If the scrambly porn from my adolescence was any indication (remember that? Scrambly, pre-internet porn?) the sexy schoolgirl is a pretty popular trope. Having been a Catholic schoolgirl for 5 years, though, I’ve never really understood the fantasy. That might be because high school was not exactly the most sensual time for me. My 7th grade sex ed teacher was an old Irish woman who reeked of B.O. The Miracle of Life, a 1983 video we were forced to watch in biology class made orgasms look about as exhilarating as having the mucus of a dozen people dumped on you (though maybe some people are into that. No judgment.) Desiring titillation and autodidactism, I often resorted to sitting on the john in my parents’ bathroom, pretending to go #2 so I could read the copy of Everything You Always Wanted to Know about Sex (But Were Afraid to Ask) they kept hidden under back issues of Catholic Digest. Are things happening in your undies yet? Didn’t think so.
But it’s really the fascination with the schoolgirl uniform I don’t understand since I donned one every day to my coed high school and trust me, from initial acquisition to eventual accessorization, that thing couldn’t get you laid.
Let’s start with the obvious, feminist/common-sense reason, and then go with the funny, light-hearted ones, shall we?
This requires no further explanation. It’s gross. Come on, now.
2. Parents ARE invited to the party.
My uniform was pretty standard; you might even call it “progressive” given that it wasn’t the typical blazer, tie, Oxford shirt, slacks combination. This was probably for the best since the Dead Poets Society boys had already made that look about as perfect as it was going to get. The school knew we couldn’t compete with that. Instead, we had the choice of different tops including Oxford shirts, sure, but also turtlenecks, long and short-sleeved polos, sweaters, sweater-vests, and probably other standard Gap-fare I’ve blocked out. You couldn’t buy your uniform just anywhere at anytime, though. Nope, your uniform was special and so you and your parents had to go to a special store at a special time to get your clothes. (THE MOST EXPENSIVE STORE IN THE WORLD – Ed.) Your special someone would then overhear your mom expressing shock over the fact you’d gone up two dress sizes and were in need of new pants, virtually eliminating any possibility Special Someone would try to get into yours.
Girls had the option of wearing navy blue slacks or a kilt. The jury would’ve decided which one was worse by now if they weren’t too busy still laughing at how hopelessly awkward we all looked (and not in a cool Annie Hall way). The kilt put the “ugg” in “suggestive,” often falling inches below the knee, pre-massive-hem-job. And I don’t know who designed our pants, but they bulged at the hips, which was great since no teenager in the history of the world has ever been body conscious. It’s amazing anyone in my school ever dated, really, since every last one of us looked bad in them. My mom eventually became a co-conspirator in my efforts to appear halfway decent at school, buying me nearly identical pants at Zellers. How unflattering is a pair of pants when ones from ZELLERS (RIP) looked better? I should also mention that they were made of some synthetic fiber that offered no protection against Canadian winters, yet somehow made us extra sweaty when the June heat rolled into town. Summer lovin’ is pretty hard when your crotch smells like wet dog dreams.
Refusing to be outdone by our pants, the fabric for our shirts was so thin it was practically sheer, forcing the school to ban dark-coloured bras for modesty’s sake. Mordecai Richler once wrote “A broad in a black brassiere meant business.” In my school, it meant the principal’s office. Only practical, white bras were accepted. Beige was tolerated. You know, the racy stuff you always wear when you’re trying to seduce someone. There was also a weird correlation between our choice of uniform shirts and our romantic lives – this related to the hickey. Ah yes, the result of school dances laced with wine coolers, the hickey could be a bruise of shame for some, a badge of honour for others. But hiding it was impossible, no matter what you wore. A buttoned-down Oxford revealed your love burn, but so did wearing a turtleneck more than two days in a row. (Yes, I did notice, and no, I didn’t have anything better to do.) My uniform didn’t allow for any discretion – we knew what you were up to, and frankly, we were pretty jealous.
I should’ve gotten detention way more times than I did, which was zero (Catholic schoolgirls who never got detention, unite – Ed.) I was often late for class and was kind of a smart ass with my teachers and would sometimes fall asleep at my desk before I discovered coffee. I was always able to charm my way out of it, but to be fair, getting detention at our school didn’t necessarily mean you were a badass. It might just mean that you were parading around like a heathen with your shirt only half-tucked in. Or that your socks were the wrong shade of blue (i.e. not navy.) Or that you’d forgotten to bring white socks to change into for gym class and had tried to convince your teacher that this wasn’t a big deal because you planned on putting so little effort into gym class that there was no way you were going to break a sweat (man, gym teachers are touchy.) Such offenses were enough to send you to the after-school slammer as opposed to making your parentless house your den of love (until they came home).
Making the uniform one’s own took some doing. For some reason, I was convinced that flashy, often ugly ties were the pinnacle of cool. I used to shop church bazaars to get my hands on those bad boys. I don’t know if I thought they were sexy, but I did like the attention I got from one guy who stopped me by grabbing by shoulders in the hallway, telling me I wasn’t allowed to wear a red and white polka dot tie with a short-sleeved polo. I hoped he was looking for an excuse to touch me; turned out he was speaking on behalf of fashion. And though many of us tried to add our own flair to our uniforms through accessories, it was tough to predict which ones would be banned from week to week as this depended largely on how gaudy, cheap, or pro-marijuana they were. Someone in my school, who no doubt works at NASA right now, figured out that unconventional layering was the answer. Put a turtleneck under a polo! Or an Oxford! Wear a v-neck sweater over any anything with white sleeves! We were young and reckless! It’s just dawning on me now that the people who layered were often the ones who got laid. Hmm…So…maybe it wasn’t all bad. And maybe I was wrong. Maybe the uniform could open the door to sexy times…provided those times involve putting on more clothes as opposed to taking them off.
Go forth and sin no more.