Monday, April 06, 2015

Dear Ethel (Big)

Ethel (Big),
student of Riverdale High School, 
C/o Samm Schwartz, 
Character in Archies' Comics

Dear Ethel,

Today I’m older and Archie’s shenanigans don’t interest me anymore. But if there is anyone who could make me pick up a copy of your comics, it’s you.

I never liked the idea of your throwing yourself at Jughead like that. Before I met you, I liked reading Archies’ Comics. Those inane happenings in his world, Ronnie’s obscene wealth, Betty’s saccharine good-girl image, Reggie’s insufferable vanity, Moose’s lightheaded silliness, Jughead’s happy-go-lucky nature, they were all entertaining. Then you came along in one edition, the comic element, chasing after a boy who wouldn’t have anything to do with her.

I saw you trying to win him over by cooking for him. And even though I was a mere child of 6 or 7 then, I bristled with indignation. Why should a woman have to try so hard to get a man? Why should a woman’s worth be measured by the presence of a mate in her life? Why should buck-toothedness or a flat chest be an object of scorn and derision?

For a long time I was angry with you for the way you completely lost it in Jughead’s presence. How you behaved like a love-struck idiot.

I wished myself in Riverdale High, so I could put some sense into you. So I could tell you to love yourself before anyone else could. So I could tell you that you don’t need Veronica’s beauty or Betty’s sweetness to score with the boys. That if that’s what it takes to win guys over, they weren’t worth the trouble.

Before long, I began to get pretty fond of you. I saw, in one story where you went on a date with Archie, that you were funny and smart. There was nothing fake or pretentious about you. I realized that you loved science fiction, art and trains, that you were a great cook, and had a talent for creating dollhouse furniture.

You were blessed with so many worthy attributes. You were kind and sensitive, and fiercely independent. You never tried to change yourself to fit in with the others. Your personality always asserted itself in all its unpopular glory. One other thing I liked about you. You never paid cruelty back with cruelty, refusing to stoop to their level. Why couldn’t you be kinder to yourself?

I know you don’t like what you see in the mirror. Too tall, unattractive, gangly, with braces on your teeth – what’s to like? That’s what you think, your self-esteem in tatters.

Take my advice, girl. You’re better than them. Quit running after Jughead. Leave the meanness of that world behind. You’re only in high school and the world is just opening up for you. Seek yourself first, and build your own self esteem. Your time will come, and it will all be good.

Meanwhile, pay no heed to what your classmates say about you, and shut your ears to their mocking laughter. 

Remember, you are so much BIGger than their pettiness.

At least they’re right about the nickname.


  1. You took me back to my childhood. Archie comics were so much fun to read. I wonder if you can get them now. I think the kids of today missed out on one of the best entertainments we had. Nice one. Absolutely loved it.

  2. Lots of words of wisdom in this post. Very nice.

  3. We always had Archie comics in my house as a kid. My mother and sister would fight over them when they first brought them back from the store. I had other comics to read, I wasn't so worried. But I did get around to reading them when they were done fighting over them.

  4. Shutting my ears was a hard lessons I had to learn in high school, but I'm much the better for it now. Wonderful post.

    Good luck with the 2015 A to Z Challenge!
    A to Z Co-Host S. L. Hennessy

  5. Extraordinary! I never read Archie (superheroes were more my thing) but I know a lot about being the ugly girl and the odd young woman hoping some particular guy would like me. It never worked, even when all our mutual friends thought it should. I stopped chasing men and am now simply myself. Turns out I'm a lot happier and loved when I'm simply myself.

    Visiting from A to Z,

    Drusilla Barron

  6. I love the way you wove this story, offering wonderful advice for young people at the same time. Thank you.

  7. Suzy, I loved those Archies Comics too, and I used to wish there was more of Ethel then. I think that if you looked for them online, you would find them.

  8. Thank you, Denise, high school and life in general can be mean to youngsters who don't fit in.

  9. I loved Archie comics too, though we always got really old backdated issues from the raddiwallah (our friendly neighbourhood paper recycling man).

  10. I'm happy to hear that all that heartbreak is in the past. Most kids suffer because they think life is over because of what they go through in high school. Thank you for dropping by, SL Hennessy.

  11. Yes, Drusilla, I can relate to Ethel because I was like her too. I ddin't run after any boy though. My confidence was pretty low. I'm glad you're in a better place now. The day we learn that we have to like ourselves before anyone else can like us is the first day of a new life.

  12. Thank you, Cathy, there are so many Ethels that need to hear that kind of positive affirmation. I know that because I was, in my own way, a geeky kid that was not too popular.



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