mad in pursuit memoir notebook

DISPATCHED FROM THE CROSSROADS, intersection of compliance and you-little-bitch

Defiance (When Good Girls Go Bad)

Did I always have a problem with authority? No, actually I was a very good girl. My problem came when the authority in question was, well, stupid.

My mother had me summed up at an early age:

There was a little girl who had a little curl
Right in the middle of her forehead.
When she was good she was very, very good;
And when she was bad, she was horrid.


I gave her a run for her money as an infant. I hate to say my mother did anything stupid, but (a) she didn't breast feed me because it was out of style in 1948 and (b) she obeyed the old-school pediatrician to feed me every four hours, no sooner, no later. (His name was Dr. Coffin -- that should have clued her in.) The whole food thing was torture. I had my revenge by being a colicky little tadpole and, probably more than once, made her cry.

Once I could eat real food, the horridness subsided and I was more-or-less perfect. And she wasn't stupid any more. The whole cowsmilk-formula-every-4-hours fiasco taught us both a lesson. I learned that not all authority figures were wise (and it's better to have your own food supply stashed away somewhere). And she wised up about motherhood.

Five Years Old

I don't remember another run in with authority till my second cousin Mary Frances had my first cousins and I lined up in my grandmother's backyard to play school one Easter afternoon. She had appointed herself the teacher and was making each cousin shout out her name in turn. Let's say I was five. I was fourth or fifth in line and when she asked me my name I shouted "Flubbadub!" She didn't start crying or anything but the adults overhearing it thought I was hilarious and it had to have burst her pompous 7-year-old bubble. Actually, I don't remember this at all. It only lives in family legend - a story my dad loved to tell. But it points up the personality trait: a brat only when necessary.

Seventh or Eighth Grade

Our English teacher gave us an assignment over the Christmas holidays to send her a letter. The point was to reinforce all the little formalities associated with letter-writing. I thought it was stupid. I didn't do it. And apparently I had enough junior charisma to influence a whole bunch of kids not to do it. This merited a phone call to my mother.

Oh yes, in that same era, I also thought memorizing poetry was stupid. It seemed like a whole lot of stress for... what? A lot of kids felt the same way, but, when called on, they'd stand there hemming and hawing, muttering a stray line or two. I found it was much easier to get up from my seat, look the nun in the eye and say, "I don't know it." That was one I got away with -- several times. Maybe the teacher thought it was stupid too. And I made up for it by being outstanding at diagramming sentences.

I started this as a lead-in to an incident in my twenties, but that is continued here.