The Shape Women Want and the Cuban Missile Crisis

imageI will be the first to admit that I have a habit of saying dumb things. For example:

I did tell my wife, when she was in the early days of being pregnant with our daughter: “you don’t really even look pregnant, you just look a little bit fat.

I did say to my wife: “let me pull the car up and away from the bushes so you don’t get wet getting in” and then proceeded to pull 7’ into the middle of the driveway.

I did tell my daughter: “I think you can squeeze through there.”

And of course, as recently made famous in Faith’s blog, I observed that she is not short.

I’m guilty. I have received curious looks, complaints and periods of silence, not to mention a rather hefty bill for maternity clothes to which my wife added: “now I look pregnant.” I have shared these stories of good-intentions-gone-off-the-rails with friends and coworkers (looking for sympathy). One coworker tagged me with the question “why do you speak?

However, the incident that lurks behind the first half of the title was not my fault. Still, I have been convicted in a “shoot the messenger” moment. I can’t remember the source, but I either watched or read an explanation as to why many things in life are shaped like my favorite travel mug. The author/speaker said: “among other things, it’s the shape women aspire to.” I did NOT say that. I did repeat it to my wife and she informed me that it was a dumb thing to say. Of course, I said it to my coworker, in reference to the conversation that I had with my wife. Again, I was looking for sympathy. Again “why do you speak?

On another occasion, a woman in my office looked at my travel mug as I was rinsing it out and mentioned that she liked the shape. I said “do you know why that is?” I tried to distance myself from the person who first made the statement and I tried to make sure that she understood that I wasn’t referring to her or her shape.

Afterwards, I thought – why DO I speak?

As for the second half of the title, I was imagereminded by a blog friend that October 16th was the 52nd anniversary of the start of the Cuban Missile Crisis. It was also the 52nd anniversary of an early “why-do-I-speak?” moment.

Being born in 1954 meant experiencing Duck and Cover drills, visiting Air Raid shelters and preparing for a nuclear war as if we really could survive under our school desk. During these drills we were supposed to:

  • Remain calm
  • Follow instructions
  • Shut up

Teachers didn’t use the expression “shut up” but some did use the expression “shut up Dan.”

I wasn’t a quiet kind of kid. I followed instructions, but I always found it hard to stay focused. My mind would wander. My report cards often included the comment “Dan daydreams” (as if that was a bad thing). I am so glad that I was born before ADD diagnoses and Ritalin became popular, because I would have been one drugged-up little kid.

During the Cuban Missile Crisis, we had a drill where we all gathered in the gym/auditorium. The idea was to stand quietly for a short period, and then listen to the 2nd grade teacher, Mrs. Kocher. Mrs. Kocher was in charge. She had been in charge forever; she had actually taught my father when he was in 2nd grade.

There was very little to do during these drills, but some of us had “jobs!” I was assigned to roll down the black-out curtains. Well, I was more like a black-out curtain understudy. A 6th grader was in charge of the task, I was supposed to be learning – succession planning I suppose. In any case, while rolling down the curtain, I asked a teacher how rolling down the black-out curtains during the middle of the day was going to help. I got the look that I now recognize as an early form of “why do you speak?” followed by:

This is a drill. You’re doing this so that in the event of a real attack, you will know how to roll down the curtains.”

That almost made sense. I should have stopped and thought about that, but that wasn’t isn’t my nature. I blurted out:

But they are firing missiles at us. Missiles aren’t looking for buildings on the ground, there’s no one in there to see us; they just go up and come down.

Go. Sit. In the corner.”

And, of course, I had to take a note home and explain the incident to my parents. Luckily, my dad handled that one. Dad wasn’t all that good with that kind of discipline because he had been like me in school. Still, he wanted his kids to do better. He would yell at us but he didn’t yell this time, he explained. When I told him my side of the story, he looked at me and said:

Did it ever occur to you that the reason they give you these jobs is so you have something to do? They have you clean the erasers because you fidget in class at the end of the day. This is the same kind of thing. If you don’t want to have to crank the curtains down, go into the room and be quiet.”


Pictures – Dunkin Donuts stopped making my original travel mug. I lost several and I was down to one slightly damaged one when they reintroduced the mug that represents the shape women aspire to. I bought 4. The lower picture is the park that sits where my elementary school used to be. No longer a target of the cold war or a training ground for curtain handlers.

35 thoughts on “The Shape Women Want and the Cuban Missile Crisis

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  1. LOL I really enjoyed this. Completely at your expense, of course. Why DO you write?

    Did you have those big, bulky tv’s at school that they’d roll into the classroom on those tall racks? We’d watch news clips of supply air drops in Berlin, etc. I was always scared the unwieldy tv was going to topple off the rack onto one of us kids. That’s when I wanted to hide under my desk.

    Next time your wife gives you the “why do you speak” look, show her your duck ‘n cover move. What’s the worst that could happen? Besides a pulled muscle …

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The elementary school had one TV for K-6 and it was on one of those scary carts. I don’t recall it being strapped to the cart, I guess people were careful. Mostly it was the upper grades that got to watch the news. My family moved to a “better” school district when I started 5th grade. We mostly laugh about these comments now. My family seems to understand that my intentions are good, Thanks.


