I had not thought about my junior high school years at Ponce DeLeon Jr High in Coral Gables, Florida until I joined Facebook and received a friend request. Forty five years after going through what I called, ” The Awkward Stage Nightmare”, I found myself reliving those years between 11 and 14. It is no accident that I do not have a single picture of myself at that age to post with this column. Imagine a young girl with bright red hair, a face full of freckles and the ugliest pink horn-rimmed glasses on the planet.

My Mother (may she rest in peace) had the ingenious idea to enroll me in school a year early, a decision that backfired when I entered junior high. Not only was I younger then most of my class, I also had the misfortune of being a “late bloomer”. While all the girls were being fitted for their first bra, ( a junior high school rite of passage), I was still wearing my “camisole” (nice way of saying undershirt) and dreading going to gym class. I still remember a girl named Vicky running her hand down the back of my shirt and screaming for the whole gym to hear, “Debi Nevel doesn’t wear a bra!” To an 11 year old with a chest like a “pirates dream” it was my most traumatizing junior high moment!

To add fuel to the fire, I was blessed with a gorgeous older brother, who with his sandy colored hair and green eyes could charm the braces off any 13 year old girl. I went through what I thought was my 10 minute popular stage only to find out that all the girls really wanted was a chance to sleep over so they could flirt with David. I woke up one night to find one friend (she shall remain nameless though I’m sure my old classmates would love to know) in his room engaged in a heavy kissing a.k.a slobbering session! So much for that friendship! (p.s. David is still a stunner at 60!)


I remember signing up for band and finding out that the only woodwind instruments left to play were the oboe and bassoon. I chose the basso0n because it matched my hair. I actually was good at it and should have continued playing in high school BUT gave it up because it was so heavy to lug around. Stupid decision because female bassoon players are not a dime a dozen and it could have led to a college scholarship. But tell this to a 13 year old whose main goal in junior high was to fade into the woodwork and not be singled out because she was a blazing redhead!
Oh, those were the days! Recently, I saw pictures on Facebook of all the “kids” I haven’t seen in over four decades. They looked absolutely amazing! I understand that they make an effort to keep in touch, get together for lunch and even have “reunions” every 5 years. I am tempted to make the 16 hour trip just to give lots of hugs and let them see for themselves what happened to that geeky little redheaded girl who moved away after 10th grade.

I think now they’ll be happy to let me sit at their lunch table!

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