Don’t go back

by Julie Frayn on January 30, 2013 in  Bric-a-brac

I can’t go back to yesterday – because I was a different person then. ~ Lewis Carroll

Have you ever stepped back in time? Returned to a place you swore you’d never set foot in again? A place that gives you shivers just thinking about? A place where nightmares are born and never die? I did.

Junior high school.

1975 with my favourite substitute teacher

My old school was the polling station for our last provincial election. The moment I walked in the door I got smacked upside the head by memories. Smacked, I tell you. Upside the head.

I cast my vote in the gym, locale of many sports-related bully-target moments for this asthmatic teacher’s pet. They (that’s junior high speak for those damn adults) even made us dance in there. I don’t mean after school ‘shags’ — really? shags? — that I never attended. Nope. All the latest dances were part of the phys ed curriculum. The box step. The alley cat. The hustle.

Okay, only that last one was ‘latest’ when I was in junior high. It was the height of disco fever after all. I don’t know where the rest of those steps came from but I can’t get that alley cat music out of my head! It is macarenaesque as bad dance ear worms go.

On my way to vote in the gym, I passed the entry to the most horrific place of all. The girls’ locker room. Humiliation abounded inside those walls. Like hell would I change into my gym strip — really? strip? — in front of the other girls. Instead I endured taunts through the curtain of one of the few change cubicles.

“Joanne you’re so flat!”

“Not as flat as Julie! She’ll never get boobs.”

Girls suck.

On this trip back in time, I didn’t get to revisit the one room where I was completely at ease. Math class. I was the star of junior high math. In grade six I lead my team to victory in the math Olympics (which was really only who could do rote times tables the fastest). Throughout junior high, my math mark was never below 95%, and it was normal for 100% to grace my report card. My favourite teacher, Mr. McDonald, wrote the best report card comment ever.

1977. What you can't see is the original Star Wars t-shirt that I wish I'd been smart enough to keep

“What can I say?”

No, I can’t go back. Don’t want to. But in looking back, I can find the good, focus on the positive. I did make friends that I still have 35 years later. Even some of the bullies and cool kids that wouldn’t give me the time of day and made me quake in my sneakers when I walked through the halls are now friends.

And it is fun to remember how embarrassed the art and home ec teachers were when they got caught making out in the supply closet.

Do you have a scary place? Would you be brave enough to go back?



{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

J Timothy Quirk January 30, 2013 at 7:14 am

Ahh…junior high. I believe no one gets to have fun in junior high!


Julie January 31, 2013 at 6:52 am

I think some did. I just never fit into those circles. As you can see, I was kind of a nerd. Just a bit. Still am.

Desi January 30, 2013 at 8:34 am

Holy hell. Yeah, I actually avoid the whole TOWN where I attended junior high because that was three years of horror that simply does not require living screen shots. Like you, I was too smart, too flat, to awkward and too Not Them. But I did make friends who survived it with me and we still get together as often as we can. Maybe it has something to do with the psychology of traumatic experiences… Dance class!!! *shudders*


Julie January 31, 2013 at 6:55 am

The parts of dance I liked were the ones you did solo (even though I am a klutz and probably looked apoplectic doing them). It was partnering for waltzes that really sucked. I always got the short dude.

tricia January 30, 2013 at 9:13 am

man, bullies suck!!!! the funny thing is that you are gorgeous in that photo!


Julie January 31, 2013 at 6:56 am

Oh Tricia, you are way too kind! It took until Grade twelve before I grew into that nose. Luckily I doffed the glasses over the summer break before high school and just squinted a lot. Still doing that. 😀

Mitch January 30, 2013 at 10:07 am

Well, I was part of the “cool” gang but I still hated playing competitive sports like volleyball because I wasn’t very good and the jocks would berate you for missing a shot. Also didn’t like changing in front of others for gym because I was still pretty flat chested in grade 9. Norm wrote “are you ever going to buy that kit” in my year book, referring to those bust enhancement kits advertised in the backs of magazines! Of course, it didn’t help that my locker partner was Shawna, who had the biggest rack of anyone!

I did go to all the shags though and have strong memories of rocking out to “Black Betty”. Now here we both are, 35 years later, living in the old neighbourhood and hanging out occasionally. Cheers friend!


