ringers, grease, and technology class: a primer

bike stephanieklein
Look At That S Car Go!

We were in fifth grade, standing on the edge of my front lawn, our bicycles tossed to the ground. "Whaddaya wanna do now?" Leigh asked.

"Let’s be grease monkeys," I said. I wanted to be good at something. It couldn’t be just any old thing. Like making good rainbows with the sprinkler or belting out a decent rendition of Annie’s "Maybe." It had to be surprising and somehow underhanded. Like a pool hall hustler, I wanted to catch people off guard. And in my world "off guard" meant a girl who was good at fixing things. Not patching up relationships or ripped jeans, but a girl who could get all greased lightening.

"What the hell’s a grease monkey?"

"You know, when you wipe your brow with a rag and make like you’re adjusting your ball sack," I said as I rubbed my hands over the loose bicycle chain that had come undone. We examined the dark goop, then I smeared it on my face as if I were a quarterback.

"That’s not gonna work," Leigh said.

She was right. We went upstairs and played my Grease album on a record player. I kept lifting the needle, so we could keep hearing the word tit. That’s as close as I got.

Three years later, we were forced to take a technology class with Mr. Heilbrun, where we studied inventions and inventors, people who surprised you for a living. My favorite inventor? The dude who invented the bra. His name, our teacher told us, was "Caresse.*" Easy mnemonic device. Awesome.

Except, upon looking it up now, I realize I memorized the wrong fact! The bra was invented, not by a man named "caress" but, by a woman named Mary. Oh, the terrible irony. A prissy straight-laced dame named Mary adiosed her whale bone corset in favor of some silk and a pink bow. What a ringer.

* Turns out Caresse Crosby was the business name Mary used for her brassiere production company. Oh well, so I got it wrong. Technology class did, however, finally prove useful. I built a wooden cutting board, and a small race car with an egg strapped in (to test its safety features upon impact). Most of all, though, I learned how to make one surprising thing: a spectacle of myself. A talent I’d carry with me all through the days of my life.

2 YEARS AGO: Hermes Scarves and Babies, Porridge
3 YEARS AGO: Snorting
4 YEARS AGO: Not Quite Palm Beach, Meat Sundaes
5 YEARS AGO: Sob Story



  1. I always thought it was Otto Titzling. Quick call the folks at Trivial Pursuit, they’ve got it wrong!

    1. Wait! Wasn’t Otto Titzling from the play Bette Midler’s character is in in the movie Beaches?

  2. Did you seriously even get the concept of ball sack in 5th grade. I mean I would have known about balls and the other bit, but the conept of a sack to hold the balls is a part that wouldn’t cross into my consciousness til much much later in life… this post was more like the posts that made me love this blog…

  3. “So fun running into you at Perla’s! I have to say, you are so much prettier in person. It’s your personality, I guess. I mean, you just light up a room. Thanks also for your quickie advice!”

  4. How did your bedroom bedding/bed dilemma all work out? Any photos to share?

  5. Love this post. I, too, went through a brief inexplicable phase of wanting to be able to fix things, like an auto mechanic or something. I think mainly because it was the total opposite of the neat little box everyone else seemed to put me in.

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