“I’ve never been a ‘reader'” and other confessions from my pre-adolescent self.

A pre-adolescent girl–in my day–was defined by which side of various lines she could be found. This is probably still true for girls growing up, though I would guess that SOME of the lines have changed.

All the standard categories existed like ones based on academic achievement and athletic acumen & ability.

Academically I was smart enough to motivate adults to set expectations for my performance, but was never the smartest kid in the class. Ever. I learned to play to my strengths and–perhaps unfortunately–learned to avoid my areas of weakness.

Athletically I was, honestly, a disaster. My large motor skills just were not ever developed to a place that made basic athletic skills a probable outcome to any sort of attempt at throwing, catching, dodging, aiming, or hurdling. That, combined with very little motivation–internal or external–left me consistently picked late in the gym class draft. For good reason.

Oh, and then there were slightly less standardized but every bit as powerful and real lines created by physical appearance including hair color, tooth straightness, and whatever features were considered critical for the label “pretty.”

I’m sure I could spew a few thousand words on this topic alone. I’ve never had much confidence in my appearance. Over the years I have learned that appearance matters way more and way less than most of us think or believe and I’ve tried to figure out which of those is at play at any given time. I’ll leave it at that.

Then there was the line that divided girls who obsessed over horses (drawing them, talking about them, collecting figurines of them) and those who did not.

Me? Not. I think I was an adult before I really understood what the big deal might be about horses. Extraordinary animals.

Or how about the line dividing girls who were readers (sneaking books with them to church, reading by flashlight under the covers ’til the wee hours of the morning, and being punished by having to go outside and do something for an hour) and those who were not?

Me? Not. And this makes it especially funny that I taught American Literature for eleven years. By the way, I also think it made me a better teacher because I could relate to the majority of my students who were not intrinsically motivated to read the books I assigned for them to read and worked at finding ways to make them want to read. I’m not sure how successful I was in that venture, but I do know that I grew to greatly love a significant body of American Literature along the way. BONUS.

At the school I attended for 4th-8th grade, you were either a Cubs fan or a Sox fan. You could also be categorized as going to public or Catholic high school.

What were the dividing lines in your school or neighborhood when you were in those gloriously awkward pre-adolescent phases of growing up?

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