Julie January 31, 2013 at 6:59 am

You were definitely a cool kid my friend, but you were never a bully. I always got picked last for team sports and also got berated for being shitty at them. I had a comment from… damn, forgot his name. Brian somebody. “Ashes to ashes, dust to dust, what’s a girl without a bust.” Gee, thanks for memorializing that.

I rock out good now. And hopefully we can hang out a bit more often. Sorry I’ve been so absent.

Jo Anne Simson January 30, 2013 at 5:50 pm

Awww… How cruel is childhood? It’s a wonder we ever come through it. I guess, at some level, we never do. Those old pains and slights haunt us as adults, especially if we’re “sensitive” children. But then, as adults, we really can use that subconscious cauldron to power creative activity.


Julie January 31, 2013 at 7:00 am

Love ‘subconscious cauldron’ – I will try to incorporate some of these characters into a book one day. Oh wait, I might have already done that! No names though. :)

Megan Broutian January 30, 2013 at 11:11 pm

I swear I had the same pair of glasses. They were way too big for my face and on top of that I had them tinted really dark, so I looked like an owl, backwards. I was so proud of myself, I thought I was the shyt! I wouldn’t mind going back, high school was kind to me (it might be the same delusion talking, though). Great post!


Julie January 31, 2013 at 7:03 am

I loved those glasses. Purple rims, though that’s hard to see in the painfully faded and discoloured photo I ripped out of an old frame. And they were a very early version of the new transition things. Became sunglasses in the bright sunlight, never fully returned to clear indoors. High school was better. I still wasn’t cool, but my world expanded beyond the confines of my own school’s walls.

Erin January 31, 2013 at 7:34 am

I bet the ‘short dude’ has a few painful memories himself, like being picked last for waltzes.

~ mother of a (pretty terrific) short dude


Julie January 31, 2013 at 7:47 am

Hey Erin. I remember you being one of the cool kids that scared me. :) Now I think we are all cool.

I have nothing against short dudes, but my height was another point of teasing for me. Being paired with a much shorter guy in dance class fueled that. In my adult life, I dated more short dudes than tall ones :). My son got teased for his size too, weight wise. Now he grew into the weight at 6’6 and still going – he gets a lot of ‘how’s the weather up there’ comments. Sigh…

Erin January 31, 2013 at 8:59 am

I have been thinking a lot about those years of late as Carolyn said something similar to me last week. I was unhappy as a teen, and every bit the outcast; the bullying I endured shaped me in many (entirely dysfunctional) ways … thus proving perspective is everything. I was everything but ‘cool’ and fit in absolutely nowhere. Those six years of school sucked.
30 years later, and with a heavy sigh, I am saddened to learn how I am remembered.
I have enjoyed your writing; hugs to your lovely sister.


Carolyn January 31, 2013 at 10:14 am

It’s interesting that you, who we considered a cool kid, were feeling un cool. As Julie said, now I think we are all cool… except one. There is one from high school who will never be cool in my eyes. :) Please don’t be saddened… because you are right, those six years sucked for most of us. How were we supposed to rationally process all the emotions and angst with our hormone crazed young brains. Perception is good, I wish we were able to use it wisely back then. Hugs back.

Julie February 1, 2013 at 6:42 am

I’m sure few of us are remembered the way we truly were. Or are. School messed with my confidence for years. I have it now, though still struggle with anxiety and constant second-guessing that seems to be borne of those years. I am happy to learn that my own ill-conceived impressions were incorrect. Not happy to learn you struggled through those years too. Glad we are on the other side of it and able to see through clearer eyes.

Carolyn January 31, 2013 at 10:07 am

I would not want to go back to junior or senior high. Never ending cycle of panic, teasing, and yes, bullying. I just cringed reading your memories of changing in that dreaded locker room, same feelings of bad body image, even though I had some breasts. Two actually. Back then. :)

One of my issues was my nose, which I was teased about. I didn’t grow into it like you did, but many years later I grew out of caring. When I went to vote with the boys and Mom, I was also hit by the memories… maybe not so fully as you because I’ve been there a lot over the years that followed. Two of my boys attended that junior high school, all three attended the senior high. They weren’t that happy that our grad photos covered the walls near the office. :)


Julie February 1, 2013 at 6:44 am

Two. Awesome. And of course you grew into your nose. That growth is less about the physical face catching up with the schnoz and more about the attitude change – not giving a crap what others think of it. I have the same sized face I did in grade nine after all. ♥

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