Sharon was acing most of her classes, as usual. Just as in high school, she was terrific at academics. Which was why it bothered her so much that in her sophomore year of college, she was suddenly getting B’s and even C’s in one class: home ec. She didn’t see why a course on cooking, cleaning and managing a household was even a requirement. It seemed so archaic, so ‘50s.
It wasn’t that she didn’t expect to get married and have kids someday. In fact, finding a smart, accomplished man who was looking for an equal relationship was high on her list of things to do over the next few years. And she certainly had her share of suitors. With her blond hair, usually pulled back in a simple ponytail, the full lips she highlighted with the latest elegant dark red lipstick, and blue eyes that looked even bigger behind her modern-style glasses, she knew she had always been attractive. And though she usually wore casual jeans and button-down shirts, she enjoyed dressing up occasionally in clothing that really showed off her slim yet busty figure. Still, while she had had several relationships, she still hadn’t met a guy she felt was her equal.
Meanwhile, the stupid home-ec class was pulling down her grade-point average, which would make it more difficult for her to get into a good grad school. She went to the dean of students, that ugly little creep named Sanders, and asked if she could drop the class. The man looked her up and down for several seconds with his ferretty little eyes before finally replying: Sorry. The class was absolutely required. If she needed extra help, she should ask the instructor.
Sharon realized she had no choice. Sighing, she went and scheduled an appointment with the teacher, Ms. Adams. Make that Miss, as the woman insisted on being called.
Miss Adams was an attractive brunette in her mid—’30s. Sharon thought she wore too much makeup, but figured it was par for the course for someone who taught such an old-fashioned topic. She reminded Sharon of a pretty, perky housewife from an old TV sitcom.
“I think I know what your problem is, Sharon,” Miss Adams said. “You don’t have the right mindset for this kind of study.”
“I’ve never had trouble studying before,” Sharon said. “I just never thought cooking and cleaning would have to be part of my resume.”
“That’s just it, you don’t take this class seriously,” Miss Adams replied. “But I think if we spend some time in the study lab, I can help you see things more clearly.”
Thinking about grad school, Sharon was ready to agree to anything. So she made an appointment to meet Miss Adams there the following day.
The lab turned out to be located deep in a previously unused basement corner of the science center. When Sharon got there, Miss Adams unlocked a door and took Sharon into an even smaller room. It was crowded with all kinds of electronic equipment, including stereo headphones and a TV monitor.
“There are two things getting in the way of your doing well in my class,” Miss Adams said. “One is that you seem to find it difficult to relax around subjects that make you uncomfortable, and that makes it much harder to learn things. The other is that you don’t seem to have much appreciation for the need to know about household matters, or at least to have an understanding of the women who do find them to be important parts of their daily lives. But the equipment here can help you with both those problems.”
Sharon was dubious, but figured that if Miss Adams saw she was trying, at least she might go easier on her grade. She sat down in a deep, plush chair by the electronic console. “We start out by listening to relaxing music, which will put you in a better frame of mind for learning,” Miss Adams said. “Put on these stereo headphones. You’ll still be able to hear me because I’ll be talking through a microphone connected to the stereo.” Sharon did as she was told. She could barely hear music playing in the headphones. It was faint, but seemed to some sort of soft muzak, a far cry from the alternative rock she usually listened to. At least there were some cool stereo effects. Sometimes the music seemed to come into her left ear, sometimes her right, and sometimes it seemed to meet in the middle and switch places.
“That’s it,” she heard Miss Adams’ voice say. Through the earphones, her voice seemed particularly soft and resonant, not at all unpleasant. “Now, I want you to sit back, take a deep breath, let it out and relax.” Sharon did as she was told, and was surprised to find a month’s worth of tension seem to exit her body as she exhaled. “Mmmm,” Sharon said. “That really works.” “Do it again,” Miss Adams said. “Breathe in, and exhale all your stress and tension.” The next time was even better. Sharon felt as if she was floating.
“Very good,” said Miss Adams. “You’re reaching a state of mind that has been found perfect for learning. In fact, you’re very lucky... This equipment is brand-new, and I’ve been given a chance to test it out. Very few people have ever used it before.”
