The nuns, they had all kinds of rules, all beginning with the word no. No talking during study hour. No giggling during prayer time. No running in the halls. No running in the stairs. No short skirts. No see-through blouses. No going out on school nights. No going out without permission. No drinking, no smoking. No long phone calls. No visitors after six o’clock. No meat on Fridays. No unladylike shouting, no hanging of underwear in the room, no unmade beds, no gossiping, no staying out after curfew. And the best one of all, no boys.
Ah, I can only imagine the light that went out in my head the moment I realized what I had gotten myself into.
The No Rules were tricky too, since they can be invoked any given time by any nun that you happened to cross swords with. Worse, the rules also mutated into various forms and combinations.
No meat on Fridays, for instance, also meant no bringing in of outside food that had meat in it. No talking during study hours meant that when a Sister pressed that monitor button on the intercom, normal conversation would be amplified by that thing’s microphone, so that we all sounded like we were shouting. And no amount of explaining about the technology of amplification will convince the Sisters otherwise.
No running in the halls and stairs actually meant no running, period. For my restless, close to spontaneous combustion hormones, the No Running rule was torture. I just think stairs were meant for running up and down in. And the halls! The hall floors were so shiny, they just cried out, no, begged to have feet run on them. I was an expert at skidding, that limb-risking maneuver where you execute a swift dash and then let the momentum of your body propel you forward, skidding in those leather Mary Janes. It was such a thrill! That is, up until that moment you skid into a very angry Sister, her red face scrunched up in holy righteousness. No kind words for me there, I tell you.
No phone calls was usually paired with no going out without permission, no visitors, no short skirts, no see-through blouses. And by see-through, they mean see-through by the nuns’ standards, which involves x-ray vision. This particular set of No Rules had to do with—you guessed it—boys.
For the Sisters, boys were the root of all evil. Oh yes, bar none, boys were the sure ticket to hell. And while at that time, boys we not really high on my priority list, I do admit I found them vaguely interesting. The gutsier ones would give me chocolates and then call me up at the dorm, where the phone after 5PM was brought inside the nuns’ cloister. For some strange reason a couple of the Sisters took a liking to me, and allowed me to accept phone calls in the early evenings. But they knew it was a boy I was speaking with, and they would look at me forlornly. They would angle their heads just so, in a silent but most eloquent reprimand. Or shake their heads and sigh while gazing dejectedly at me, as though saying, she’s a lovely girl, yes, quite lovely, but such a shame, gone to the boys, a lost cause.