Another excerpt from my book. This is probably the last one I’ll do, as I need to get on with actually writing the rest of it!!
I am twelve years old, drifting around the school playground at lunchtime. Nearby, some kids want to play a game of Four Square, but there are only three of them. They invite me to play. It’s a simple game, and at first all is well. But then, as soon as a queue forms of other kids wanting to play, the original players turn to me, and tell me, “You can go now”. I back off and walk away in slow confusion, suddenly aware of two things – I have been used, and I Am Not Wanted.
I wish I could say this was an isolated incident. Alas not so. At primary school, I had been, if not exactly favoured, at least not totally excluded. But my peers were growing up fast, their interactions becoming more sophisticated and complicated. As a child, I had been drilled in some basic rules of social interaction by my parents –hello and goodbye, please and thank you, wait your turn and don’t stare at people. These were no longer enough, and my ‘difference’ was becoming more obvious. Around me, girls were sprouting breasts and hips, and becoming interested in boys and flirting, pop groups and film stars, makeup and fashion. I was still reading Enid Blyton’s Famous Five books, wishing I could find buried treasure and secret passages, and wanting to be George, the rebellious tomboy (I thought the other girl, Anne, was wet). I was also late physically maturing, which didn’t help much.
It also didn’t help that the intermediate took students from several primary schools, and almost none of the kids I had spent the last six years with, who were used to me, were in my classes. My new classmates didn’t know me, and rapidly made it plain they didn’t like me much either…
… One big challenge at intermediate, and secondary school also, was sports. We’d had to do them at primary, but little prowess is expected of young children. By twelve or fourteen, however, it’s expected you will know at least a few of the rules, and have acquired at least a little skill. Not me, alas! I had never been particularly well co-ordinated. I’d taken forever to learn to tie my shoelaces for instance, my grandmother – she of the lush garden – had finally shown me, step by patient step, how to do it. I’d done ballet for several years, but I would soon give it up, as I was slowly realizing I would never be much good at it. Unfortunately girls then weren’t allowed to play rugby, which I might have enjoyed because of the backyard games with my father; we had such delights as netball, cricket and hockey instead. Netball I found frustrating, cricket I’ve always rated one notch above watching paint dry, but hockey was just a nightmare. One PE class, standing on the field in my usual daydream, I suddenly realized the ball was headed straight for me – and in the wake of it, a pack of girls were thundering down on me, sticks raised, faces murderously grim. SQUAWK! I whacked the ball wildly away from me – one of the few times I actually managed to hit what I was aiming at – of course it was in the wrong direction and my teammates yelled at me, but I didn’t care. I was simply relieved not to be a target anymore. (And they said girls couldn’t play rugby because it was ‘too rough’. Go figure.) But the worst thing was not understanding why so many people got so wound up about sports, yelling out things like get him! Kick it! Run with it!, and generally acting like it was the end of the world if ‘our’ team lost. It’s only a bloody ball! I wanted to yell. Why did they get so excited? Other things were far more important, in my view.