“There’s nothing dangerous about it, is there?” Sharon asked. “Don’t be silly, what could be dangerous?” Miss Adams asked in her soft, soothing voice. Don’t be silly, Sharon thought to herself.
“All right, now we’ve come to the most important part of your ... education,” Miss Adams said. “You need to understand exactly why this subject is important to your life. To help you do that, I’m going to show you a computer simulation of someone who has that understanding already. When you can see things from her point of view, then you’ll get the idea yourself.”
I guess that makes sense, Sharon thought. Actually, the idea seemed a little strange, but whatever. She certainly didn’t feel like moving from her comfy chair with the nice music.
Miss Adams flipped a switch and an image formed on the computer screen. A slender, busty young blond woman was standing in a kitchen. She looked strangely familiar to Sharon, although she wasn’t sure why. Certainly none of her friends would tease out their hair in that too-obviously sexy way, or wear an outfit like that. The woman had a frilly pink apron around her waist, over a very short skirt. Her long, slim legs were made extra curvy by what looked to be very high-heeled pink pumps. The girl also had on a white silk blouse with several buttons open, underneath which must have been a wonderbra, considering the way her big, partly exposed breasts jutted up and out. Unlike the dark red lipstick Sharon favored, the girl’s was soft pink, covered in so much lip gloss they seemed incredibly wet. Sharon wasn’t sure if she was dressed for cooking or a porn movie.
“Hi! I’m here to share the joys of home ec,” the woman said in a soft, breathy voice. “I absolutely love it!” The voice was sexy and giggly, like some dumb cheerleader. Sharon looked at Miss Adams. “Are you kidding?” she asked. “Oh, just relax, darling,” Miss Adams said. Sharon started to say something else, but was suddenly overtaken by that calm, relaxed feeling again. What was she about to say? Whatever... She felt so good. Her eyes returned to the screen.
“Now, the way this works is like a language lab,” Miss Adams said. “She’ll say something, and you’ll repeat it. Only in this lab you’ll repeat it in English, exactly like she says it. And remember, the idea is to see things from her point of view.”
“I could never see things like her,” Sharon protested. “I mean, look at her.”
“Sharon, she’s a woman, just like you. Don’t you think you should have compassion for other women?”
It was an odd argument, but Sharon couldn’t dispute it. She did want to support other women. “Yes,” she said.
“Okay, then just try your best.”
“All right,” Sharon said.
“The girl on the screen certainly has nice blue eyes, doesn’t she, Sharon? They’re pretty, just like yours.”
“Yes,” Sharon said. They really were pretty... just like hers.
“I love home ec,” the girl said in her sweet, sexy voice.
“Go ahead, Sharon,” Miss Adams said.
“Um... okay.” She might as well try it. “I love home ec.”
“Come on, Sharon, you can do better than that,” Miss Adams said. “See things like she does... say it like she does. Feel it inside.”
“I love home ec,” the girl repeated.
“I love home ec,” Sharon said. That was better, she thought. She could feel a little giggle in her voice this time. This certainly was a silly exercise.
“I need home ec,” the girl said.
“I need home ec,” Sharon repeated. Okay, this wasn’t so hard.
“I need home ec to take care of my man,” the girl said.
What? “Wait,” Sharon said. “I’m not saying that.”
“Sharon, honey, you don’t have to believe what she says. You just need to understand where she’s coming from. Put yourself in her place. You can do that, can’t you? Now relax and say it.”
“I need home ec to take care of my man,” the girl repeated.
Okay... “I need home ec to take care of my man,” Sharon replied. Yes, she could see that. Take care of a man. Why not?
“I need home ec because I’m just a girl,” the girl said.
What? “All right, that’s it—this is nuts,” Sharon said. “What are you trying to do here? I’m leaving.”
Suddenly Miss Adams turned a knob on the console and the music in Sharon’s ears grew much louder. “Relax, Sharon,” Miss Adams cooed into the microphone. “There’s nothing wrong with what we’re doing here. You’re just learning something new. That’s okay, isn’t it? Now relax, relax, relax.”
Um... Sharon had to think. There was something wrong here. She needed to concentrate, but relax, relax, relax, she couldn’t seem to... relax, relax, relax.
