Long before I finished Matric, I had formally declared to my parents that I was “Different’. I forget the occasion and the cause of the declaration, but it had probably stemmed from another Why can’t you be more like Allison comment. Allison was the daughter of my parent’s best friends; a hefty, sensible girl who met everyone’s dream criteria at the time: she enrolled in secretarial school (she’ll always get a job you know, anywhere in the world) and her hobby was Building Her Trousseau. This trousseau business was something she could indulge while spending Quality Time with her mother; they sewed peg-bags and tissue-box covers; they embroidered place mats and appliquéd little ducks onto pillow slips and matching towels.
I, on the other hand, brought shame on my mother and enlisted to study that dead-giveaway to Communist Tendencies: Fine Art.
While Allison knew to exchange her white sandals for navy blue court shoes on the first of April, I raided my granny’s wardrobe and wore her long, lacy night dresses to classes; with Doc Martens and a long, ratty army jersey in winter and barefoot (bells on my ankles) in the summer.
My mother prevailed on Uncle Arch (his loyalties hopelessly slanted in my favour) to speak some sense into me. Steady on lass, she doesn’t look that bad, he said, to her outraged fury, and he continued to slip me R5 notes to pay the entrance fee to the poetry readings and ‘movement experiments’ I frequented.
My poor old dad, himself not too many years earlier having harboured dreams of going to San Francisco and wearing flowers in his hair (which dreams were quashed in time by mortgage payments, insurance premiums and school fees) said I embarrassed him and he dropped me six blocks away from college, but dutifully paid all my bills.
I decided that spectacles were essential to lending me the look of a ‘thinker’ and I shamelessly lied to the unsuspecting optometrist until he issued the glasses which ruined my eyes and caused a lifetime’s suffering from acute myopia.
You will, one day, be cursed with a conservative child, my mother predicted; and then you will know how you have made me suffer!
I have no idea what became of Allison, but looking at my daughter now; as she stands in front of her mirror pinning a badge that says LISTEN to her purple, pin-striped blazer; as she alters the angle of her emerald green po’ boy cap; I have to admit that she is not like anybody else I will see today; she is a super-freak, a one-off.
I am glad of this.
©Cindy Taylor 2008
“The higher mental development of woman, the less possible it is for her to meet a congenial male who will see in her, not only sex, but also the human being, the friend, the comrade and strong individuality, who cannot and ought not lose a single trait of her character.”