Something to Fall Back On



Perhaps I’m showing my age here, but did anyone else’s parents advise them to take a typing class in high school so they would have “something to fall back on?”

My mother suggested that I take typing, so I dutifully registered, even though it sounded kind of boring. But it also turned out to be easy, so after I completed Typing I, I took Typing II. There were no guys in the class, only girls at the rows of IBM Selectric IIs. If a boy had registered, he would have been roundly mocked. Typing was for girls.

What an interesting phrase “something to fall back on” is. At the time, I assumed it meant that I might become a secretary or typist in a typing pool. I had no plans to actually be a secretary–in fact I was rather scornful of secretaries (forgive the 15-year-old me–she was kind of a brat sometimes). My father had a secretary, and I had watched a lot of films in which secretaries were only secretaries until they married their handsome bosses, unless their bosses were already married, in which case they got pregnant and died of shame. There were girls in my class who were going to attend something mysteriously called “business college,” but most of my friends and I were all planning on going to four year colleges. So being a secretary was definitely not part of the program. Because, after all, typing was only something TO FALL BACK ON IF YOU SCREWED UP YOUR DREAMS.

Once I got out of college and took a job in an office–a job which, oddly enough, didn’t require a four-year degree, but for which typing skills were, um, a plus–I quickly began to understand that it was the women who typed who were not only the gatekeepers in nearly every situation, but the people who kept the world running. I also knew many women who started out in the typing pool but later became successful executives. Who knew? Certainly not the fifteen-year-old-me.

The irony is that as of 2014, almost forty years since I took my first typing class (whoa–I am that old), 85.1% of U.S. homes have some kind of computer. Typing is no longer something to fall back on, but a basic skill that pretty much anyone who uses a computer needs. I use the term skill broadly: my husband never learned to touch type. He’s a two-forefinger, hunt-and-peck kind of guy, and he types quickly. My poor daughter, who is twenty-four, started her touch typing adventures early. I was determined that she would be computer-proficient, so part of her early homeschooling program included the dreaded Jump Start Typing Adventure Game. But in my desire to make her the BEST SEVEN-YEAR-OLD-TYPIST-EVER, I pushed her too hard. While she did learn to touch type, she also gained a dread of timers that plagues her to this day. (Sorry, honey!) My seventeen-year-old son is a hybrid. He liked the touch-typing games well enough, but I didn’t test him the way I tested my daughter. When I asked him today how he types, he said he always starts at the home position, but types using a mixture of methods–sometimes touch-typing, sometimes using two fingers, but rarely does he have to look at the keyboard.



I wonder now how many children are taught to touch type. Please weigh in if you have thoughts. My first guess would be that children use keyboards so early now that they have already developed some sort of typing style before anyone thinks to give them lessons. Then again, most mobile devices have touch screens–and even I don’t bother to touch type on my iPad if I’m doing email. It’s just not necessary. I don’t imagine many kids would want to slow down to learn.

You know where this post is going to end, right? My mother actually gave me a pretty wonderful gift by suggesting that I take typing. I type every single day while living my dreams. 💛

Me, around the time of Typing II


(Valentine’s Day goodies update: In case you missed the comments from Friday’s post, the winner is Sylvia Vollmer with her favorite love song, Biggest Part of Me, by Ambrosia. Congratulations, Sylvia! And thank you so much to everyone who entered. I loved reading about your songs and hearing about the stories behind them. ❤️)

February 12th  Words

Journal: 345  words

Long fiction: (Light edit/read through 219 pages)

Short fiction: 0

Non-fiction: 0 words

Blogging: 694 words

Exercise: 45 minutes treadmill (finally!)

5 thoughts on “Something to Fall Back On”

  1. Adrienne says:

    I took typing when I was a senior. Then I skuddled off to college to obtain a 4 year BS degree in nursing. After my third year I decided I didn’t want to be a nurse and switched to business. After I graduated I called my mom one day and said, “You know what I’d really like to do? I want to go to beauty school and be a hairdresser.” She thought that was a great idea because I’d “always have something to fall back on.” No kidding!

    We still have secretaries except now they’re called administrative assistants.

    1. Laura Benedict says:

      Love this, Adrienne. Your mom sounds delightfully supportive.

  2. skyecaitlin says:

    I was given the same advice growing up, and the unbelievable part of taking a typing class was I failed the course and had to take it in summer school. When I was tested for ADD, my children’s pediatrician/ADD specialist told me my fine motor skills were not developed. Ahhh! Yes, I touch type, but my kids were faster on the PC and now with all the texting ( something I don’t do)’ the kids type things like lightning. I never typed during my first years of working as a file clerk: the speed, in those days, was 60 words a minute. I adore the photos above with Clark Gable and Marilyn Monroe.
    Adrienne, I went to nursing school ( hated it ) before I transferred into college.

    1. Laura Benedict says:

      Skye, I had no idea I had ADD until my son was tested–I was looking at the checklist and was stunned to see I had nearly all the markers. Fine motor is a challenge for him, too.

      The Clark Gable still is from a film called Wife vs Secretary with Myrna Loy and Jean Harlow. I think Jean actually ends up with Jimmy Stewart. 😊

      1. skyecaitlin says:

        Too funny: I was actually tested and didn’t have to pay: the doctor loved my son, and so you know the fine motor skill challenge.
        Loved Myrna Loy, too. BTW, I also have OCD.

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