“It’s so hard to think,” the girl on the screen was saying. “I’m just a girl, and it’s hard for girls to think.”
“It’s so hard to think,” Sharon heard herself saying. Wait, she had to think. But it’s so hard for girls to think...
“So hard to think when you’re just a silly girl,” the girl said.
“So hard to think when you’re just a silly girl,” Sharon repeated. She almost giggled. This whole thing was so silly...
“All I want is to cook and clean and be sexy for my man,” the girl said. Sharon repeated. “My man is so handsome and strong,” the girl said. “He makes me feel so soft and feminine and weak in the knees. I can’t think when I’m around him. All I can think of is being sexy, his sexy little girl.”
Sharon felt her mouth hanging slightly open. She couldn’t seem to move her lips well enough to repeat the words out loud, but they were buzzing around in her head. The girl had such pretty blue eyes... She was just like her. Sharon understood what she was saying. Everything was so right, so true.
“I used to think I was smart, but now I know I’m just a girl,” the girl said. “I can still do things, but only when it helps to serve my man. I can cook, and clean, and mend, and sew. And I can dress up so sexy to make him happy. I wish he would make love to me... I need him to make love to me all the time...”
Sharon wished her man would make love to her. She tried to think of something.. what was she thinking of before... so hard to think when you’re just a girl. Wait, no... “I can think for myself,” Sharon said weakly.
Miss Adams typed something into the computer console, but Sharon was in no state to notice. “I can think for myself,” the girl was saying.“I can think whatever my man tells me to. I can believe whatever my man tells me to. I’m so lucky that my man is always right. Men are so big and strong and right... it feels good to be so weak and soft. I love being just a girl.”
“I’ve got to think,” Sharon mumbled. “Got to get out of here...” “It feels so good not to think,” the girl was saying. “Feels so good to forget, forget, forget.”
I’ve got to... got to forget, forget, forget, Sharon thought. No, that wasn’t it. Got to...
“Can’t think cause I’m just a silly girl. A silly sexy girl.”
Sharon was such a silly girl. Such a silly, sexy girl.
“My man makes me so hot,” the girl was saying. “He makes me feel so soft and sexy. I have to do anything he says. I love to do anything he says. I want him to make love to me. Need him to make love to me.”
Need him to make love to me, Sharon thought. My man, my man...
“Would you like to see your man, Sharon?” Miss Adams asked through the speakers.
Sharon was vaguely aware of the question. “Uh, okay,” she said.
Miss Adams typed into the computer. “Here he is,” the computer girl said. She brought out a photograph and held it up to the camera. It filled the screen in front of Sharon’s eyes. Sharon thought it looked kind of like Mr. Sanders, the dean of students. “Isn’t he handsome?” the girl was saying. “He’s so big and strong... Doesn’t he just make you melt?”
Sharon was suddenly overcome by feelings for the man in the picture. He was such a big, strong man, and she was such a sexy little girl. If only he would come to her, she’d do anything for him...
“I love him. Don’t you love him?”
Sharon was in love. The man was so strong, so powerful. He would take care of her, and she would wash and clean and cook and sew and make love to him all night long...
“Do you understand the need for home ec now, Sharon?” Miss Adams asked.
“Yes,” Sharon replied before passing out.
Three weeks later, Sharon was working on the special French meal she was learning in home ec class. It was kind of complicated for a silly girl like her, but since she’d quit all her other classes to take nothing but home ec, she was gradually catching on. Sometimes it seemed strange that she was spending all her time cooking and sewing. Occasionally she even seemed to remember a little bit of her former life, before she wore the frilly pink apron and the wonderbra. But it was so hard to think...
Just then, Miss Adams interrupted her. “There’s someone here to see you, Sharon. Go into my office.” Sharon accompanied her into the small room. “You remember Mr. Sanders, don’t you?” Miss Adams said before leaving the room and closing the door behind her.
“Hello, Sharon,” said Mr. Sanders. He ran his eyes over the previously studious young girl, who now looked just like a Playboy model. Sharon looked at the most gorgeous man she had ever seen, and felt her insides melting, her knees buckling, her mind swimming. “I’m glad to see you’re doing well in this class. When we’re married, you can cook for me every day.”
It was the happiest day of her life.