The year was 1991. I was ten years old and in the fifth grade at Hickory Elementary School in the small (back then), picturesque town of Bel Air, Maryland, where I still live today.
It was our last week of school, which as any kid in the American public school system knows, is usually filled with meaningless activities and bullshit busy work to pass the time and keep students from going crazy until the teachers could start boozing it up and talking shit about us, which is what I always imagined they did when the school year was over.
On this particular day, it was announced to all fifth graders that we were going to watch a film–which, as you know, meant slacking off, socializing, and not giving a shit. Really, there is nothing more high-five worthy than hearing that as a kid during the last few days of elementary school.
So imagine my confusion when they started separating the boys and girls into different groups and herding us into the cafeteria. Why the cafeteria? I don’t really know, but there was one of those old school Super 8 film projectors set up (the kind that makes this familiar noise) and it totally smelled like bad split pea soup in there.
It was clear that something was wrong as soon we took our seats. The usual excited, cheerful student chatter that precedes such an event (and was typically allowed to continue during it) was squashed almost immediately when the lights were dimmed and we were basically told to STFU and listen. And it always meant serious business when Ms. Joan, the lunch lady would come to the assist by banging a plastic tray against the wall to get our attention.
We were given no other preface about the educational film I would later learn was called Growing Up on Broadway other than that it was an “important film” with an “important message” for this “important stage” in our young lives. I think the phrase “developing bodies” was used, but I can’t be sure. Looking around me, it was clear nobody else really knew for sure what that vague introductory speech meant either, but the confusion seemed to ease a little when they also mentioned that the film we were about to watch starred Little Orphan Annie.
“Hey, I know Annie,” I think as my mind conjures up images of Aileen Quinn (who totally had a fro, by the way) prancing around in her little red dress singing “the sun’ll come out Tomorrow…”
Whatever it was I was expecting to watch, it certainly wasn’t a film about a bunch of girls sitting around talking about their periods. But that’s exactly what Growing Up on Broadway is–a film about a bunch of girls sitting around talking about their periods.
There I am in my Ninja Turtles shirt surrounded by other girls who may or may not have have been menstruating watching a film about menstruation and all the wondrous joys therein.
I was curious to know how many others out there were subjected to this mortification so I started Googling. I didn’t find much, but I was grateful for this IMDB user review by “mecassid” which proves I didn’t hallucinate the whole ordeal:
I don’t know whether to feel sorry that her school forced kids to watch this atrocity twice or outraged that the boys at my school were probably watching sports bloopers while we girls suffered through an hour of what is essentially Annie does the Vagina Monologues.
I’m pretty sure this film was supposed to have been the catalyst through which most girls develop whatever gene it is that transforms them into normal, fashion-conscientious women who like to bond over romantic comedies and Lifetime television, but for whatever reason, it had the total opposite effect on me.
I went into the cafeteria that day a naive, ten year old girl and emerged…an even more socially awkward nerd with with hang-ups about my hoo-hoo.
Update 9/18/12 – Nice to see I’m not the only one!