When I grow up (and some regulation trivia).

Responding to Emily’s Writers Reveal prompt, ‘When I grow up’, my piece is told from the perspective of a teenage girl, Summer Black, a fictitious yet real narrator. Unfortunately there are too many Summers in our classrooms and playgrounds. And the world isn’t always kind to them.

When I grow up

Our theme this term is ‘growing up’. Miss asked us to write an essay on what Scout learned in ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’, as well as a story beginning with the words, “When I grow up”. It’s an easy topic for me because I’ve already thought about it. A lot. It’s the only thing stopping me giving up. It’s my dream…I hope it will happen.

My new room has a view, a vista of the railway track. It’s bleak (trains aren’t pretty and they’re noisy, cutting the quiet with their dull clatter), but at night my window’s view transforms. When I lie in bed and look up, I see the opaque sky is remote and its vastness dwarfs me. On the sky’s black velvet carpet, silver gems are spread and sometimes they smile at me. When I stare long enough, I seep into the blackness – the dense infinity. The night sky makes me wonder, gives me hope.

When I grow up I’m going to be happy, I’m going to be skinny, I’m going to be happy. When I grow up I’m going to be happy and I’m not going to be me.

Miss Martinello gapes, “Summer, can I talk to you about your story…are you okay?” I meet her gaze with a perky shrug. “Perfectly, Miss. It’s fiction, right?

“Right.” She hesitates, touches my hand, a bird-like caress revealing her feather kindness – like a bird’s wing. I like Miss.

When I grow up I’m going to be happy. I’m going to shed the layers of fat, eviscerate the lard to the hard muscle and bone below. No one ever sees my muscle and bone. Not yet.

“Summer Black, Summer Black, she’s a slut, slut’s so fat!”

It’s Recess and I eat my apple, nibble at the carrot. Rabbit-like. My teeth are large – straight and white but they’re swamped, diminished, in my fat cheeks. No one sees my perfect teeth.

Mum wants to pack treats for school, choc-chip cookies, doughy rolls with cheese, but I won’t let her. I can’t eat at school. Fat people can’t eat in public, it’s a universal truth. Not unless they want to be vilified. Miss said ‘vilified’ was a good word – “expressive” – but it’s an ugly word for an ugly past-time.  So while my stick friends pile in chips, sausage rolls and pasta – hot and tempting from the canteen – they judge me.

“Summer Black, Summer Black, she’s a slut, slut’s so fat!”

“If they’re your friends, Summer, what the hell’s going on?” She doesn’t swear, my mother.  ‘Hell’ is about as bad as she gets. She believes one needs to lead by example. But she’s tall and slim while I’m my father’s daughter. Ex-father. So WTF?

“Summer Black, Summer Black, she’s a slut, slut’s so fat!”

I shielded Mum so long but not forever. All through my fat days, I tricked her. But when I started to purge, when the weight dropped and I resembled one of the wraiths from my favourite zombie movie, she gleaned something.

“Sweetie I’m worried about you, you don’t look…yourself.”

She means I look ill, crap. It’s the black arcs below my eyes, my pasty skin.

She clutches at straws, my dearest mother. “You’re not staying up all night on Facebook?” She has a vague but prevalent unease about social media. It’s a valid point. The schoolyard taunts were nothing to the trolling…

“I’m fine, Mum, and by the way, goths pay good money for this look!”

She laughs but it doesn’t reach her eyes.

“Summer Black, Summer Black, she’s a slut, slut’s so fat!”

I never should have let Jed touch me. But he was popular and I thought I’d be popular by association. Stupid girl! Stupid girl! Too clueless to know he was Claudia’s. Well not yet, but she had her eye on him…she’d baggsed him. I should’ve known he’d post it – thinly-veiled, no names – but they knew it was me. He even used alliteration, probs thought he was clever. “Fingering fat-girl totes not fun!!” Oh the irony, I didn’t even like him. I would blame the vodka shots but that’d be the coward’s way. It was me, Summer Black following Jed into the dark, enticing room.

All my problems coalesced after that. My group, of which Claudia is the leader – Queen Bee of the second coolest group in the Year 10 playground – led the pack. And deer-in-the-headlights-me was such an easy target.

