Cool Britannia

Earlier on during class, my student, who had read my first blog entry, asked why I had described my previous life in England as ‘a seven-year stint for crimes I never committed’.

Yasmine, I actually don’t know why I alluded (yes, double ‘l’, thank you google) that seven meaningful and defining years of my life were similar to prison. But I don’t remember England as being much fun, and this is was mostly my fault. Here are the reasons I never fit in over there, and probably will never fit anywhere, ever:

  1. I have a funny walk, due to one of my legs being very slightly shorter than the other. As a child, I learned to compensate for this by hop-skip-jumping everywhere as opposed to walking. When I got excited, I became a road hazard; people had to step out of my way. This did not recommend me to teenagers of any variety. I have a distinct memory of bouncing down a school corridor one day, then turning to the sound of hysterical laughter behind me. One of my ‘friends’ was imitating me matching my strides, doing semi-lunges down the passage with a look of gleeful disdain. This made me self-conscious enough to learn to tread more carefully, so I would like to thank those giggly cows for at least teaching me a lesson.
  2. I was a swot. I tried to remedy this by doing badly in math’s (easily done) and being mouthy with the teachers, but this just made them think I had character and wit, and they liked me more. This brings me to my next point:
  3. I was a teacher’s pet. Still am. Can’t help it. I have always been more comfortable around people older than me than those my age. It makes sense; I was desperate to fit in, but had nothing with which to charm my female peers, and less still to catch the eyes of teenage boys (See point 4), so I turned to grown-ups instead.
  4. I didn’t look right. In school, just like in any other wild environment, survival is directly proportional to physique. The lions get to sleep a steady 20 hours out of 24, proper beauty sleep, reassured by their sexy feline grace and the lethal strength of their paws. Most of the less able-bodied creatures have the sense to at least remain obscure, or to seek safety in numbers. I, on the other hand,  was a featherless peacock; ostentatious by nature, but sadly lacking the bright plumage that would validate my vanity (ooh, alliteration). I was called: four-eyes, pizza-face, ninja (I wore a scarf), bushy-hair, flat-chest and a great many other things I couldn’t help. I hung around the pretty girls, hoping beauty was contagious. It wasn’t.
  5. I liked to read, so I used all the wrong kind of language. In a middle school peopled with the seed of England’s working class heroes and immigrants, the rules of communication are distinct: one must limit one’s vocabulary to mono or bisyllabic words. The popular girls set the trend for slang, but you are only to copy them among your own circle of friends, speak like them to their face and they will either piss themselves laughing or happy-slap you. The same rule applies for swearing. Ju get me, blood?
  6. I tried to fit it. This was a brave but hazardous approach to surviving school. The reward was tempting; strutting down the halls with the gaggle of pretty/funny/tough girls, breaking rules, growing stronger by sucking out the spirit of the weak, a bully and proud. It was doomed from the beginning as I could never strut (see point 1). I was a laughing-stock, but this didn’t stop me from skipping P.E to hang out with fellow rebels in the girls’ toilets, doing the alpha girl’s homework as she sat next to me and made fun of my nose.

I have since grown into my nose. I now get to use and teach big words for a living. But I’m still a round peg in a square hole wherever I go, except here, where there’s a special made, geometrics-defying hole made just for me.

I know the blogging universe is made up of lone planets, licking the wounds of unhappy childhoods, traumatic teen years, and the deeper cuts inflicted by adulthood, because they have now become fully aware of the extent of their strangeness. But we are not moving away from each other like the bodies in space, we are brought together by our common experience of loneliness, drifting towards the pull of virtual comfort. We are finally part of a crowd, a place where all the misfits fit.

You know what the perk of having one leg shorter than the other is? If I try to keep both feet on the ground, I’ll look funny. So I’ll just live life in the clouds.