Practicing penmanship in 5th grade outranked talking to boys as a right of passage at Immaculate Conception grammar school in the 1950s in Elmhurst, IL
Our teachers, the Sisters of St. Agnes, didn’t forbid cross-gender conversation so much as they kept our attention riveted on something that symbolized coming-of-age much better: Cursive writing.
We started young with print letters on lined paper, serious paper not for drawing pictures on. Circles and sticks. Circles and sticks. The trick was getting the circle for the “o” and the “c” and the baby “a” to sit on the line and not fall off it in a blob. The trick was to add a stick for the “b” and the “p” and that rascal “q” and then we made families with the capital “C” hugging the little “c.”
Like any alternative to dull, by the time we had done this every day for a very very long while, cursive assumed magical allure.
Like any allure, this proved less alluring in practice. The serious whitish paper had skinnier lines. The letters were lovely but they slanted forward and exhibited a certain disdain for sitting on the lines.
But, OH! Those fancy upper case “Gs” and “Fs” and even “Qs” My name started with an “M” which was a disappointment but I did my best to give my “M” some pizazz. I liked cursive. Still do.