Thursday, April 20, 2017

Sample Narrative Essay: Spelling Bees and Fig Leaves

A few weeks ago I came home from work and did not, like I normally do, immediately change my clothes and spend the rest of the afternoon in my pajamas and furry, plaid, bathrobe.  I was still in my work clothes, a pair of leggings and a soft, blue tunic, when my husband got home from work.

"You wore that to work?" he asked.
"Yes.  Do you like it?" I asked in return.
"It's a maternity shirt, I think," he said carefully.

Let it be known that I am not nor ever have been nor plan to be in a state of M-A-T-E-R-N-I-T-Y, but it was soft and blue and only $2.99 at the local Goodwill store.

A few weeks before that incident, a student announced to the me and the rest of the class that she knew I would be in class that day because she saw me walking across campus, and she knew without a doubt it was me walking across campus because of my plaid, corduroy, wide-leg trousers.

"No one else wears pants like that, anymore," she said.

I have heard, too, that I am a very approachable professor because I "don't dress like the other female English professors."  I dress like the professors who teach video game classes, agriculture and animal husbandry, or maybe shop classes. I have a multitude of examples, so suffice it to say, I have a very complicated relationship with my clothes: But this is not a new thing, I realized earlier this week.  The root of my problem taps as deep as a first grade spelling bee. "A-S-S," I spelled out for a student earlier this week who almost used the word "ass" but did not want to swear in class.  "A-S-S," I spelled, and as I did so I was transported immediately back to the St. Clair County Regional Spelling Bee, 1981.

I was in the first grade, and I wanted to be anywhere but at that spelling bee.  It wasn't that I wasn't proud of being the best first grade speller in the entire elementary school, but that my mother had forced me to wear the most dreadful clothing I had ever seen in my life.  It was ugly, outdated, scratchy, and utterly embarrassing.  The dress was pink, faded-flower pink with a smoky yellow tinge coating its pleated overlay; a nicotine tinge.  It had a frayed satin belt U-N-T-I-E-D in what was supposed to be a bow behind my back.  It was something once loved by someone else years and years prior, and it looked to have been worn for a semi-formal occasion.  The tights were white, yet too small, and the crotch sagged, chaffing the insides of my thighs.  The shoes, however, were casual, too big, and they were burgundy with B-O-O-G-E-R-Y, rubber soles. My hair was down, which meant it was snarly and stuck under my armpits.  An unhappier child you have never seen, so to top off the look were streaks running from eyes to chin where the tears had cut through the tomboy dust on my cheeks.

I had to sit on stage like that, in front of people who were going to judge me and my hand-me-down, mismatched clothes. The other kids looked nice . . . until they looked at me and made faces, however.  None of them would talk to me.  They laughed and pointed.  It was mortifying, devastating, and demoralizing.  I sat in the back row and hoped the adjudicators would never call my name. But they did. And the word was "as." Could they have made it any easier?  Did they feel bad for me or something?

"Use that in a sentence, please," I said to buy more time as I considered my options.  I wanted to sink into the stage floor, but that was not an option. I could feel hot, angry, frustrated tears welling up behind my eyes.  My cheeks were steaming, but letting those tears pepper the stage floor was not an option.

"She ran as quickly as a cheetah," the adjudicator read from the card. I wanted to run away as quickly as a cheetah, but that was not an option, either.

I thought of the one option that would allow me to go home early, though. "As," I said. I tried to conjure enough saliva to do what needed to be done next.

"A-S-S," I spelled.

A few people laughed.  I was off the stage before they even had to ask me to leave the stage. We were in the car shortly after that, and no one spoke.

As I recall, that dress and those shoes never saw the light of day, again.  I never competed in a spelling bee, again, either. Was there a better option?  Did I really need to throw the game to save face?  In the moment, I sure as H-E-Double-Hockey-Sticks thought I did.  But would I do it the same today?  Probably not.  I'd probably note the people laughing at the way I dressed and out spell them all, anyway, paying particular attention to enunciate any bad words that appeared within another word while looking at the laughers.


But I'd still feel bad about them laughing at me, and my complicated relationship with my clothes would get ever still more complicated.  It's human nature, I think, and until we all get back to the fig leaf or go naked, it's a complication that will persist.

Want to read more about my complicated relationship with my clothes? Try

Project 333 Math: Making my Own Rules
Stitch Fix Review: Styling at 40

Want to read more narrative essay examples? Try

Sample Narrative Essay - Pig
Sample Narrative Essay - Holding Hands

Copyright Amy Lynn Hess.  Please contact the author for permission to republish.