August 8, 2003

Where's your math book?

Ok, so I've been in and out of town for the past couple of weeks, but I'm back now and ready to blog with a vengeance. In the meantime, I thought I'd start with an interesting tidbit that I learned over the weekend. Last weekend, I had the opportunity to get together with some friends from high school. My high school was a small, Catholic, girls' school on the East Coast. We weren't exactly the "Sisters of Mercy," but I can admit that I was pretty naive compared to most of my classmates. Of course, I didn't realize that until just this past weekend.

A group of four of us gathered for brunch last Sunday morning. Usually at brunch, we go through the usual small chatter including what everyone did in the past two months or so, expectations for coming months, and, of course, gossip about other "Sisters of Mercy" students. I mentioned that I'd heard the voice of a former "SOM" student on NPR. Since her mother is a local broadcaster for a network morning news program, it wasn't a stretch that Emma (names changed to protect the not-so-innocent) was working for NPR. One of my friends responded, though, by asking if Emma mentioned “finding her math book.” The other two women at brunch burst out laughing. I, however, remained mystified. My friend, stunned that I'd never figured it out, let me in on the joke.

In high school, students were required to attend a daily assembly. For 15 to 20 minutes each day, the entire school of 250 women would meet in the general-purpose room for announcements. Students wishing to make an announcement (for example, "Tickets for the prom will be sold in the general purpose room all week." Or “Girl Scout cookies. After school. Be there.”) would stand in line in front of the school and wait their turn to make the announcement over a microphone. Periodically, however, there were sudden and unexplained rashes of lost math books. Most of them all came from the class directly below mine. Sometimes it took two girls to announce one lost math book. For example, Emma would stand up with Carol and say "Um... Carol has lost her math book. This is Carol. If you find Carol's math book, please return it as soon as possible." The room would erupt into unexplained giggling and repressed laughter, while the two women would proudly find their seats among the mass of students sitting cross-legged on the floor.

I never got it. I remember thinking that it was odd that so many people were losing their math book. Then again, I never found it odd enough to ask questions, because I was infamous among my friends for losing things on a near daily basis—books, pens, wallet, usually my keys. Despite my best efforts, I’ve always been absent minded that way.... but I didn't get the joke. As my friends pointed out this weekend, though, "math book" was code for virginity. So, every time a student "lost her math book," she was really announcing that she'd lost her virginity.

So, it turns out it was a good joke… in typical form, I just got the punch line a little later than most. Of course, usually I get it a couple of minutes later, but in this case, it’s taken me nearly 12 years! So, the mystery of the missing math books has been solved. Yet another bit of lore to add to the Catholic school cannon.

Posted by c_jane at August 8, 2003 11:07 AM | TrackBack

I am completely in the same boat and am stunned by how many little jokes I missed when I was in high school - and even college. Actually, even now. Being sheltered isn't a terrible thing, but you do miss more jokes that way!

Posted by: natalie at August 8, 2003 1:54 PM |

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