Don’t judge me. I was fourteen when this happened. That said, if a barking dog approaches and you are with me, every man for himself and God for us all!
In the spring of 1986, my family moved from the inner city of Chicago to the north suburb of Evanston — John Hughes’ territory Pretty in Pink, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Talk about moving on up. My sister and I would ride our bikes to see Dad during his lunch break. Then we would go to Carmen’s Pizzeria for the best Chicago style stuffed pizza.
Evanston had a summer job program for teenagers. We could earn our own money and be out of the house. Since we started attending evangelical church in 1983, we never did anything except go to church every day and pass out tracts on weekends — no secular music, television, or radio. We were going to be normal teenagers. Freedom!!! Mom wanted to teach us how to budget, so we had to buy our school clothes with our summer job money. Fine by me. No more repressive Christian school get-ups. It was the 1980s and we were going to express ourselves through fashion! Door knocker earrings, headbands, scrunches, hair crimpers, wide width belts, stone washed jeans, sweater dresses, and anything neon. Maybe the new job would help me catch up with the new dances. Chicago house music was exploding. We would attend public high school (Evanston Township High School-ETHS) and I wanted to be ready. Jack, jack, jack your body!
I went to the summer job placement center on my birthday. I was placed at the YWCA working with the assistant marketing director. A few other teenagers worked at the YWCA with me. Margot was going to be a sophomore at ETHS and lived a couple blocks from me. I already had a friend. The other girl was Haitian and another was Bahamian. Until then, I never met anyone from the islands. The girls took me to lunch for my first day. We were going to Hecky’s BBQ. On the way to Hecky’s something happened. We walked past a house and I heard a dog barking.
The next thing I remember is hearing the Bahamian girl yell, “Ronda let me go! Let me go!” Margot and the Haitian girl stared at me with their mouths open. Uh-oh. I finally realized what I did. Upon hearing the dog bark, I grabbed the Bahamian girl and put her in front of me as a body shield. I had her by her shoulders so that she could not move. I immediately explained to them that I did not realize what I was doing. I was attacked by a German Shepherd when I was ten and had been afraid of dogs ever since. I did not mean to use the Bahamian girl as a body shield. To make matters worse, the dog was a Chihuahua — so embarrassing. After a while, they said that they believed me. However, they kept their distance from me. I was mortified. What if they told other kids that I use people as body shields? I would never make any friends at ETHS. Fortunately, the event was never mentioned again.
Unfortunately, fate paid me back for using people as human body shields later that afternoon. The marketing director had me update the bulletin boards throughout the YWCA. That meant going into the women’s shower and updating that bulletin board too. As I was stapling notices, an elderly woman in her 70s came out of the shower butt naked. The woman stood there for about ten minutes asking about what was new in the bulletin. The entire time I did my best to look at the ceiling, but all I saw was shriveled wet breasts sagging to the knees and gray pubic hair. You know that kid’s song, “Do your ears hang low, do they wobble to the floor, can you tie them in a knot, can you tie them in a bow, can you lift them over your shoulder like a continental soldier, do your ears hang low?” Well this woman’s breasts hanged low like the song. This was well before Flo-Rida’s song “Low,” but granny’s breasts were “low low low.” No one ever said anything about gray pubic hair sightings as part of the job description.
My first day at my first job — human body shields, gray pubic hairs, and breasts that hanged low.
Republished on HuffPost HERE.