10 years ago I was a few weeks into my Senior year. Wow, ten years ago. I was at BHS for the last year of highs chool since the Principal of Garces and I had a disagreement about the importance of having my shirt tucked in and how the fact that I liked to wear my shirts untucked was surely a sign that I was bound to be a monumental failure. ‘That girl won’t tuck her shirt in. Not only is she going straight to hell for being a bad Catholic, but no college will ever accept her and she’ll be lucky to get a job at McDonalds… where you HAVE TO TUCK YOUR SHIRT IN!!’ I don’t think he realized the absolute HORROR a girl feels when you tell her that she has to TUCK her shirt into her green plaid and pleated skirt. Perhaps he didn’t understand by the length I had the thing hemmed to how important it was to look cute in that skirt. A shirt tucked in ruined the entire Bag Girl in a Catholic Girl Uniform look I was going for. It was fashion torture.
I continued to get detention after detention because of it. Yes, they actually gave out DETENTIONS for not having your shirt tucked in. Only they didn’t call it ‘detention’, they called it ‘JUG’. Justice Under God. MY freshman and Sophomore year God dictated that not having my shirt tucked in was punishable by making me write a ten word long sentence 500 times in the cafeteria after school, then numbering each word 1-500. I guess sitting in a religion class for 45 MINUTES EVERY SINGLE DAY wasn’t punishment enough. It didn’t take me long to start numbering the pages in my last period. Then a cute Junior one day pointed out that if you took two pens and taped them together with the pen cap between them you could write two sentences, perfectly double spaced, at one time. I managed to get JUG completed in about 10 minutes flat. Then Mr. K wised up and started making us number the sentences 2 to 502, or 16 to 516. Still, he couldn’t get around the pen trick. How we managed to keep that a under wraps for so long is beyond me. So JUG was lengthened to 15 minutes after school. That wasn’t so bad. If I bolted out of class and headed straight over there I could be done with JUG before most kids got their book out of their lockers thus ensuring I’d be around to witness any drama that might happen. High school drama, better than crack. I continued to wear my shirt untucked and comfortable for two years… then everything changed.
My Junior year as we sat in orientation not paying attention to the droning of the principal as he ran down stuff we had heard at least 300 times already, Stephanie and I mercilessly scrutinized everybody. Who had new hair-do’s. Who was dating who now. How was that skinny bitch staying so thin. I didn’t really feel the need to listen to the droning since I has listened the first two years and nothing had changed since the first time I had listened. The only new thing that I had any concern about was why and when the new rod iron fence had been erected around the perimeter of the school like a prison camp. I should have realized then that things there were changing for the worst.
After orientation we packed into a few cars and headed to Luigi’s for lunch and to catch up. Right in the middle of a massive bite of white pasta, my world changed. That point is when everything “Garces” took a sharp turn down a very steep hill.
Girl: Can you fucking believe JUG this year?
Me: *shoving pasta in my mouth* hrrrrrmm?
Girl: I can’t believe they’re changing it to the ENTIRE lunch period.
Me: *painfully swallowing far too much food at one time* What the hell are you talking about?
Girl: JUG. Lunch. You were at orientation, right?
Me: YES I WAS THERE! Kinda. What do you mean it’s the entire lunch time? I didn’t hear that!
Girl: How could you have missed that!?
Me: I don’t know!!! Just… what the hell is going on?
Girl: We have to sit in Chapel all lunch.
Me: WHAT?!?! We have to write sentences all FUCKING LUNCH?
Girl: No, we don’t do anything. We just have to sit there.
Me: And do what?
Girl: NOTHING! Just sit there!
I think I actually felt the Earth slip off it’s axis and throw me into and alternate dimension for a few seconds while I contemplated this new information. LUNCH!? Lunch was SOCIAL HOUR! The best drama always happened at lunch. It was the time to walk around and gab with everybody and gossip and flirt with cute boys… they could not expect us to serve detention during LUNCH!! Those Catholic Nazi BASTARDS.
I tried to keep my shirt tucked in. I really did. But we are talking about Bakersfield here. Today the forecasted high iS 89. In OCTOBER! It was uncomfortable and hot and it just didn’t LOOK right. I managed to go over a month with no JUG. I just dodged the normal shirt Nazi’s that walked around with JUG slips in hand. I knew which teachers were more tolerable and luckily I had a lot of these. It didn’t last long though.
I got the first JUG and DREADED that first day in detention. I had heard rumors… You had to sit in a chair, facing forward, no talking to anybody, no doing school work, no reading, nothing. Just sitting. The one thing you COULD do was eat. I think they made this rule to appease the parents who probably threw a fit that their kids weren’t getting a lunch. BUT! You had to be in the room and in the chair and READY to start JUG 5 minutes after the bell rang. FIVE MINUTES! That was BARELY enough time to fight the traffic in the halls to get there if you were in one of the outskirt buildings… Let alone, get to the cafeteria, wait in line, pay for food, then get the whole way back to Chapel. Shoot, I waited in line for 15 minutes just to get lunch on a GOOD day.
So I went, and I was hungry, and it was quite, and dark, and I sat there listening to all the free people eat and laugh and gossip in the courtyard outside the Chapel. Torture. It was ABSOLUTE TORTURE. And the worst part was the smug look on the face of the principal. The ‘I’ve waited over a month to see your face in here. I hope you are suffering’ look as he ate the lunch his most recent kiss ass had brought to him. That day was the last day I saw him in detention. I guess that one agonizing hour for me was enough to cause him enough joy is his cold twisted heart to last the year.
