February 13, 2007
Writing for Money
One Saturday afternoon I was shopping with my family at Upton’s, a now-defunct regional chain. While my dad and I stood in line at the register, he found a flyer for an essay contest co-sponsored by the store and a clothing manufacturer. The winning essay would address the subject “WHAT BUGLE BOY JEANS MEAN TO ME.” Inwardly I cringed, but the prize was a thousand-dollar scholarship. I folded up the flyer and slipped it into my pocket.
I did not then nor have I ever owned a pair of Bugle Boy jeans. It's possible I had a shirt from that brand at some point. I was inclined to throw out the notice and forget about it, but I felt obligated to try, despite my mortification. I waited until the night before the deadline, and then wrote a story in the vein of "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty." Sporting my (imaginary) Bugle Boy jeans, I experienced adventurous flights of fancy, only to come back down to earth, usually at the behest of an annoyed younger sister. There was even an ending with romantic potential as I met the boy next door, while wearing, of course, my incredibly awesome imaginary Bugle Boy jeans. I remember that the boy's eyes were the color of "deep green pools." Awful, embarrassing stuff from a girl who was trying to write poetry like e.e. cummings.
I mailed in the essay and then promptly forgot about it, only to get a letter months later telling me I had won the scholarship.