Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Growing pains

Hello. This is something I wrote in August 1999. I sent it to a magazine in the hope that they might publish it, and send me some money. They didn't, they rejected it, so I can publish it now.

Tucked away at the bottom of a drawer in the old sideboard I inherited from my mother, I came across my old school report from 1959, I was ten years old. On the bottom of the page it says, 'Talkative'. That's what I was, a right chatterbox. I hated to sit still in class, and was forever turning around to talk to my friends. I liked to be the centre of attention and felt happy when I could make people laugh.

Although I was bright and chirpy, there was a sad, unhappy little soul deep inside. It was my appearance which was causing me so much pain, but I managed a brilliant cover up with my incessant talking. There wasn't actually anything physically wrong with me, all the right bits were in the right places, it's just that when beauty was dished out I got the slops. So chatter I did, I needed to make friends.

Not long after I moved to the senior school I started to take an interest in what young girls are supposed to take an interest in, fashion, make up, pop stars, and boys. The boys only seemed to go out with girls who looked pretty, just so they were the envy of all their friends. This would change every week,, competition was fierce. I never did get on the merry go round, they weren't interested in a girl who was chatty and funny. They didn't want someone to go on bike rides with, or someone to collect frogs with, or go fishing with. One girl in our class was actually engaged to a man of 21. She flashed her ring around when the teachers weren't looking, and constantly got into trouble for wearing nail varnish.

I felt some improvements in my appearance were called for, if I didn't do something I would be left on the shelf by the time I was fifteen. I was never going to get a boyfriend, looking like a bean pole, with national health specs and rabbit teeth. Terry was the boy I had my eye on. He was the best looking, and I thought he was kind to ugly people. I was wrong on that last assumption, he laughed his socks off when my friend told him I fancied him. That hurt. I spent a lot of time sobbing into my pillow.

Maybe I couldn't do much about getting my teeth straightened, or chucking the glasses, but I could go down town and visit the make up counter at Woolies with my pocket money. A Panstick was very useful for covering up spots. If I saved up enough I sometimes bought a small block of black mascara, the sort you spit on and apply with a brush. By coating my eye lashes six times and adding dollops of sky blue eye shadow, I thought I could pass for 'Miss Burton upon Trent 1962'.

Something had to be done about my chest as well. It was painfully embarrassing to be the only girl left in the class who didn't have a bra. I begged mum to get me one, but all she kept saying was, 'You don't need one, you haven't got anything to put in it'. I didn't need reminding of this. I knew my equipment was a bit late in coming, but I thought that if I had a bra it would prompt my chest to start blooming. Close inspection every morning was disappointing, I kept wondering if I was ever going to get bosoms. Eventually mum gave in and we went to Marks and Sparks. Once back home I excitedly tried on my new bra. I was so chuffed, now I could be a real woman. As I didn't have anything to push up and push out, I had to make do with a pair of socks. Later on I found that these had a habit of working their way upwards, and eventually popped out of the front of my dress.

My fashion idols at the time were Cilla Black, Sandie Shaw, and Cathy McGowan. They leaped out of the magazine pages, and the television screen. Oh how I wished I could be 'with it', like them, but I had no money to spend on nice dresses. The next best thing was to improvise. I was pretty nifty with a sewing machine, and fabric from the market was dead cheap, I could knock up a mini skirt for five bob. My friends were dead impressed. I could sell them a skirt for 7/6d and buy some more fabric to make my dresses. A basic pattern could be adapted, and a loan of mums Singer treadle machine produced some amazing outfits. So amazing that men on building sites whistled at me. I felt a million dollars.

I enjoyed going to the youth Club, and on a Thursday night there was always a battle between me and mum as to who would wear her trendy calf length leather boots with a heel. She wanted to go to bingo in them, but I usually won. In our family clothes were passed down the generations. I used to claim all mums cast off stockings. All the better if they had two or three ladders in them, at least people would know I was grown up and wearing stockings now. I could usually buy a pair of stiletto shoes from a jumble sale for two shillings. I would totter off to the bus stop to go to town on a Saturday afternoon. This was the highlight of the week as I paraded up and down the High Street, imagining I was in the heart of swinging Soho amongst the boutiques.

After many agonizing years my attempts to create a raving beauty out of an ugly duckling have finally diminished. I did manage to get my teeth done and swap my specs for contact lenses, but my chesticles were never what you might call voluptuous. Now gravity has taken over and everything is plunging south. I finally have to admit defeat.  

I wrote this fifteen years ago, my memories of growing up in the sixties. It's funny thinking about how I have changed. Then I wanted to be like all my pals, wanted to be in fashion, and wanted to look pretty. I desperately wanted to fit in, and be one of the gang. Now I am the complete opposite. I don't need to be fashionable I can wear what I like. I don't need to be one of the gang, I don't have to cosy up to people and seek approval, or impress, and I don't have to be in with the in crowd. It's a liberating feeling.
Toodle pip

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