All-Girls School Confessional #1
I went to a Catholic all-girls school. As I get older, it becomes clear this left me with some cognitive distortions and strange habits. Thus, I’m starting a new series called, “Stuff I Picked Up in Catholic All-Girls School That May or May Not Be Good For Me In The Long Run.” You can see where a snappier title might be helpful.
Before I start… a kind of disclaimer. I don’t pretend my high school experience is exemplary for all Catholic all-girls school alums. I don’t even pretend it was exemplary for alumnae of my old school. I think there are some common threads you may recognize, however. If not, you can just laugh at how dumb I am. You won’t be alone.
Without further ado… Part 1
1) Wearing your hair in a ponytail or messy bun isn’t really going to change your day that much. Choose extra sleep.
My hairdresser cut about 3 inches off my hair last September. About 2 months ago, my boss at work noticed. On work days, I almost never get up early enough to do anything to my hair other than pull it straight back. When you have to be at school by 7:30 and you’re surrounded by girls, you start to realize that no one is giving you extra points for your hairstyle. If anything, a well coiffed ‘do is only going to earn you annoyed stares bearing the message, “You’re ruining the good slob thing we have going here. Be cool.” So, you prioritize. You sleep 15-20 more minutes. You save the good hair for special events like picture day or Friday night football games. Then, your hair becomes like a fancy accessory that you only bust out on special events that elevates your whole look. Don’t waste good hair on something boring.
2) Serious make-up isn’t so much for day-to-day.
Ditto everything I just said. Does having smoky eyes get me an A in English? Does it make the clock go faster after lunch? I don’t work at Vogue, so Hollywood glam isn’t going to earn me a corner office. It’s better to get more sleep and have my wits about me than to look like Drew Barrymore.
3) Black and navy blue kind of go together.
No, really. Hear me out. Catholic schools really love crazy dress codes. The boys at the all-boys school down the street from my school couldn’t have any stubble or they had to shave with a freakin’ dry razor. At my school, we had to wear leather shoes. Originally, we could only wear flat navy leather shoes, but you try finding navy blue leather shoes in the mid ’90s. So, our dress code allowed for black leather shoes. But leave it to a school run by nuns to insist upon navy blue socks. God doesn’t care if your socks and shoes match. And so I spent half of my teen years staring down at black Doc Martens with navy socks. If you live with the combination long enough, you become desensitized. Eventually, a girl on your hall in college will have to tell you, “Oh, honey. Unless you have a black eye, black and blue don’t go together.”
4) Uniforms are great.
When I wake in the morning and fling open my closet and nothing looks right, I long for my old plaid shorts and Oxford collar shirts. Oh, those halcyon days of stumbling into the same outfit every day! Oh those glory days of careless dressing with the assurance that nobody would look cute! Despite what J Crew may try to tell you, plaid shorts don’t look good on anyone. They are the great equalizer. You don’t appreciate it at the time. Those lumpy, formless sweatshirts and those awful shorts that almost come to your knees… you think you can’t wait to ditch them. There was a time when buying clothes was fun because all clothes were for play time. When your budget has to weight heavily toward your work outfits, you appreciate the standard issue Catholic school uniform. And, anyway, a pleated plaid skirt is actually pretty cute. Cher from Clueless says so.
5) All the words to several Indigo Girls songs.
This may actually just be a teen girl rite of passage , but I suspect that all-girls schools are particularly susceptible to this kind of thing. Angsty songs about love, failed relationships, and finding one’s self really flourish in the type of environment where boys aren’t around to complain or make you feel self-conscious that they might figure out that you have embarrassing girlie thoughts. “Galileo,” “Closer to Fine,” “Ghost,” “Thin Line,” and so on… these are the songs of car singalongs and mix CDs. These are the songs that made you FEEL. Plus, they’re lesbians and you know how everyone in a Catholic all-girls school is really just part of one big orgy with each other. (Come on, boys, you know that last bit isn’t true. Statistically, only some of those girls are even gay in the first place.)
That’s it for tonight. More next time when I explore the darker side of pep rallies and the true but wildly inaccurate thing a sex ed teacher once told me.