Thursday, March 15, 2007

No Dancing for Me, Part 3

This year I picked a simple pattern, a bolero vest and an A-line dress with full sleeves that end in deep cuffs connected by loops of fabric and tiny covered buttons. I chose white knit fabric shot with silver threads for the dress and crimson velvet for the bolero and the covered buttons. The silver trim for the vest is perfect—sparkly but not tacky. Debbie chose a simple A-line pattern and white fabric, too, but she added aqua and white maribou feathers for the bell sleeves and the hem.

The dresses are practically finished when we cross the line somehow and end up with them in our laps. Debbie’s dress is even hemmed—the feathers, you know. Mine still needs a hem and the facings need to be tacked down. I don’t mind because hemming the dress myself cuts down on the arguments about its length. The difference between knee-length and as-short-as-possible-while-still-decent has caused too many tantrums to count around here. Mom's and mine.

Patty Bailey kneels on the floor in the hall in front of the speech room. Mrs. Thacker stands in front of her, wood yardstick in hand. The between-class river of kids streams past them with barely a ripple. No one stops to stare, but it’s impossible to miss the shame blazing on Patty’s cheeks or the hate burning in her eyes. School rules dictate that our dresses can be no more than three inches off the floor when we kneel.

I don’t know where the dress I’m wearing would fall on Mrs. Thacker’s yellow yardstick but am not worried. Just as surely as Patty will be sent home if her dress is a fraction of a fraction of an inch too short, I will not be asked to kneel in the hallway or in front of class. I’m smart enough to recognize the unspoken caste system around here and compassionate enough to know it’s wrong, but not brave enough to challenge it. I walk past Patty with the others, turn at the stairs, and go up to Journalism class.


Carrie Wilson Link said...

Unspoken caste system - WOW!

Kim said...

I think having the compassion to know the caste system was wrong is big at that age, when it's so easy and natural to accept what it shown to us as the way things should be.

Deb said...

It takes tremendous courage for you to say this, even this many years later. I'm in awe. I keep thinking about your Not That Kind of Girl, and how you grew into an amazingly loving woman from that start. I can hardly wait for you to take us to the dance. :)

Prema said...

Beautiful, really.

Go Mama said...

You're really setting up a good story here. Keep going!

Monica said...

I love how you take note of what's happening, completely understand where you are in all of it, and then head up to Journalism class. It's wonderful. It's so human.