I have always been an ace speller. When I was in school it was simply an article of faith that girls were good at spelling and boys weren’t. If a boy was even suspected of being a good speller, his very manhood was thrown into question. This attitude still prevails among men of my generation.
I truly believe many of them would be less devastated to discover that John Wayne had in fact been gay than to find out he was a whiz at spelling.
I have met a few men in my life who actually could spell – my husband for example. He’s actually a terrific speller, but he compensates for it by writing so illegibly that the correctness of the spelling becomes a moot point. If he had written me love letters, I’d probably still be single.
Anyway, several generations later, school systems around the country in their infinite wisdom decided that the spelling inequity that existed between the sexes, like all other inequities based on gender, should be vigorously stamped out. They were successful beyond their wildest dreams. Now, NOBODY can spell.
Anyway, as I said, I have always been a good speller, a talent which continues to be a source of pride, particularly in today’s orthographically clueless world, but which was once the source of my greatest public humiliation.
I was in eighth grade and a contender for the title in the finals of the All School Spelling Bee. I had come in a respectable third the previous year and fully expected to do even better this time.
When the big day came, I was in the auditorium with the rest of the student body. This time the first casualty, again in the first round, was Darlene, a girl I didn’t particularly like. From the moment she went down in flames I never took my eyes off her. I thought she was going to cry, but then her face unscrewed itself and she sat down, folded her hands in her lap and looked at her shoes. She stayed like that until it was over.
I’d like to say that I was overwhelmed with sympathy for Darlene, but, although I did feel a small pang of pity for her, I was mostly overwhelmed with relief and gratitude that it wasn’t me up there. I knew I had made the right decision not to risk it. I know you are supposed to get back up on that horse after you’ve been thrown, but before you do, you should ask yourself one very important question. “Is it really worth it?”
‘Cause sometimes it just ain’t!