The nightmare. I had it again last night. I wake up in a cold sweat shaking. It has been my most prevalent dreams for many years, but it’s always the same dream I never seem to resolve. It takes place in 1965 during the Viet Nam war, but mine carries no war terrors that have plagued war veterans for years.

It’s graduation time at Oak Glen and we are being given a list of the order in which we will walk. My friends, Joanne Rosso, Barbara Glass, Tim Stover, Phyllis Murray and the late Bob Mayhew are all looking for their name. I look for my name. It is not there. How can be? I’m a member of the National Honor Society, just like all my friends. I’m an A and B student. How can this be?

Then it hits me. I flunked gym my freshman year of high school. I was short those credits. Did I not show up for gym class and miss too many classes? Nope. I attended every single one that semester. Did I not participate in games and excercise? I did even though I never got the concept of girls not being able to dribble in basketball. My problem was that I discovered standards were different for boys then for girls and somewhere in my brain “inequity” exploded. Remember this was beginning of the women’s movement and we were just discovering about ways we were treated in an unequal manner.

This skinny, 14-year-old had a bad perm, horn rimmed glasses, and had never had a boy friend. But she was in fact “the best little girl in the whole world.” She had two loving parents who indulged her every wish and she never gave up trying to be like everyone else. She went to hi teen every week for two years and kept going back despite being the only girl never asked to dance.

My brain blew up in gym class and I truly think social conscious was waiting for room to creep in. Each Monday we lined up in our bloomer one-piece uniforms for inspection. They were to be taken home over the weekend to be washed and ironed. I had forgotten and I got a demerit. The shame of it all drove me to start polling my fellow classmates. No, boys were not checked for either washing or ironing their gym suit. I remember excusing myself from class and instead of going to the restroom, peering through the little window to boys’ gym class so I could see for myself. Nope, just attendance. I became so angry. Then I hatched a plan.

If the boys didn’t have to wash and iron their gym suits, surely the double standard of girls having to do it would be pointed out by me if I refused to wash and iron my gym suit. And so that’s what I did. Each Monday we would line up and Flo Litman (I now viewed her as Flo) would mark a demerit for me. I told my parents my plan and my Dad understood; my Mom tried to focus on other things like a new couch or drapes. So, when it was time to visit the principal’s office, it was my Dad who went with me. It was he who put his hand on my shaking shoulder to steady me. I felt his warm, steady belief in me that I was right through his hand and I would not give in. No, the school needed to fix this. Dad and I offered an alternative. Just make both the boys and girls wash them……no ironing for either. Joe Endry, the principal, appeared to consider, but never agreed. At the end of the semester I had flunked gym Got A’s and B’s on most things, but a F on gym.

I could tell you it was my moment in the sun. Not by a long shot. I was my moment in a smelly gym suit that by the end of the semester had mold in the crevices and friends who stood two feet away from me when we lined up cause I smelled so bad. But, I was on a set path and what would I have thought of myself had I jumped shift.

My Sophomore, Junior were great and I had long forgotten my rebellion. I had convinced my Mom, a permanent was not my look; I got the first pair of contacts in the school; and I had a boyfriend. And the 100 lbs. had taken on a shape. All was goodl

The gotcha moment came my Senior year, when then Oak Glen principal, E. Russel Slack, called me into his office and told me I wasn’t going to graduate because of that failed gym class. My Dad came to school the next day and we worked out that the second semester I would take gym in the morning and gym in the afternoon so I could graduate. That was year Oak Glen was built and it was cold and icy as I scuttled back to the totally detached classrooms with wet hair, both in the AM and PM(My estimate is that my hair wasn’t dry my entire second semester.)

And, I graduated with my friends, an honor student. But, don’t think for a second that when they fit us for cap and gown, I didn’t have a moment of “We don’t have one for you.” And, when they printed out the lineup, I was panic-stricken until I saw my name. Did I feel victory that I had done it. No, I felt that the system had put me in my place, but I had grown in respect for myself and my Dad who told me I was fighter and we had a whole new redecorated house thanks to my Mom.

So many things have changed in the years that followed and I have had so many opportunities to fight; sponsor legislation and vote for equity for women that I often forget about my first foray into protest…….until I have that nightmare