Lessons Learned in Short Skirts


            At five foot one and one hundred and five pounds, I was built like a little boy at sixteen, but I had very shapely legs. My mother had spent my childhood worrying that I would inherit the piano legs some of my paternal cousins had. I didn’t. Miniskirts and short dresses were made for me. I could flash my best feature to the world. Girls were not allowed to wear slacks in my conservative Central Maine high school, so the clothing controversy with administration focused on how short a skirt one could get away with wearing. Teachers would make girls kneel on the floor, and if one’s skirt was more than an inch from hitting the tiles, the skirt and the wearer would be sent home to change.

            Then to muddle the battle, mini dresses started being sold with matching bloomers to wear underneath them. It was the same concept as the pants worn under the short uniforms of the cheerleaders whom everyone adorned and approved of at varsity games. Girls had a solid argument here, and we were allowed to wear very short skirts if we could display matching bloomers tucked under them. It was wonderful, and I would freeze walking to school in the name of mini dress fashion to show off my nice legs.

            The fall of 1968, our history class was taught by a young, controversial instructor who chose to teach us about Vietnam history instead of the curriculum given to him. We students loved him. He asked several of us girls to go to the Democratic State Convention in Augusta with him. We were all supporting the peace candidate Eugene McCarthy and were thrilled to be involved with politics in an adult way. He also asked us to wear our very shortest mini dresses. I had planned to wear my jeans and a tee shirt which was the “flower children for McCarthy informal uniform,” but I wore a very short green, paisley dress with puffy bloomers instead. We were assigned to pass out flyers at the front doors of the civic center where the convention was being held. I started feeling somewhat uncomfortable after several older male delegates leered at me and my legs as they grabbed a flyer from me.

In the afternoon, our teacher brought us to a hotel room to decorate it. Delegates would be caucusing in there, he told us. We watched as boxes and boxes of liquor bottle were brought in. I naively asked one man what all the alcohol was for. He laughed and said that was how they would loosen up the delegates and get votes as he gazed at my thighs instead of looking me in my face.

That evening we were in the balcony of the convention hall chanting McCarthy’s name as Hubert Humphrey was introduced. Security guards shuttled us all outside, and we stood in the rain shivering until our van finally appeared to take us back home. I began to question our history teacher’s motives somewhat, but not for long as he was dismissed from his position after being accused of teaching Communism. The next year, my senior year of high school, the administration gave in and let girls wear slacks. Life was more comfortable and warmer.