“Summer Black, Summer Black, she’s a slut, slut’s so fat!”

It’s why we left, Mum and I. Left the neighbourhood. New school. At this school no one knows about my dark days, my fat days, my slut days. Except Miss, now. But I can trust her, even though she’s alarmed by my story. I’ve said it’s fiction but she knows. Some say going to a new school is just shelving your problems as you take them with you. But I see it as a fresh start. Everyone thinks I’m weird though, coz I hang in the library most lunch times. If the truth’s known, I’m scared. The steely bluffness is all front.

I still purge, but not as often and I hope one day I’ll stop. I closed my Facebook account but maybe I’ll open again soon. You miss out on a lot of stuff without FB. I’ve kept my Instagram but I only ever post skies. I like skies, they give me hope. They let me see that the world is beautiful, underneath.


Now for something less heavy – some regulation trivia:

I’m having a little break from blogging because I want to finish editing my manuscript. Even if it’s never a book, I want to finish. I’m halfway through but keep getting side-tracked into work and other frivolous things such as social media, coffee with friends, painting my nails. Oh and eating cake. Marie Antoinette has a lot to answer for.

But before I say my temporary adieu, I’ll post some pics. First a food-selfie. Love this self-indulgent genre. As if the world cares what I (or anyone for that matter) eats! In this case, it wasn’t even me. It was a random stranger’s breakfast trifle…and it looked so pretty.

Stranger's breakfast trifle.

Stranger’s breakfast trifle.

Blossom update. It’s official, I hate Blossom. She ate my berry muffin. Losing shoes I can cope with, losing triple-berry muffins I can’t. 😦

Contrary to appearances, I'm bad.

Contrary to appearances, I’m bad.

Note from Blossom: Please don’t tell my Queensland boyfriend Pablo but Freddy proposed and he’s already organised the cake… As well as ho-bagness, polygamy possibly runs in my family. 😉

Artist's rendition of Blossom and Freddy's wedding cake.

Artist’s rendition of Blossom and Freddy’s wedding cake.

And speaking of ho-bagness, this photo is from a new flirtless dog park. It was a bit boring.

No dogs to flirt with here...

No dogs to flirt with here…

Teaching Stuff:

One of the advantages of teaching is the longer you’re in the profession, the more you’re beyond embarrassment. As a new teacher I stepped terrified into my delinquent difficult Year 7 and 8 classrooms, with only a strong coffee and flailing courage to fortify me, as I plastered my steely ‘Sergeant Major’ face on. Over the years, I’ve made quite a few errors on the black/white board, (pointed out gleefully by stuents), worn non-matching earrings, different coloured shoes (it was dark when I got dressed), walked into class with my zipper undone halfway down my back and on another occasion with my dress caught up at the back – Jennifer-Hawkins-style (but without the fetching view).  I don’t think it’s possible to shock or humiliate a teacher after a while. You have lots of things said to you – a couple rude or mean – but mostly nice, weird, endearing and funny…or hilair.  The big perk of teaching is, it is always entertaining (Pinky’s latest post on Hector’s ear is a case in point!) Working with kids isn’t ever boring. When naughty challenging Year 10 student Jay said, “Hey Miss, does my neck look buff?” I, naturally, replied, “Yes, Jay, very buff.” The class cracked up but Jay looked quite pleased to have a buff neck. They didn’t get back to work for a while but it broke up the boredom of deconstructing a poem. 🙂

These moments mightn’t be as good as as expense accounts, free lunches or fancy company cars, they’re better. 

And as far as reprimands go, I pick my battles, carefully. I’ll never say to a gum-chewing student as one teacher did once: “If you don’t stop masticating, Thomas, I’ll castigate you!” (Kids aren’t aren’t great with sarcasm or malapropisms). 🙂

Finally, a sunrise. No photo-shopping, au naturel.

View from my room.

View from my room.

So enough about me, what about you? Did you ever embarrass your teacher?

Linking up with Essentially Jess for IBOT and joining Grace and FYBF. 🙂



A woeful affair…

Linking up once more with Kerri Sackville for another #MyFirst experience.

My first time drunk was wonderful and sophisticated morfitying and unedifying, (like most teenagers’ is, I suspect).

