“On Wednesdays wear a skirt. A skirt is better for dancing. After school, remember not to take the bus. Go to McDonald’s instead. Order the fries. Don’t even bother trying to sit with Patricia and Cara. Instead, try to sit with Sasha and Toni Sue. If they won’t let you, try to sit with Andrea Shaw. And if Andrea Shaw gets up and throws away the rest of her fries rather than sit with you, sit alone and do not look at anyone. Particularly not the boys. If you do not look at them, they may not notice you sitting alone. And if they don’t notice you sitting alone, there is still a chance that one of them will ask you to dance.
“At three-thirty stand outside with the others and take the Number Seven bus uptown. Get off when they all get off. Be sure to do this. Do not stare out the window and lose yourself. You will end up riding out to the edge of town past the rusted gas-storage tanks and you will never find the right bus home. Pay attention. Do not let the strap of your training bra slip out the armhole of your short-sleeved shirt. Do not leave your bag on the bus. As you cross the street, take a look at the public high school. The kids there will be eating long sticks of Roman candy and leaning on the chain-link fence. Do they look as if they care who dances with whom, or what steps you’ll learn this week? News flash: they do not. Try to understand that there’s a world larger than the one you inhabit. If you understand that, you will be far ahead of Patricia and Cara.”
—Julie Orringer, “Note to Sixth-Grade Self”
Illustration Credit Marta Antelo