I knew it. I just knew it. The minute they called me down to the office that Monday morning, I knew what was up. I was getting sucked into The Program.
The Program? Oh, that's this thing we have here at Westport High. Its full name is the Naked In School Program. Yup, those of us "lucky" enough to be chosen to go into the program have to be naked, completely, in school, for a full week. We also get the chance to go through all kinds of shame and humiliation. This is designed, you see, to "teach respect" and to "foster the students' confidence." Yeah. Right.
Maybe I shouldn't say that-because it apparently has worked that way at Central High. That's where this whole thing started. That's a school about 50 miles away from here, and they've been doing it for about ten years. Apparently, over there, it has taught respect, and has fostered confidence. Maybe they just have a better class of student over there, or something-because it hasn't worked here.
This would be the third year we tried it. It was the beginning of the third week in school, and they don't do it the first two weeks, so I'd be one of the first this year. Oh joy. They've tried it, the first two years, on just the Juniors and Seniors, so this would be the first year my class was eligible (I'm a Junior this year). They're doing it in all four grades this time, hoping that would help. And I understand they've made a few other changes as well.
Because, as I said, the first two years haven't been good. One of the problems has been that parents can "opt out" of their kids taking part-and it seemed all the kids that weren't opted out were the geeks, the loners, the outcasts. Kids that get humiliated to begin with. Having them be the ones going through The Program seemed to be just another road to their humiliation. There was a lot of harassment, a lot of teasing, and rumors of at least one attempted rape. I do know that two girls that went through it had to be hospitalized afterwards. You'd think the administration would get the hint. Nope-they just keep hearing all these glowing reports from Central, and keep buying into it. But nobody was learning "respect" and I don't think being harassed and assaulted is going to help your confidence any.
Which brings me to my problem-who else was buying into those glowing reports from Central. Namely, my parents. They were all worried about my confidence, so they volunteered me. Over my strenuous objections, I might add. They didn't listen. Unfortunately, one of the kids that went through it last year that was one of the few to have a good experience was my older sister's best friend. My parents knew that, too. "It'll help your confidence. You're too shy." Blah blah blah.
Look, I'm not a geek, not really-by that, I mean I don't get harassed. I'm not in the popular clique, but I have my group of friends, and I get along with just about everyone. I don't get picked on, and most people like me well enough. I get good grades, but I'm not known as a "brain". I'm an ordinary guy with a fair-to-middling social life. No serious complaints, really.
But my parents are convinced I'm scared of girls.
There's some truth to that-I'll get back to that later-but what I'm trying to figure out is how, exactly, parading nude in front of the entire student body is supposed to cure me of being scared of the female half of that student body. Nobody's explained that leap of logic to my satisfaction yet.
Anyhow-I'm scared of girls to a point, but what I really am is scared of girl. Singular. As in one particular. I've had a crush on the same girl since seventh grade. I'm scared to talk to her. Because she is wildly popular-probably the best-liked kid in the class. Plus she's beautiful, smart, and very sweet. I've had it bad for a long time. My parents don't know that, of course-they think my complete and utter failure to garner a date ever is due to some paralysis over the whole female species. Well, it's not, not really. I have friends that are girls. I can talk to them. It's just romantic entanglements scare me-and that's all bound up with this one girl.
And, very shortly, if I don't miss my guess, that one girl is going to see…me…NAKED.
Shit. Shit shit shit shit.
There are days when I hate my parents.
Anyhow, there was no getting out of it. I trudged to the principal's office, resigned to my fate. I turned the knob, opened the door, and stepped in. And just about swallowed my tongue. Because Mr. Tilling, the principal, was behind his desk…and sitting across from him…shit shit SHIT…was Amanda Frazier.
This just got a WHOLE hell of a lot WORSE.
I got to school that Monday morning, and went immediately to Mr. Tilling's office. I knew I was going to be chosen for The Program that week. Mr. Tilling had discussed it with me previously.