Chapter 7, Notre Dame High School Puberty
I got good grades in grade school, partly due to my isolation keeping
distractions away. In eighth grade I and the other twenty five girls in class
took the Notre Dame High School entrance exam.
Notre Dame was the exclusive all girl Catholic high school in downtown San Jose. I was one of two in my class accepted. I went because Mom was ecstatic, because I was proud I was one of only 2 selected but also because I was shy of attending public high school where I would be a stranger
Notre Dame was close to Mom's work so we rode the bus together. I earned its
tuition babysitting and working summers and made my school uniform which was
simple enough, a checkered long skirt with a white blouse. The home spun marked
me as one who couldn’t afford a downtown Hart's Department Store school
uniform. I didn’t care. I looked down at the other girls as I knew few could
make theirs and was proud I could.
Between thirteen and sixteen I experienced puberty, sprouting to full height but ended up too dark, skinny and with big lips and slanted eyes. My siblings prior to puberty called me frog or rubber lips due to my full lips then started calling me bean pole and duck because I was skinny with a long neck. Dad corrected them saying I was his swan but this confirmed my neck was too long. I tried to keep my lips pursed and my head down between shoulders.
At school it was different, at first I was simply slant eyes. I made the mistake after hearing it too often and stuck out my long extendable tongue in response. Thereafter I was Cobra, a snake. I tried to ignore this name tag, kept my tongue in but it stuck and my hated nickname was Cobra in high school.
While “slant eyes”, I never experienced racial prejudice in school or the neighborhood, at least that I could recognize. There were few blacks in the area and none in school but the racial mix blended otherwise from white to dark brown. There were many Portuguese, Mexicans even a few Italians darker than me. I considered being Asian as being superior.
In Catholic school it was explained we were all part of God’s mystical body, each a piece of a larger whole. The “slant eyes” was similar to a “big ears” name tag. The tag “Cobra” bothered me more.
Initially my sex education consisted of misinformed school girl gossip,
seeing dogs copulate and farm yard roosters tear out the back feathers of hens.
I assumed people were stuck together by the male's penis awhile after sex like
dogs were. Mom frequently admonished me not to let boys "touch me" or
I would get pregnant. Neither she nor the nuns ever talked about touching
details or my changing body. I purchased my first bra as well as Kotex without
direction from Mom.
This was not unusual back then; one didn't talk about "those things".
I was prepared for menstruation from girls whispering about it at school and
it occurring for me after most. The girls also explained what boy part had to
touch my part to get pregnant. Still for a year I thought it only took one
"touch" and bam you were pregnant. In my sophomore year things got
clearer by secretly reading books with sketchy diagrams at the downtown library
and by some girls who were "experts". They openly talked about sex,
claiming, they had done it.
Despite being thin my breasts developed full or at least fuller than
expected for the rest of me. As they grew they itched, tingled and ached. Lying
in bed at night, cupping them in my hands as I fell asleep, I wondered when
they would stop growing. I knew they were visible as my family looked away from
them when talking to me.
When I walked past boys they stared at them with some making comments. The first time a boy whistled I didn’t understand why. Once I learned I was the object of their whistle I assumed it was my long neck. After a few cat calls I realized my breasts were the object of attention. Turning brown red and quickly walking away encouraged them. It was my first sense of sexual power but I did not think of it as such. Instead I felt a distancing from my family and suspected their being large, like my long neck was another deformity.
I carried my school Pee Che folder in front to hide them and avoid whistles.