I was reading a recent column in the Globe and Mail by Elizabeth Renzetti on the ancient custom, in certain private schools, that dress codes dictate the permissible length of a female student’s skirt – the students often subjected to the embarrassment of having their skirts measured in front of the entire class – including boys who .. well, who knows how they react? It took me back eons to my own early school days in England where, at the age of 11 (or younger) boys and girls were separated in class and at recess. Never shall the twain meet … until years later, disgorged from the system, full of gaucherie and embarrassment when having to socialize and interact with … Girls!
At age 11, I attended one ‘mixed’ school – except the girls had one section of the building and school yard, the boys another – but, with great planning, we could see the girls through the windows as they did physical training, and played ball- hockey and netball, making gestures to the window that, probably, could have been obscene, but what would I have known about girls? Sex-Ed? Heaven’s t’Betsy, the word (and I’m whispering here) s-e-x was, seemingly, verboten. But then, a life-shaking event occurred. One day, I couldn’t find a handkerchief (yes, the really olden days) and my mother suggested I look in the top drawer of my father’s dresser where I found a handkerchief and a book, Love, Sex and Marriage. OMG!
I knew, just by glancing at the page that appeared when I cautiously opened it, that this book was verboten stuff! When the time was right, and my parents were out of the house, I cautiously removed the book and, together with my friend Clarkie, took it to one of our secret trees where we climbed, found a perch, and opened LS&M, reading various sections as the pages turned. Our Parents Did This!? And this? It was time for a cigarette before I carefully returned the book to its place of hiding. Around the same time, Clarkie and I sang in the local Anglican church choir and, as was routine, the Vicar suggested that we consider being confirmed into the church. Little did we know.
Before Confirmation, together with others, we met with the Vicar for ‘preparation’ which included, for some reason, talks about puberty and ‘growing up’ and ‘you know, personal things’ which, I think, embarrassed the Vicar more than it did us. When I got home my parents asked me how it went – but quickly changed the subject when I began to share with them (isn’t that such a 2018 expression) those personal things. And – That – Was – That. Those Were the Days, My Friend ….
I suspect today’s parents, anticipating ‘the conversation’, are relieved that the Internet is available – or perhaps ‘the conversation’ doesn’t occur any more. Technology has made ‘the talk’ obsolete. Perhaps parents, unbeknownst to their children, are finding new things on the Internet for themselves. But – the important thing is, it seems, that dress codes are strictly enforced in private schools – even if, in this Internet Age, a short skirt is … is … simply, a short skirt.