What “Going Steady” Used to Look Like

Nearly 50 years ago, when my mother was in high school, every girl had a set of these two pins. When they were “going steady” with a guy, girls wore the whale pin. The duck was reserved to mark availability. Why whale and duck?? Where did they get them? And why does the whale look so… dismal? My mother doesn’t know; please leave me a comment below to inform or speculate.

When I was in high school we either wore a guy’s jacket (for me, this was the Husband’s maroon nylon windbreaker with elastic wrists and aluminum snaps up the front, oooh wee) or their class ring. Guys’ moms hated the latter, I’m sure; after shelling out $300 for a Balfour that said “Craigmont Chiefs” on one side and “Class of ’84” on the other, some fritzy-headed teenage girl leaves it in the school bathroom and it’s gone forever.

I didn’t do that, I swear.

I mean, I did do it, but I remembered and ran back to the restroom (risking a detention slip) and found one of the nice cleaning ladies just then picking it up.

I never told.

PS: Thanks, Alex, for taking the macro photo : )

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5 Responses to What “Going Steady” Used to Look Like

  1. Ginny December 10, 2008 at 4:32 pm #

    Funny that the “fail whale” meant you were going steady.

  2. Jeanne December 11, 2008 at 9:54 am #

    I wonder if this isn’t a local adaptation of the college tradition of indicating that you were going steady when a boy gave a girl his fraternity pin. High school kids are always in a rush to be older, and this is usually the context of giving a pin that I have heard.

    As Ginny hinted at, there is also a chance that there are deeper psychological things going on in the symbolism. If you’re single and you don’t duck, it leads to wailing. True story.

  3. Lisa Creech Bledsoe December 11, 2008 at 10:03 am #

    Jeanne Rose, you are hilarious.

    And the explanation about HS kids wanting to do what college kids did makes some sense; I hadn’t thought of that.

  4. Ari (Baking and Books) December 22, 2008 at 10:57 pm #

    How interesting! I too wonder why the whale and duck were chosen. Hmmm.

  5. Mary January 7, 2009 at 5:13 pm #

    Was this in Tennessee? The duck might hint at an Appalachian connection. The whale, on the other hand —

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