I was seventeen, it was my boyfriend’s 21st birthday party and the booze was flowing…

This is where it gets complicated. A mate of his had a beautiful sister. She had a thing for my boyfriend. Bizarre as it sounds, this friend was trying to do his sister a favour by spiking my drink and getting me out of the way. And it worked! Clueless Innocent girl that I was, I guzzled a large, frothing cocktail, oblivious. Who knows what toxic mix of illicit substances were in it? All I know is, it was potent.

Photo credit: drinkstuff

Photo credit: drinkstuff

I was a cheap drunk. I had avoided alcohol so far, detesting its taste in any form, but on this occasion I was nervous and my alcohol radar wasn’t working clearly. At all. And the friend’s sister was exquisite, alluring…while I was shy, spotty, gauche – no contest at all, really. 

Afterwards I wasn’t sick, I wasn’t even especially dizzy or disoriented. I didn’t get happy and carefree either. I instantly became sad…inconsolable. I burst into hysterical sobs and had to go into a darkened room to lie down. A bit like a lady in previous century would have done – languishing on a chaise longue. Except there was no chaise longue and I wasn’t an elegant lady.

This is how I wanted to look during my crying spell:

Photo credit: Roy Lichtenstein.

Photo credit: Roy Lichtenstein.

This is how I looked:

Photo credit: pics.2

Photo credit: pics.2

Apart from a nasty headache the next day, there were no especially bad consequences to sculling a spiked drink and turning into a demented infant. My poor opinion of alcohol was reinforced. The boyfriend had hung around – more or less – not exactly waving a fan across my fevered brow, but at least he hadn’t disappeared into the night with the lovely sister scheming minx.

My aversion to alcohol persisted until my mid-twenties, wherein I had a kind of alcohol epiphany and Red Wine became my middle name beverage of choice.

What about you? How was your first experience with alcohol? Are you a social drinker or teetotal?

Teens are Mean…

Photo credit - imdb.com

Photo credit – imdb.com

Not all the time and not everyone, but it’s trending… teen meanness.

I’m not the first to say “School is a jungle”… Prompted by Housegoeshome’s recent post on redheads I thought about how carelessly cruel the teenage world is. It reaches a brutal peak in High School…I notice it in the classroom, the playground. Life is tough if you are chubby or have:

  • red hair
  • big ears
  • a big nose
  • pimples
  • freckles

You are reminded of this feature daily and can feel self-conscious, inadequate and even apologetic for not being skinny, pretty, popular or cool enough. Few can bluff it out or give back as good as they get. Most nurse their wounds, silently, painfully. Most turn it in on themselves; victim-blaming is rife. Occasionally a victim fills with hate and punishes the world, picks up a gun and takes out their persecutors. Thankfully this is very rare.

Photo credit - filmthrasher.com

Photo credit – filmthrasher.com

Chris Lilley’s Ja’mie as Queen of Mean, takes nastiness to a whole new level. Her special brand of vicious is reserved for borders, lesbians and Asians. Horrible stuff. It’s satire, but so close to the truth my daughter and I cringe. She relates, she is a teenager. She too was victim to bullying. I’ve written a teen novel on this subject, and a blog post – ‘The Party’ – about bullying by exclusion.

Lightening up

But this post is too heavy and I’d like to finish on a lighter note, narrating a typical conversation with Poppet, my daughter. She isn’t very mean, except to her mother.

On makeup, especially eye-liner – a subject I tiptoe around. Not even a boy on the train crying “Child prostitute!” has limited her application of eye-liner.

Weary parent:      Darling try not to wear so much eye-makeup, it isn’t appropriate for                                      school.

Poppet:                I look horrible without it.

Eager parent:       Nonsense, you are beautiful – a lovely, natural beauty – you don’t need a                              scrap of make-up.

Poppet:                You won’t leave the house without mascara and lipstick.

Sheepish parent:  That’s different, I’m old…I need it.

Poppet:                 You’re a hypocrite! You told me you wore makeup to school when you                                   were a teenager.

Oh why was I so open with her? She uses my candour against me!

Do you or your children have any experiences of meanness? Have you navigated your way successfully through these?

Linking up with Essentially Jess today for IBOT 🙂