birds in a barrel's mission is to release creative nonfiction into the wild.

40 Days & 40 Writes is its first project.

Obeying the Rules

There wasn’t a uniform, but there were rules. A book of them that outlined how we would dress and how we would act—our curfew, etc. The book was handed out at freshman orientation, and we were expected to learn it. We, the flower of Southern womanhood, must always wear a dress or skirt to class. Pants or shorts were only allowed at casual, off-campus events, and a raincoat must be worn over them at all times.

Sunday rules were more specific. A hat and heels must be worn to Sunday dinner/lunch at the cafeteria (of course, you were coming from church so that wouldn’t be a problem). There [were] penalties for breaking the rules.

Upperclass girls showed us how to skirt them. I’d sleep late on Sunday, roll up my pajamas under my raincoat, put on a pair of heels, and stuff my hair in rollers under a hat and head for the fried chicken. I was obeying the rules.

One spring evening in my junior year, Gloria Steinem spoke on campus at the outside amphitheater. She held up our rule book and said, “This is illegal.” She explained that any school taking federal funding couldn’t have separate rules for men and women. The next fall, there were no more rules and no more rule book.

Anne Rivers Siddons once wrote, “There is nothing more innocent that a young Southern woman.”


Denim and Wool