Back to school: Memories of junior high jitters

Sep 6, 2011

Seattle writer Tim Haywood of Reflections of a shallow pond fame has the jitters. His youngest daughter is about to start middle school.  That brings up  memories of his own journey, 35 years ago, from elementary school to junior high. 

"I remember throughout grade school, being slightly nervous about a fresh school year – new teacher, new classmates, new stylish platform man-heels – but I'd never felt anything like I did upon beginning junior high."

Tim's older sister, who was about to begin her year of glory as a ruling ninth grader at the same school, warned her brother all summer about the do's and don'ts of of seventh grade or "Sevvie"  social behavior. 

Here's Tim with the rest of the story:

"Okay, look at me when I tell you this,"  my sister commanded. "Never, ever make eye contact with a ninth grader." I looked at her. "That was a test. I'm a ninth grader and you shouldn't have looked at me!" She offered me other valuable nuggets of advice, including what to wear.  "Ski jackets are cool, even though you don't ski. Never zip it up to the top. And have Mom buy you some jeans with a star on the butt. The right cheek, not the left!"

By the time that first day rolled around, I was wound up so tightly that I decided to wear as many of my new fashions as possible – all at once – even though the day approached 80 degrees.

During P.E. I had my first true encounter with those male ninth graders my sister had warned me about.  Near the end of that period, I heard the teacher utter those immortal words: "Shower up, ladies!"

As I approached the common shower area, the only vacancy was between two man-sized ninth graders. I would have felt more comfortable showering between Burt Reynolds and Sean Connery than these two Yetis.

After showering , drying and dressing in approximately 56 seconds, I opted to finish out the day sans ski jacket which was a good thing given that I spent most of my day frequently positioned within large packs of "Sevvies."

Wow. Thanks for letting me get that off my chest.

Now that I've purged my own insecurities, I feel much calmer and much more prepared to help my daughter with any apprehension she may have about her first day of middle school.

On second thought, that might be a good job for my wife.