I ended up going to JUG quite often. Then one day a teacher held me up in class and I didn’t make it there in time to get in the door. I even had the teacher give me a pass explaining that she had kept me after class. It didn’t help, I was given an EXTRA detention for not being there on time. And that was it. I was pissed off enough to start the JUG strike. I didn’t go and didn’t go and before I knew it I owed 20 and Mr K was having a small breakdown about it (I heart Mr. K to this day) and the principal was out for blood.
They scheduled a meeting to discuss my ‘rebellion’ with my mother in front of the “disciplinary review board” which stemmed from NOT TUCKING MY SHIRT IN. TO this day I am certain I was not made aware of this meeting. They said they sent my mother a note and I assume they did because SHE knew about it but I was never given anything. Not that it really mattered because I would not have gone had I known about it anyway. And if I had gone I’d have layered 5 shirts on myself and not tucked a SINGLE ONE IN. The meeting concluded with the a set of conditions that if I did not meet would lead to my being expelled from the school at the end of the following quarter. I was “relieved” of all JUG’s and given a clean slate to start with.
Maintain at least a 2.8 GPA.
Complete 10 extra hours of community service above the hours already required to graduate.
The first was easy enough. The only classes I really struggled with that year were math and Spanish. History, English, Art, PE and Science were all a breeze and religion was.. well, I cheated a lot. The reason I hadn’t done good up to that point was because I was being poisoned with the ‘stupid bug’ from all the hot guys around. Stupid boys. I did better though, and I pulled the grades with surprising ease. I found out that quarter that I Was, like, SMART!
But the JUG thing.. Yeesh. Not a SINGLE JUG and not for just the shirt but for ANYTHING. This was something I was in constant fear of. Especially since Stephanie and I had recently started hanging out again and I Was constantly fucking off. Or ditching. Or just being a typical 15 year old.
The community service I saw as more of a bonus than a punishment because I got to work at M.A.R.E. and LOVED it. Every second.
And I made it. At the end of the semester I had the GPA and had not managed to get a single JUG. Not one. And my shirt was tucked in the day I got called in to see the principal to discuss my ‘progress’.
The conversation was going rather well as I had accomplished all the conditions. I was even commended on the progress I had made so far. Then the conversation turned to college and how now that I was not getting into so much trouble, I’d have a good chance on getting into one of my pics. The thing is, I had no interest in going. None at all. Not then anyway. I planned on leaving high school and taking a year or two to finish out the last of my teens being a complete idiot while I had the chance. College could wait till I was 20.
But Garces has a 99% graduation to college rate. I should have just agreed with him and walked out that day. Instead the conversation deteriorated rapidly as my 15-year-old attitude ran like train under full power heading straight for a cliff. I knew that it was a matter of time before I lost my cool completely. Finally when the principal told me that Garces didn’t want people who have no aspirations in life to be anything other than an “uneducated girl who can’t even dress properly and hangs out with idiots” I lost all patience.
I just stood up and started to walk out. I got half way to the door before I turned around and said, ‘This is bullshit. I worked my ass off. I didn’t get a single JUG and I got the grades and now you are telling me you don’t want me here if I don’t go to college because you don’t want to ruin your stupid statistic?? Well how about this!! I’m leaving and I’m not coming back and you can take your school and shove it straight up your ass. Half the kids here are so strung out on speed they can’t see straight. Kids pop pills and do lines in CLASS!! At least three quarters of the school stays drunk from Friday to Sunday night. I’m pretty sure EVERYBODY is stoned at least 75% of the time. But your right, you should totally NOT WANT PEOPLE WHO DON’T TUCK THIER FUCKING SHRIT IN HERE AT YOUR PILE OF SHIT SCHOOL.”
I can see now it wasn’t the best reaction. And it wasn’t very eloquent. But I got it out. I fought back tears the whole time because I couldn’t understand why kids that were strung out but going to college were better than me. In the next three months about 5 more kids were expelled. All of them for drug related reasons. Or so they said and the rumors went and I have to believe them because they were all kids I knew were using heavily.
It took me a long time to come to grips with what happened in that office that day. One second I was a prime student. I was smart and heading towards a bright happy future and that made me acceptable. The next second I and my friends were scum and not worthy of the good Catholic education we were receiving (HAR). I felt inferior for a long time after that. I wasn’t good enough, I wasn’t smart enough, etc.
I finished school my Senior year at BHS. I was in honors classes and it just about killed me but I got through it. Sometimes I wish I could go back. Not to Garces today but THAT TIME. In that office. Walk back in at the same time I walked out and say, “Look at me now. I had a child young. I’m married and divorced. Many people, including you I’m sure, would perceive this as failure. But you know what, I work at one of the most prestigious University Hospitals in the WORLD, I make pretty damn good money, and I can wear WHATEVER THE HELL I want to work AND I don’t have to tuck my shirt it.”
Sure, I know the lesson wasn’t ‘tuck in your shirt’, the lesson was ‘learn discipline and to obey the rules’. But I can think of so many other, more noteworthy ways to teach this. And I believe that I’m where I’m at today in some small part because of that day.
The reason I was thinking about this is because an old high school friend messaged me the other day out of the blue on MySpace. I realized that when I left Garces, I pretty much left everybody there behind too. That’s my only regret. There were some amazing people there and I’m glad that some of them have found me and we’ve been able to reconnect. 🙂
P.S. – Remind me to tell you all sometime about how my Senior year I gave my Government teacher a heart attack causing him to spend a week in the hospital. He never returned to school and officially retired at the end of that year. Maybe it WAS me…