I’m researching two social studies books for K-2, and in the process, trying to remember what I understood about our culture and community when I was that young. This photo brings back a very strong memory. And it was published by the local newspaper when I was “going on four.”
I was enrolled in a little nursery school in Tuscaloosa, Alabama while my mom was working on her masters degree. The school was ruled by Mrs. M*. I guess it was a hot day, but whatever the weather (it was always hot in Alabama) the boys I was playing with took off their shirts. So I took off my shirt. Mrs. M* called me over and honestly, I can almost remember our conversation and my confusion: “Robin, sweetie, why did you take off your shirt?” “Because the boys took off their shirts.” “But Robin, little girls do not take off their shirts.” “Why?” “Because they just don’t.” “Why?” “Because it’s not ladylike.” “What’s ladylike?” I don’t remember what else we said, but I was permitted to continue on with my day, sans shirt.
So, interestingly enough, a local newspaper photographer showed up and took a photo of us, with me featured prominently in front. I’m trying to find the original newspaper clipping, because as I recall, the caption was pretty funny and I think it was like front page news: my first and last pin-up! I’m proud for somehow convincing Mrs. M* that a shirtless 4-year old girl was No Big Deal and my opinion about that was recorded in history.
But what does it say about our culture when some cultures say go ahead and run around naked even if you’re 80! Fun to think about, and maybe it will wind up in one of my little books. Ah, probably not.
* I’ve abbreviated our nursery school mistress’s name just to be on the safe side…