14

The first in a series, Girlhood.

If there is an age in life that most of us would not want to repeat, it is likely to be 14. Awkward, slouching, uncomfortable 14.

At lunchtimes, I would go to my Gran and Grandad’s house. It was convenient having them at the other side of the school gates. There was just the small matter of getting through the gates first. School gates were the domain of other girls. Smoking girls. Girls with lads. Girls wearing foundation. It was like walking through the lionesses’ den.

Once in the warmth and safety of Gran’s kitchen, I could open my lunchbox and tuck into a ham and cheese roll, yoghurt and a carton of fruit juice. We would watch Home and Away and the Jerry Springer Show. I much preferred lionesses on the telly.

If you told me within ten years. I would have had at least one boyfriend and wear foundation every day I would have been impressed at the grownup I would become. So sophisticated! If you had told me the Jerry Springer Show would be turned into an opera and instead of smoking people would suck plastic vials of flavoured liquid, then I would  have thought you were high.

When we are 14 years old we don’t really think that we will ever matter. That we will grow into our names, our faces, our bodies and ourselves. That we will shape our own destiny in life. That we will walk through gates with our shoulders back and our chins up. But we do and it all happens without us even realising it.

If I could bottle the magic that happens when an awkward 14-year old becomes a more confident, upright and articulate woman of the world I would quite happily hand it out in plastic vials. If plastic vials of magic could be smoked at school gates and save others from the uncomfortable years that lay ahead then I would happily be the dealer. But then it wouldn’t have helped me. I would have been in my Granny’s kitchen, hiding from the lionesses and absent-mindedly leaving behind my lunchbox.

My journey was to be more winding, more interesting and more eventful than that.

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