Of Girls, Boys, Grades And Esteem

Susan Page
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Wednesday - October 17, 2007
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In the process of cleaning up last week, I came upon my eighth-grade diary. I actually didn’t remember having one after a sixth-grade debacle when some boys stole the diary I’d shared everything with and spread the part about my secret crush around school. You’d think my red face, which lasted a month, would teach a lesson about recording private matters. Evidently not.

Reading my words from January 1961 reminded me what a large distraction boys are when it comes to academics.

This point was further driven home last week when I again had the honor of being invited to Beth McLachlin’s Career Guidance class at La Pietra-Hawaii School for Girls. Every fall over a period of several weeks, she brings in professionals from Hawaii’s business community to educate her seniors on potential career options.

This particular class guest list included a retired Navy pilot, an advertising agency creative director, a collection agency director, and a former modeling and self-improvement school owner - me. McLachlin didn’t tell the students our occupations (or former ones!) making them ask questions until discovery, sort of like the old 1950s game show What’s My Line?

If you follow UH volleyball, you know that McLachlin, La Pietra’s athletic director, is a legend in her own right: 1974-75 All-American, UH athletic hall of honor member, 1976 U.S. Olympic volleyball team captain, 1970 World Games team member and 1975 Pan American Games team member. Success is not just an elusive hope in McLachlin’s world. She lives it and challenges her students to grab it.

This was my fourth year participating in this class, and just as before I was reminded of how relaxed, outgoing and unembarrassed these girls were compared to students in the many coed schools I’ve spoken. The presence of boys does something to a girl’s brain making it send a signal that says, “Don’t speak. If you do you’ll sound like your tongue was injected with Novocain. The boys will laugh and you’ll die of humiliation.” That’s what my brain used to say anyway.

In McLachlin’s classroom, the questions were clear, thoughtful and unabashed. “Do any of you work in the banking industry?” “Does your job have anything to do with serving others like humanitarian work?” etc.

My Diary speaks:

January 3, 1961: “Dear Diary, Back to school after Christmas holidays (ugh!). This morning I saw Ronnie (sigh) and Bob (sigh) lots of times today. I’m still deciding. I truly like Bob the best but I’m still not sure. Susan”

January 4, 1961: “Dear Diary, I got a note from Ronnie and one from Bob, both asking me to go with um. I wrote both of um a note telling each I liked him.” (Not bad grammar for one who evidently regarded school as an ongoing episode of the Bachelorette.) Susan”

According to my diary, by Jan. 6 I had made up my mind. Ronnie won. Then for the next month, every day’s entry was filled with Ronnie (sigh) and long notes back and forth during school.

January 16: “Dear Diary, I wrote Ronnie (sigh) a 7page note and gave it to him at break.” (Written in class?) “He gave me one at lunch. Oh! How I love that guy!”

By February, I had broken up with both Ronnie (sigh) and my diary. It was locked till last week, just after I was at La Pietra, where there are no boys (sigh) to distract or be distracted by in the classroom. (The seven-page notes to Ronnie (sigh) might be considered a form of literary self-expression, but unfortunately didn’t count toward a grade in English.)

If only I’d gone to an all-girls school like La Pietra. I might’ve been an astronaut or a genetic researcher, or maybe even an Olympic volleyball player. We had no athletics for girls at Central High, but even if we had I’d have surely been too embarrassed to throw or kick or run in front the guys. (Sigh.)

Dear Diary, Hurray for single-sex schools.

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