...with love all things are possible

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Tuesday, 3 April 2012

End of childhood (2)

Feminism.  This play is still running riot in my head and I thought it would be enough to just spit up what I did a week ago.  But it’s not!  Now that I took the cork off, the rest is just tripping over itself to come out. 
Feminism, I spent my childhood watching old traditions slam into new behaviors.  Listening to adults talking about the young generation of women and their attitudes.  I was born in 1960, so there was plenty of fodder all around.
But it didn't fit me.  If it had wheels I wanted to ride it; if it had branches I wanted to climb it; if it involved hand-eye coordination I wanted to play it.  Anything you can do I can do better …
If it involved skirts, fashion, and dolls I wasn’t interested.  Yet this boy somehow had stolen my little girl heart in the summer of 1973 and proceeded to smash it after the sun had set on the end of a magical season.

By the time we got back to the Clubhouse, my mother was in the parking lot, waiting for us.  Broken and disgraced, I rode in the back of the car after the party, while he sat in front.  I said nothing.   She spoke to him, sweet and gushing as always.  After all, he’d been in “Arsenic and Old Lace” with her the year before - all grown-ups and him.  He carried on an adult conversation with my mother as if nothing had happened between him and me in the dark damp shadow of the juniper trees.  I said nothing and then he was gone.  He didn’t even say goodnight to me.
I knew everything was my fault; he'd told me I was “such a baby” and then he'd said nobody would be interested in me ever again.  At 14 believed him and I watched as the rest of my life disappeared into a nothingness. 
It was hard enough at home, being the second of four.  A wonderful family and I love them dearly, but I spent so much of my time feeling like a flyover zone, like a banana skin.  The First was always the Best.  The Boy was the Only Boy.  The Last was the Apple of everyone’s eye.  And then there was me.  A failed number one because I came second.  A girl, when they’d spent nine months expecting a boy.  Trouble.  I spent my first week in this world with no name, because my parents hadn’t planned for a girl.  Everything was blue, the names were for boys and the champagne went back in the fridge. 
To top it off, I spent the next six months of my life screaming, starving and battling for my life with a strange digestive disorder.  Trouble.  I can’t think anyone wanted me much then either.  My older sister used to bang her head against the wall in despair at my screaming.  My father would holler and punch holes in walls.  My mother never confessed how it affected her … so I knew it was bad.

I crawled into bed that night and cried myself to sleep.

It was the very next day I made the pivotal poor choice.  I didn’t plan it, it just sort of happened at the last training session of the summer.  I found a moment and walked towards him.  Anything you can do, I can do better …
“About last night …” I whispered, looking at my long second toe.
“Oh, puh-leeze,” he said, dismissing me with a wave of his hand, turning towards the other guys.
I touched his arm, “about last night … I …” my second toe seemed even longer.
“Listen, just leave me the hell alone.  OK?” he hissed, then added, “baby.”
That was no term of endearment.
Anything you can do I can do better.  I can do anything better than you.  No, you can’t. “Please … whatever that was last night …” I swallowed hard, my tongue sticking to the roof of my mouth, “whatever it was … I .. can we try … a – a – again?” the last words rushed out of my mouth before I even realized.  I had no idea what was happening.
“Really?  Well … look who’s growing up in a hurry,” he said, carelessly tossing the words over his shoulder.  “Well, we’ll see what happens later.”
I should have realized from the searing pain in the pit of my stomach that this was a very, very bad idea.  A very poor choice.  But I had no idea what was going to happen.
A tomboy can do anything boys do, right?  That’s how I felt.  Like George (Georgina) in Enid Blyton’s Famous Five Series, I always felt I was more of a boy than a girl – so whatever it was he was planning, I was going to have to grow up quick and learn.
Anything you can do I can do better.  I can do anything better than you.  No, you can’t. Yes, I can.  No, you can’t.  Yes, I can.  Yes, I can.

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Unless otherwise noted, all articles are written by Cath Rathbone. (Copyright Catherine (Cath) Rathbone and Noony Brown)