A Penmanship Story

When I was in the 5th grade, my teacher Mr. D., held up something that I had written and informed the class that I had the best penmanship. He said that he had been teaching for 30 years and that it was the best that he had ever seen for a 10 year old.

At first I was proud. And then the taunting started.

Haha, you write like a girl!

How is that possible? I didn’t dot my i’s with hearts. I didn’t add little curliques to any of the letters. I just wrote the way that I was taught.

About a week later it happened again. Mr. D. made a comment about my penmanship. This time the comment was accompanied by a pat on the head. A pat on the head commensurate with the kiss of death.

I endured another few days of torture during recess. Being pushed into the dirt and being called ‘sissy’ was pretty much the worst of it. I had been proud of my writing skills, but now I hated the fact that I had penmanship that could rival the flourishing technique found in a Victorian missive.

I decided to do something about it. I started writing poorly. Illegible. Instead of taking my time and making each letter absolutely perfect, I started writing like I was a physician who had to scribble out 100 prescriptions within a one minute timeframe.

Mr. D. was not pleased.

I wanted to tell him why I was doing it.

Praise me because of a winning touchdown or homerun…not because of my ‘Scarlet O’hara writing a love letter to Ashley Wilkes’ penmanship.


Eventually, the whole penmanship thing faded. School ended. Summer happened. I went into the sixth grade.

Sometimes I wonder what my penmanship would be like if that whole incident never happened. I still go out of my way to NOT write ‘pretty’.

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