask a 13-year-old girl to ride in his golf cart, I didn’t know how to politely kick him to the curb. My mother harped on me for having, “The fastest ‘No’ in the West” before she had an opportunity to complete her question.
I was riding around in the golf cart with Mr. Lee when three girls down the road knew they had to “rescue me” from his clutches. They hollered for Mr. Lee to pull his cart over so they could meet me. I didn’t even know their names and here they were to help; they obviously knew his history. Jumping out of the cart and as Mr. Lee pulled away, I said to my new best friends, “Oh, my God! Thank you for getting me away from him!” Donna, Katy, Susan and I named our newly-formed friendship, The Movie Stars.
Our summer raged on with swimming, horse back riding, motorcycle riding, bicycling, running through the woods, playing in Charlie’s junk yard, picking cherries, pushing each other in a wheel barrel, sleeping under the stars, making pancakes for breakfast and listening to John Denver and the Beach Boys.
We also enjoyed putting loads of make-up on Cleo, my family’s white German Shepard, and using the items from my mother’s expensive stash. We discovered her bright red nail polish as well and with our tools went out to the backyard to Cleo with the demand, “Sit. You’re going to look beautiful in just a few minutes.” Cleo was patient while we applied bright blue eye shadow, mascara, black eye liner, red lipstick and painted her toe nails bright red. When my mother arrived home from work, she was shocked to see Cleo wearing her Vivian Woodard cosmetics. Unfortunately, I was grounded for a week.
I began my new school in early September as an 8th grade student at Parsons Junior High. I saw my class list and instantly became horrified when I read in bold letters, “Sex Education, Period 3, Mr. Crow.” Racing home, I told my mother she needed to sign a paper to get me out of this class. She waived her arm in the air and said, “Honey, you’re 13 now and the time is right.” I exclaimed, “But, Mom! I don’t even have anything yet – it’s too soon!”
The first day of the deeply-dreaded class, I chose to sit as far from Mr. Crow as possible. I hoped to get through this year without being noticed, surrounded by my classmates. He reminded me of Mr. Lee, my neighbor; they shared similar physical characteristics – and gave girls my age the creeps.
Mr. Crow began by asking the class various questions about our summer. I remained hidden and silent. Then, however, we had to introduce ourselves and raise our hand if we were new to the school. My hand went up and so did the bottom of my white sleeveless top. Mr. Crow made an immediate bee-line through the desks, tables and chairs to be at my side. He hollered, “Debbie Patterson, if I see your belly button one more time, I’ll put masking tape over it!” Admittedly, my favorite shirt with red trim was becoming too small, however, I adored this gift from my mother. When I defiantly said, “You touch me and you’re in big trouble, Mister”, he marched me to the front of the class and did exactly as promised: he slapped a piece of masking tape over my belly button so quickly, it left my head spinning.
Sitting quietly at my desk one day in Mr. Crow’s class, he began frantically tapping his pointer on the chalk board. “Can anyone tell me the meaning of Cooper’s Droop?” From the blank stares of the students, it was clear none of us were familiar with the term. Mr. Crow let us know it was the description for droopy breasts. He thundered, “It’s what happens when you don’t wear a bra!” Snickering to my friends, I told them he had horrible handwriting and it appeared as though he’d written, “Cooper’s Poop.”
BOOM! As if by magic, he was standing next to me again! Fearful he would grab me in anger, I leaned far away, fell out of my desk chair and crashed to the floor. Again, the class was in hysterics, laughing at the antics between Mr. Crow and me! He pointed his stick for me to stand next to the chalk board and give my explanation of Cooper’s Droop. I crawled to my feet and slowly walked to the front of the class with steam pouring out my ears. Putting my hands on my hips, I boldly announced, “Class, I don’t believe Cooper’s Poop is even in the dictionary.” The class screamed in laughter while Mr. Crow aimed his pointer at the door. When I asked, “What for this time?” he told me to go to the principal’s office. When I protested, he said, “Tell your mother, it’s time for you to get a training bra or I’ll wrap them up with tape!” Incensed, I responded, “I don’t need one yet and if you'd stop looking at me, I wouldn't be in trouble all the time."
The principal called my mother at work while I swung my legs back and forth in the lobby chair. She picked me up and in silence we headed to Sears for my first training bra. She handed me six boxes of size AAA teeny-weeny training bras, meant to keep me in school. She put me into a dressing room and said to get the one, which fit the tightest. I continued slinging the items over the door until finally marching out with one. Horrified, I said, “Oh, Mom. Please don’t make me wear this ugly thing! It’s looks like two Doritos with strings.” She said, “Just get through school, Honey. What you wear at home is your business.” Deal. My Raisenettes and I moped behind my mother to the cash register.
Slowly walking down our dirt road the next afternoon, I heard the sing-song of Greg, the 15-year-old neighbor boy, “Debbie’s getting boobies, Debbie’s getting boobies.” Horrified, I turned around, raced back home and put on two t-shirts. I told Mom what happened and she said I may want to think about wearing my training bra even at home now. I put the thing on, wrapped a red bandana around my chest and put the two t-shirts back on. Heading back down the road to Donna’s home to play with her, Katy and Susan, I kept an eagle eye out for teasing boys.
Nearly 38 years passed since my first training bra. I recently wrote Bernice, one of my sweetest classmates, from Parsons Junior High. I asked whether she remembered me and Mr. Crow’s class. She responded, “Hi Debbie, you were my first friend at Parsons from the first day of school. I will never forget having my first rebellious friend I ever experienced, who refused to wear a bra. Mr. Crow threatened to wrap them up with tape. It is amazing Mr. Crow touched you so much.”
I’m 51 years old now and won’t walk to the barn without wearing my trusty support system, hoping to keep Cooper’s Droop at bay. My shirts are long enough to cover every inch of my midriff. As for my training bras, they were gladly tossed into the Salvation Army bag as I naturally did outgrow them.
Mr. Crow, where ever you are, thank you for teaching me what I wasn’t ready to learn back in ‘73. There are rules of protocol to keep us safe, healthy and free of ridicule. Although I don’t believe I’m a rebellious adult, you pushed me to stand up for myself; I’ve passed this message on to Spencer, my 13-year-old son. Because of my former days, I’ve taught Spencer how to walk a much smoother path in life.
He’s read the stories I’ve written; perhaps this is why he walks an easier trail. As for the crow and how he flies, I’m still trying to learn the fastest, shortest, easiest route to my ultimate destinations. After all, it’s well known I graduated from the school of hard knocks.