Chapter 4 Summary
The night before school starts, Margaret washes and curls her hair. In the morning, she is so nervous she cannot eat breakfast. Her mother comments that she felt the same way as a child. This annoys Margaret:
My mother’s always telling me about when she was a girl. It’s supposed to make me feel that she understands everything.
But Margaret’s mother does not understand everything. For instance, she cannot understand why Margaret refuses to wear socks to school. She says Margaret will get blisters on her feet and acts like it is ridiculous to put up with such a thing. But Nancy specifically told Margaret that only babies wear socks, and being considered a baby is much worse than getting blisters.
The walk to school is three-quarters of a mile, and Margaret’s sockless feet hurt badly by the time she arrives. Half of the girls are wearing socks, so she feels vaguely annoyed that Nancy told her to go without. However, Nancy and her friends are all sockless like Margaret.
When Margaret arrives in her classroom, she thinks one of her classmates is the teacher. This girl is as tall as a grown woman, and she obviously wears a bra. Margaret observes with awe that the bra is “not the smallest size.”
Then the actual teacher comes in—a man named Mr. Benedict. The kids are shocked by the idea of a male teacher, and they fall silent to hear him speak. Even so, Mr. Benedict seems nervous. He says um constantly, and he admits that this is his first year teaching.
Mr. Benedict asks the students to write a few introductory sentences about themselves, and Margaret regards the task as a challenge. Telling him her name is easy, of course, but she struggles to decide what to say about her likes and dislikes. She has millions of both, and she has no idea what he might want to know. After some hemming and hawing, she lists the following likes: “long hair, tuna fish, the smell of rain and things that are pink.” Her dislikes are similarly eclectic: “pimples, baked potatoes, when my mother is mad and religious holidays.”
Mr. Benedict’s final request is that students say what they think about male teachers. This one is especially hard for Margaret. She has never had a male teacher before, and she does not think all female teachers are particularly similar anyway. But she has to write something, so she plays it safe and writes, “I think male teachers are the opposite of female teachers.”
After school, Nancy invites Margaret to a meeting of her secret club. Margaret is thrilled, and she rushes to get ready.