Let me tell you a little story about my childhood.
In order to fully appreciate this story, you have to understand a little about what six year-old Tracy was like.
Six year-old Tracy was the new kid at St. Joseph’s Catholic School that year. I had knee socks and pig-tails and really hairy legs because my dad is Indian, so I can’t help it, OK? I was the kid whose hand would shoot up in the air immediately after the teacher asked a question, my fingers waving and twitching, my bottom halfway off the seat, levitating from the energy of knowing the exact right answer before anyone else. Often the teacher didn’t call on me, which was weird, because while I was waving my hand in the air I would say things like “ooh ooh ooohhh, meeeee” to let her know I would make it worth her while. I don’t know what her problem was. Anyhow, I also had a major sweet tooth, which has carried over into my adulthood and has also been genetically passed down to my daughter.** As an adult, I have been known to eat fudge for dinner. Being able to eat fudge for dinner has turned out to be one of the only good things about being an adult so far.
So when Jason Nelson stood up at the front of the classroom and said, “If anyone can tell me what this word spells, I will give you my cupcake”, my ears perked up. Cupcake? Spelling? Two of my favorite things.
Then he proceeded to spell the word:
Never one to shy away from a challenge, I got to work sounding it out, just like the purple two-headed monster on Sesame Street taught me. “A” made a sound like “apple”–I silently repeated the sound “a–a–a” in my head. On to the next letter….I had to hurry! I couldn’t let someone else win that cupcake! It looked homemade too! Luckily the letter “S” had recently been the letter of the day on Sesame Street, so I was well studied. I silently made a hissing “s” sound in my head, and then quickly but efficiently started to scootch the two sounds together, sounding it out ever so carefully.
ASS!! ASS!! ASS!! I jumped to my feet and exclaimed the word with great enthusiasm. And the room went silent. All eyes were on me, as I beamed from ear to ear and strutted up front to receive my cupcake.
But the temperature in the room had changed. My classmates were staring at me, mouths agape, as I peeled the paper wrapper off the bottom of Jason Nelson’s cupcake. It didn’t take too long to figure out that they were more shocked than awed, except I had no idea what I had done wrong. All I knew was that I felt suddenly ashamed, which totally ruined the spontaneous spelling bee for me, not to mention putting a damper on my cupcake enjoyment.
I don’t remember how I learned the truth about my faux-pas. And I’m sad to say it wasn’t my first experience with food shame, nor was it my last. However, I have been able to do the psychological work necessary to push past this painful memory and boldly eat cupcakes without fear. And sometimes I eat fudge for dinner.
*Where on earth were the teachers while this was happening, you ask? It was 1981, we ate lunch in our classrooms because our school did not have a cafeteria, and there was one teacher who would make periodic rounds to all of the 1st-3rd grade classrooms while the other teachers smoked cigarettes in the teacher’s lounge, which meant that a bunch of 1st graders spent much of their 30 minute lunch unsupervised. Ahhhh—the 80’s.
**This is my daughter. She inherited my sweet tooth but thankfully lives her life completely unencumbered, with ZERO cupcake shame.