The manuscript is progressing and I’m in the middle of year eleven. It’s a whirlwind time with senior school responsibilities and study and boys … At 59, I’m recalling what it was like to be fifteen, anorexic and naive. I’m looking at my two-dimensional view of the world and that of my greatest influencers, my father.
After my fifteenth birthday, our relationship changed and he distanced himself from me. Loving me became Mama’s job. But dad’s views underpinned our lives, both hers and mine.
Clearly, dad and I both struggled with this.
Fifteen, skinny and successful; my goal weight has been achieved. The hard work was worth it. I’ve changed my reality and am hurtling towards the finish line: the end of year twelve. Pressure? No, no pressure just the steady expectation of university entrance. Rules. Yes, plenty of rules. There for my future. ‘You will thank me one day,’ my father said. I inhaled deeply, the air in my lungs hit the resistance of my silence.
Learn. How lucky you are. So bright, so intelligent. I see you head bent over your books and I see your smile when we praise your report card. I worked tirelessly living away from home. I had a dream too. Everyday I saw my dream, the barrister and his wife and their life. You think I don’t understand the struggle for attainment but you don’t understand a life of shattered dreams. Each generation should achieve more than the one before. But did I?
I look at the other girls in my year level. Peers. I wander around on the periphery busily living the sham. Boys and girls and hand holding and knee touching. It’s 1975 and the school rules are inflexible. None of that! I don’t have a boy in my life, I’m not into boys. I’m a wogish nerd who works hard to bring a good report card home. And on the whole, I’m happy with that.
Boys will come. You are a beautiful girl. I’m keeping you safe for as long as possible. I don’t want infatuation to enter your head and scramble your education. Focus. Your friends are welcome, girls, girls with similar aspirations. You are to young for a boyfriend. Fifteen! This generation is crazy; sex, drugs and rock n roll. It’s bad enough that you want to go to parties. Your mother is more lenient and I see you using her to pave your way.
I’m doing what is subliminally expected. I study, I exercise and I count calories. That’s it. I’m good-looking and boys are interested in me. I’m not sure what to do with that, so I deflect. But I want to be included in the adolescent world. I want to fit in. It’s a weird space balancing the heart and the head. My heart is not into boys, yet. I’m a bit scared.
What was it like for you, on the cusp of discovering boys?