I was quite a girly little girl; I liked skirts and dresses. Trousers struck me as ugly, but if you saw the trousers I got to wear, you wouldn’t blame me. I liked nice pastel-coloured socks and pretty shoes, and wished I had long hair. One day disaster struck! For some reason I had to wear a pair of grey socks to town. (I was probably about 5 or 6). The carry on! I hated them. “They are BOYS’ socks! I don’t want to wear BOYS’ socks!”
Too bad… I didn’t have a choice. Probably they were the only clean pair I had that day.
Nowadays I wear grey socks, black socks, brown socks, white socks, pink socks, stripy socks, odd socks, socks with Tigger and Piglet on them, or bedsocks with stuffed cow heads… I don’t care. Just so long as they keep my feet warm and clean.
When I was still that sort of age, my mother was talking to a friend of hers and suddenly they both looked at me. Mum asked, “do you like babies, Diddums?”
I stared at them as though they had gone out of their minds.
“Babies? Yes I like babies.”
“Oh, that’s nice, Diddums. Because your sister thinks babies are horrible.”
I found the whole concept incomprehensible… why would one like or dislike babies? It was like asking if you liked the ground. It was just there, a part of life.
On the other hand, my sister said she didn’t like babies. Probably it was cool not to like babies, and I was being silly girly Diddums as usual, with not a sensible thought in her head. Why does she not like babies? Because they cry, drool, are ugly, and only girly girls like them. I hadn’t really thought about liking or disliking them myself.
But once the idea had got in my head, I couldn’t quite shake it off. It was possible to form an opinion on things, and not just accept them blindly. And sometimes it was cooler to have a definite opinion, even if it was negative… or particularly if it was negative. It was cooler and more intelligent to wear trousers and grey socks, fall out of trees and be dismissive of little crying bundles of joy.
Which brings me to a third memory: falling out of trees.
Just because I didn’t like climbing trees or jumping down from the lowest branch, don’t assume I didn’t fall out of them. I wanted to show my sister and some friends how fun it was to swing from the branch of a small tree in our garden (a frangipani; probably full of huge spiders but I never paid attention to those things, mostly because I didn’t realize they were there). So, because all eyes were on me, I set off swinging a little too enthusiastically, my hands slipped from the branch, and (describing a slight arc) I landed flat on my back on the driveway.
I must have been completely winded, as I lay there going ‘gaargh! gaargh! gaargh!’ I couldn’t do a thing to stop it; it was like an attack of the hiccups. My sister and friends exchanged looks that said “we knew this would happen,” picked me up, carried me round the side of the house, and laid me down near Mum, who was talking to the other girls’ mother. They went off to play without me, while our mothers carried on talking.