Growing up I was a tomboy. I was the eldest of my cousins who were all boys. I was the eldest kid in the street, who were all boys. I could kick a footy, bowl a cricket ball, play a mean handball game. I rode my bike through the swamp along all the skinny little tracks, I rode my skateboard just as fast as any boy, and got the gravel rash and the two smashed front teeth to prove it. I had a meccano set and Lego (which when I was a kid comprised of red and white bricks and if you were lucky, some little black rubber wheels and some little squares of grey plastic with clear plastic in them for windows and doors. That’s it). I had Barbie dolls too, but I preferred playing with the boys stuff. It was much more interesting.
Being the oldest, I was bossy. It came with the territory. I used to organise the games and tell everyone what their role in it would be.
I was happy being one of the boys. They never treated me as anything other than one of them. And I was content in my skin.
Then came the day I had to go to high school. That’s when things started to change.
First of all I suddenly had to wear a uniform which was a dress of all things. I didn’t like it – I still don’t like it and avoid dresses like the plague. It was some green checked thing with a peter pan collar and a side zip and short sleeves. It was scratchy and stiff. I hated it. I hated all the air that blew up under it and got all up between my legs. It felt weird. I wanted to wear pants or shorts like the boys, but I wasn’t allowed to. So began my hatred of uniforms of any kind.
So it was probably the third or fourth day I’d been at high school. It was summer. It was hot. I was sitting at my desk, in my scratchy green uniform, trying to keep my knees pushed together because I didn’t like feeling like I had nothing on, when it happened. There was sniggering and whispering. I looked around and people were either staring at me or avoiding looking at me. I could feel my face burning, but didn’t know what was going on. I soon found out.
I was trying to copy what was on the blackboard when a voice spoke into my ear. “Miss Fosse, I realise it’s hot, but it might be better if you zipped up your uniform.” My hand flew to my side. Yep. My uniform was gaping open giving everyone a great view of my underwear. Now had I been like the other girls in my class, the boys would probably have been treated to the sight of a bra and a substantial amount of skin.
What they got an eyeful of was my white singlet. Yep. I wore a singlet. I was twelve when I started highschool. And unlike most of my peers I had not hit puberty. No periods, no boobs, no bra. Now, not only was I the tall skinny girl that nobody knew. I was the tall skinny girl that nobody knew who wore a bloody singlet because she had no tits. Awesome.
That day only served to make me more of an outcast at high school. I wasn’t able to fit in anywhere. I was a girl. What the fuck? That can’t be right, can it? I mean, I could kick the footy better than half those boys on the school oval. But I wasn’t welcome out there. “You’re a girl, get off the oval”, because unbeknownst to me there was some unwritten law that the boys had the use of the school oval and the girls were relegated to sitting along the wall of the sports shed, and watching the boys be all boyish.
Of course, I didn’t fit in with the girls either. I was that weird chick with no tits. I didn’t wear makeup or a bra. I didn’t hitch my uniform up to just below my butt cheeks and push my socks down into puddles around my ankles thereby exposing as much skin as possible. I didn’t talk about kissing boys or having a boyfriend. I didn’t know what to talk to them about. I tried sitting there, but nobody talked to me. And I had no idea what to say to them.
So I used to sit by myself outside the library and read because we weren’t allowed in the library during lunch breaks. We were supposed to be outside in the fresh air, mixing with our peers, making friends. Unless you were the weird chick with no tits. Then you were ignored and sniggered at by both the boys and the girls.
So I pretty much spent most of the first year of high school on my own. I read a lot. Hence I excelled at English. Which made me even weirder.
I did eventually make some friends in my second year of highschool. They were not the popular girls. The popular girls were actually the slutty ones with big tits who let the boys touch them behind the toilet block and smoked cigarettes. They weren’t the sporty ones. The sporty ones ran around with their uniforms hitched up as high as they would go and played netball or tennis, or did cartwheels and handstands making sure that the boys could all see their underwear.
My friends were also outcasts. We were the fat, skinny, short, pimply, lonely ones. We attracted each other like magnets. We were all quite intelligent, and we got along well.
I still never quite felt at home in the niche I was forced into. I wasn’t really a girl, was I? My friends all grew into young women by the end of 2nd year of high school. They started talking about bras and boys and periods, ughh. I was still wore a singlet until I turned 15. Even then I didn’t need a bra. I still hadn’t had a period and boys were still just mates.
I just didn’t get all the girly stuff. It just seemed boring and stupid. So I again ended up the fringe hoverer. My friends were still my friends, but I just didn’t seem to connect with them the same way as when we were all the outcasts. They started experimenting with boys and dating. I got dragged along to parties by them, because when you start dating boys, you become party worthy. So I would go with them, and while they were snogging some boy on the couch, I would sit on the floor in a corner where the one light in the room was and read the book I would take along with me. I never wanted to kiss a boy and no boy ever indicated that they wanted to kiss me either.
I longed for weekends and holidays when I could run around with my cousins and neighbours. When I could ride my bike down to the end of the street and catch tadpoles in glass jars from the storm water drain. When I could go to my grandparents and hang out in my Papas wood working shed and hammer nails and paint stuff. Where I could play wars with my cousins and dig tunnels under the back fence (even though we almost killed my cousin when the tunnel caved in once). Those were the times that I loved.
Then at 16 it all changed. I got my first period. it was traumatic and horrible. And my mother said those words I had managed to avoid. You’re a girl, you can’t keep playing with the boys like that.
I’m a girl? Well, damn. How the hell did that happen…