Gonk

August 1981

“You could join FHA,” Michele suggests as we walk into “5, 7, 9.” She and I talked our moms into letting us go to the mall for a few hours to “shop.” My mother thought it was ridiculous. “What do you girls need to go to the mall for?”

OK, the truth is that we don’t need to shop; we need to talk, because we start high school in two weeks and I’m panicking a little. Or, as my mother said, I’m being “dramatic.” But I’m not looking forward to starting high school, because it will be just like starting junior high all over again. Every teacher will read my last name and ask me if I’m as smart as Eldest. No. Am I in debate? No. Am I as smart as Smartest? No. Do I play basketball? No. I don’t do anything. I can’t think of anything I do. I’ve got to find something that I do that my sisters don’t do.

“FHA?” I ask.

“Future Homemakers of America.”

“I know what FHA is, but remember my Gonk?”

Michele remembers my Gonk and starts laughing like it’s the funniest thing in the history of funny things. “Oh yeah, your Gonk!”

In 8th grade, all the girls had to take Home-Ec and the boys had to take shop. Some boys took Home-Ec just to flirt with the girls; and some girls took shop. But only the “hard” girls.

In Home-Ec we learned to cook and babysit and sew. At least we were supposed to learn cook and babysit and sew. We made these little egg-shaped, Humpty Dumpty things called Gonks. Mine turned out all lumpy and crooked and ugly and not at all how it was supposed to look and at 11:00 p.m. the night before it was due I was tired and cranky and frustrated and crying and asking my mother why I wasn’t good at anything and Eldest and Smartest were good at everything and how it’s not fair and my mom told me to quit being so dramatic while she ripped out seams, re-sewed, re-stuffed, and re-created my Gonk.

Even with my mom’s help, I still only got a B. When Eldest made her Gonk, she got an A+. Smartest got an A- and cried for two days about it. I was very grateful for the B. My mom was a little disappointed though.

Michele is still laughing. “Yeah,” she says. “You definitely shouldn’t join FHA!”

On the other hand, if I don’t want to be an old maid, maybe FHA is a good idea. I’ll have to think about that. I do NOT want to be an old maid. That would be the worst.

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