    1. Thanks Wendy. I mostly get curious looks for my word choice or timing. We tend to laugh. The “shape” thing has taken a life of its own. My coworker sent me a picture once while on vacation. He drink was served in a similarly shaped glass and she tagged it “the shape women want – thinking of you”

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Loved the post Dan. Winced when I heard your words to your wife about her being pregnant. I said a similar thing once and learnt a lesson I have always tried not to forget.

    So enjoyed your Cuban Missile Crisis. It brought back many memories. I remember the day well. It was announced at our school assembly, but we had no drill like you guys, after all we were in Africa, nuclear war would never reach us. Again, great post. You have a lovely writing gift. :)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Don. I’m still working on learning that lesson. I guess we brought the world along with us to the brink during those days. Pittsburgh, PA in the states back then was still a major industrial city. They were building an anti-missile (NIKE) defense base nearby. I’m not sure when they (US & USSR) agreed to ban those bases/weapons, but the site was eventually dismantled.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Funny Dan! We thought we knew everything and then an adult would explain and poof – our idea was shot. In 4th grade I swore I NOW knew EVERYTHING! My dad asked what did I expect would happen when I got to the 5th grade?

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I laughed out loud! Great post! You took me down memory lane with the Black out/Duck and Cover drills. At my elementary school we all filed into the cafeteria to watch the movies of the air drops, and we had a TV on a tall roll cart too. I never worried about it falling off the cart then. It would cross my mind now though.
    Did you have a piano in your classroom? Every classroom had one at my school. I had a male teacher in the 5th who couldn’t play it for our music time. The school secretary came in to play for us. :)

    On the next street over from me now is an air-raid siren. The city has actually tested it once in the all the years I’ve lived here. I would think they’d test it annually, but they don’t.

    I hope #1 Grandson gets brilliantly astute teachers who give him busywork to keep him anchored when he’s fidgety, or daydreaming.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re right, we did have a piano in the rooms. I think the black out curtains were left over from WWII, and they were used to make the room dark enough during the day to watch a movie. In retrospect, that’s probably why they wanted kids to know how to operate the crank. They test our emergency siren and loudspeakers once or twice a year. thanks for the comment. I’m glad I could take you back to the days when your school desk could stop anything :)

      Liked by 1 person

  5. During our ” duck and cover ” drills , we were told to stay away from the windows because the shattering glass might hurt us during an attack . A nuclear missile attack , no less ! Our classrooms didn’t have blackout curtains . Maybe we kids weren’t so dumb when we wondered if that all made sense .
    No comment on what my mom used to call my ” foot-in-mouth disease”.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Especially after seeing information about the power of those weapons, pictures of Hiroshima and hearing how the new weapons were (n) times more powerful than the one dropped on that city. It’s good to see I wasn’t the only one with a speaking issue.


  6. A curious title. I was wondering about this shape that women want. Because as long as I can recall slim has been popular. Even the straight slim. I had a course-mate once who used to starve in order to stay slim. She was very angular. But I was also wondering what this shape has got to do with the Cuban Missile Crisis. The amusing thing about that crisis was the mad treaty! Mutually Assured Destruction! Otherwise it was a horrifying period for all living things. And you got to glimpse the human psyche–the thing that lives there!–and step back with a gasp!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Peter. Sometimes, I have pieces of stories that seem to go together. This might have been a stretch, but I thought I’d see if I could get it to work. The Cuban crisis drew a sharp focus on the thread of MAD. I think it started moving us in the right direction. They tore the NIKE Missile bases (anti missile missiles) down after signing the ABM Treaty. It was thought that if both sides thought they could stop the other side’s missiles, they might be tempted to launch a first-strike. MAD doesn’t begin to describe the thinking. Thanks again for the comment.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. A trademark post here, Dan. Hilarious and also full of great info, as always. Being born in France and later than you, I am fascinated by the real stories during the cold war and the Cuban crisis. Reading about the drills – the only ones I know are earthquake drills in CA – is funny but shows how seriously damaged the relations between the countries were back then. They aren’t much better, in a way, but drills associated with potential armed conflicts have vanished from our schools.
    Also, there is absolutely nothing wrong with day dreaming. Au contraire. And I agree with you about ADD. Many of us would have been given the awful drugs too. Me included, probably.
    As for women, pregnant or not, I admit that the topic being often sensitive, it is better to shut up.
    One of your funniest posts, Dan. See you soon.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks Evelyne. I have learned that “fat” and “squeeze” are words I should remove from my vocabulary when talking to women. In the mid-60s, our attention turned toward domestic problems and the war in Vietnam. The last cold war drill I remember was when I was in 6th grade and in a much bigger school. I remember seeing row upon row of 50-gallon drums of water (or at least for water) and the “hardware” that could be used to turn those drums into toilets. Given the location of the school, it still seemed unlikely that the building would have survived an attack on Pittsburgh, but maybe the mountainous terrain would have helped.


  8. I recall being on an overcrowded, standing-room-only train a few years ago. My seat was against the window, so I wasn’t able to offer my seat to anyone, as I normally do when I can. A woman sitting nearby noticed a woman (standing just outside of my line of sight) her seat. The standing woman asked why. The seated one said, “Because you’re pregnant.” Her reply: “I’m not.” Wow, the temperature dropped a few degrees right then! I just buried myself in my book. O_O

    Good post, Dan!

    Liked by 3 people

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