First Day of 5th Grade

conversations with hank


(the night before the first day of 5th grade)

Me: I think we have settled on an outfit.

Hank: What do you think, papa?

Pai: You look nice! My only criticism is I think you could loose the scarf.

Hank: (hand to his chest in shock)

Me: We built the whole outfit around the scarf.

Pai: And it is a great outfit, but I think it’s too much.

Hank: (shoulders slump, walks back into his bedroom) Okay.

Me: (follows) HOLD ON! Pause. Wait a second.


Me: Hank, what is your opinion?

Hank: I like the scarf.

Me: And what is the worst thing that could happen on the first day of school if you rock a scarf as an accessory rather than a winter necessity?



Me: Some kids may tease you.

Hank: That’s fine. That happens all the time anyway.

Pai: But I don’t like hearing that. I don’t like that kids tease you.

Me: If you don’t want to wear the scarf I support you, if you want your new scarves to be weekend wear I totally understand, but in my VAST experience of being fashion forward in school while my Midwestern American classmates followed the trends like religion I can tell you a well placed comeback is all you need.

Hank: SO I can be sassy at school?

Me: Just never with me and never to teachers.

Hank: Okay.

Me: Way back in my school days I was giving a presentation. I think I was probably 14 or 15. I was wearing an electric blue with white pipping trim, rayon, floor length 70’s disco-tastic dress with a contrarian graphic t-shirt over top, high slouchy socks, combat boots and far too much eyeliner. My presentation was on 1920’s fashion and when I had finished I opened the floor to questions and this one boy (deep annoyed sigh over 20 years later) who considered in a sport to make my every day a living hell raised his hand and asked insultingly why was I giving a presentation on fashion and had I even looked in a mirror before leaving the house.

Hank: In front of everyone?

Me: In front of everyone.

Hank: What did you do?

Me: I didn’t skip a beat and I informed him, bringing the attention back to my presentation that my skirt, although the correct length for the 1920’s conservative fashion, had far too much give and flow to be of the era since the 1920’s were either short and structure-less or long and constricting.

Hank: What happened?

Me: My teacher applauded me and gave me an A.

Hank: What about the boy? What about your colleagues?

Me: They were irrelevant. I got the A. I liked my outfit, I felt confident and I nailed my presentation. I didn’t take his insult personally because he obviously either had extremely low self-esteem or he was jealous that I was too fabulous to want or need his approval.

Hank: But you’re a writer. I’m not good at sassy things to say when I am not at home.

Me: Pro-tip: always tell the truth. Look at the facts and apply them with confidence. Let’s roll play.

Hank: What’s roll play?

Me: A fancy, more grown-up and professional way of saying pretend.

Hank: Oh.

Me: You be a loser who has some nonsense to say about your scarf and I will be you.

Hank: Okay. (clears throat) Hey, Hank? What’s up with that stupid scarf?

Me: (quarter turn so I am looking over my shoulder as if I have no time) It’s cold, it’s foggy and I walked here. (pantomime walking away)

Hank: That’s so good and that’s true! I will walk to school tomorrow.

Me: The best jokes and the best insults work because they are true.

Hank: No one is going to say anything about my scarf tomorrow because it is only Year 5 orientation and so they are all my colleagues, but on Thursday I may take papa’s advice, because all the upper class kids will be there and I will be too nervous to have to also deal with nonsense and nerves.

Me: No one ever called you dumb.

Hank: (fidgeting with his scarf) Not one day.