By Paula Danziger. Published 1974.
Y’all, Marcy Lewis has some major self-esteem issues. She calls herself the blimp, thinks she has a raging case of contagious acne, and says things like, ”I didn’t like to embarrass anyone by having them be seen talking to me.” Aww. I just want to give her a hug.
Obviously, nobody likes to change for gym class, but Marcy particularly hates it, and refuses to, making up all sorts of excuses. She takes zeros for every class.
In English one day, they get a new teacher, Ms. Barbara Finney. She is awesome, and everyone likes her. She gives assignments like,” What does communication mean to you?” She starts an after school club, Smedley, and focus on feelings and getting to know themselves. At their first meeting, they really get acquainted with one another, even though they’ve all known each other since kindergarten. Marcy gets paired up with Joel, a smart and cute boy. Marcy can barely talk, but she gets through it.
Things aren’t good for Marcy at home. Her dad is a major asshole. He doesn’t hit, but he tells Marcy she’s fat and stupid. Douche. Her mother comforts her, but tells her she should lose some weight and look like everyone else.
Smedley continues to do good things for Marcy, though. She realizes people can actually like her.
But one day they walk into English class to a substitute. The principal comes in and tells them Ms. Finney will not be returning. Joel and Marcy stand up to him, everyone applauds, and the whole class gets detention. Joel says he’ll ask his father, who’s on the school board, what really happened. He calls Marcy that night, and tells her Ms. Finney got suspended for not saying the Pledge of Allegiance, but that really a lot of people just didn’t like her.
There’s going to be a hearing about the situation, but before that, the kids rally the troops. They have a meeting, and come up with a bunch of ideas, most of them ridiculous, but they realize that. One thing they will do is getting a bunch of kids to refuse to leave homeroom. They elect Marcy, Joel, Marcy’s friend Nancy, and a boy named Robert as representatives. But before they can put their plan into action, they get called to the principal’s office, where their parents are waiting. They get suspended for ten days, and aren’t allowed on school property. The parents, except for Robert’s mother, are proud of the kids, though. But Marcy’s mom is worried about her dad. And no, he is not thrilled about this. He’s especially pissed that her mom is taking Marcy’s side.
But Marcy is actually pretty happy. Joel has been talking to her a lot, and asked her to a party Nancy is having, so she has that to focus on when her dad’s being an asshole.
For the party, Marcy gets a new purple pants suit. It’s the seventies, y’all. Joel picks her up, and gets grilled by her father. They just laugh it off, though. At the party, Joel doesn’t want to dance, he just wants to talk. He tells Marcy about his parents divorce, and his mother living in Colorado, married to a principal like theirs. Then they break out the beer. Nancy says her parents are so happy she’s not smoking dope that beer is ok. Awesome parenting skills. But Joel thinks the party’s getting out of hand, so they leave and talk some more. Joel kisses her on the forehead, like her mother does when she tucks her in. She says, “So much for my career as a sex fiend.” Ha!
Joel asks Marcy to come along to buy his mother a birthday present. He picks out this truly awful pin, because he doesn’t like her. Then he spends the day with Marcy and her little brother.
The day of the hearing comes, and Marcy’s father tries to keep her and her mother from going. He even takes a part of the engine out of the car. But they just ride with Nancy’s family.
At the hearing, they have go through a whole bunch of other business first. Then they get to the good stuff. The principal, Mr. Stone, speaks first. He’s against Ms. Finney because she dresses differently and her teaching is nontraditional, in addition to the Pledge of Allegiance thing. Ms. Finney gets up to defend herself, and is basically all, damn right, I’m different, what of it? Then she says she salutes the flag, but won’t say the Pledge because she doesn’t believe this country gives liberty to all its citizens. Fair enough.
The Board meets to make their decision, and the kids get to talk to Ms. Finney. She tells them to remember everything she’s taught them, and tells Marcy she’s grown a lot, and is proud of her.
The Board comes back with their decision, and say that under the law, they have to reinstate her. But Ms. Finney gets up and says that this issue has divided the community so much that she doubts she could be effective, and resigns.
Marcy and Joel are shocked and upset. Joel even says he hates her. But his dad understands, saying it reminds Joel of his mom leaving him. Marcy mom says the situation has helped them both to grow.
In the month after the hearing, a lot changed. Marcy’s mother began taking night classes at the local college. Marcy no longer thinks she’s a blimp, but a helium balloon. She and Joel have a very good friendship, but no romance.
Some things haven’t changed. She still hates her father, he barely even talks to her. And she’s flunking gym for the year.
She’s also seeing a psychologist. It’s not as good as Smedley, but it helps.
o Marcy’s excuses: -the cat ate her gymsuit, of course
-her little brother misplaced his security blanket and
is using her gymsuit instead.
-she was mugged on the way to school by a syndicate
specializing in stolen gymsuits.
-she gave her gymsuit away to a starving orphan who
needed it to trade for a bowl of rice.
o Marcy’s little brother, Stuart, is awesome. He’s attached to his teddy bear, Wolf, and he keeps him healthy by putting orange pits through a hole in his head.
o Honestly, I used to not know what a gymsuit was. I just thought it was your gym uniform. But no, it’s one of these lovelies:
Please tell me if you had to wear one of these atrocities.