Thursday, 29 January 2015

First-time experiences as a child

A human being may go through many important first-time experiences during their lifetime. Some of these occur in childhood, and thereafter the world is a different and more difficult place. In no particular order, these are some of the first-time events that happened to me:

# As a child, the first time one is told 'boys don't do that', or 'you can't go there with the girls', and you realise that children are not all the same, and that indeed you must be different from most of them.
# As a child, the first time you detect a lie said to you, which instantly undermines your trust in adults.
# As a child, the first time you are treated unfairly, with a similar result.
# As a child, the first time you meet kids who want to hurt you, or dominate you, which awakes your instinct for self-defence, and an ability to look very fierce if you have to.
# As a child, the first time you hear parents speaking roughly to each other, and wonder whether your own parents ever do.
# As a child, the first time you are urged to be top of the class, or first past the post, when you have no competitive feelings and can't see the point.
# As a child, the first time you realise that older children know things that you have never even heard about, which makes you feel small.
# As a child, the first time you visit a big city (London in my own case, at age twelve, on a school trip) and see that your own world has so far been very limited.
# As a child, the first time (in that same big city, in Hyde Park, by The Serpentine) that a strange male adult approaches you and asks you whether you'd like to come with them. (I politely refused, and escaped)
# As a child, the first time you get a glimpse of a pornographic magazine, and see what girls grow up to be.
# As a child, the first time you read about people in history being tortured and cruelly killed, which opens a window on human savagery and mass intolerance in the name of some belief, and how dangerous being different or principled might be.
# As a child, the first time you become aware of a world event that makes adults tremble.
# As a child, the first time you have a real-life encounter with the police, and you learn to respect implacable authority.
# As a child, the first time an aunt or uncle dies, and you realise that one day you will die too.
# As a child, the first time your parents send you away for a while, without explanation. (I didn't learn that my Mum suffered from post-natal depression, and had to send me away, until after she died in 2009)
# As a child, the first time you see another child in leg irons, or with a deformed face or limb. (This was no rarity in the 1950s)
# As a child, the first time you notice that disabled people are generally ignored, or considered figures of fun, and legitimate targets for pranks. (This was the 1950s, remember)
# As a child, the first time you notice that people who aren't white or English are treated differently, and generally badly. (Again, this was in the 1950s)
# As a child, the first time you notice that kids from poor backgrounds are usually fighters.
# As a child, the first time your father's BBC accent - your own accent - is mocked.
# As a child, the first time you enter the home of a child who has really well-off parents.
# As a child, the first time you understand what is means to be a town councillor, or any person of standing.
# As a child, the first time you feel so miserable at your own birthday party that you beg your parents never to arrange another. (This happened when I was eight. My next party was my fortieth)
# As a child, the first time you open a world atlas, and imagine what unlimited travel is like.
# As a child, the first time you feel the thrill of space exploration, and apprehend the immensity and mystery of the universe.
# As a child, the first time you master the skill of writing, and find you have lots of words at your command.
# As a child, the first time you pick up a camera and want to make it work.

So many 'firsts'. Some shattering, some just disturbing, some inspirational. I could easily mention more. All the ones mentioned above - experiences that occurred during my first thirteen years - had a permanent effect on me, shaping my view of how things were, how I should behave, and how I should face up to the world. It strikes me that, for any given individual, there are no simple and easily-discovered reasons for how they have turned out, and what they feel is true about life. Many, many different influences come to bear, and they can't be disentangled.

I know that there are things missing from the list above. My moment of first love? The first time I was applauded? These things did not happen. They could not happen. I was in my shell. I had to conceal so much. I could not reach out. I could not be a performer.

That's why I'm something of a show-off now. At last, in my sixties, I can catch up on some of the things I should have done, or been, as a child. I'll do them, get that 'first-time experience' out of my system, learn whatever lesson needs to learned, and then move on.  

1 comment:

  1. Lucy, I applaud your writing skills!

    I was just five when I declared, on being collected, that I never wanted to attend a birthday party again having just endured the hell of a boys party. I have still not caught up as much as you have...

    ReplyDelete

This blog is public, and I expect comments from many sources and points of view. They will be welcome if sincere, well-expressed and add something worthwhile to the post. If not, they face removal.

Ideally I want to hear from bloggers, who, like myself, are knowable as real people and can be contacted. Anyone whose identity is questionable or impossible to verify may have their comments removed. Commercially-inspired comments will certainly be deleted - I do not allow free advertising.

Whoever you are, if you wish to make a private comment, rather than a public one, then do consider emailing me - see my Blogger Profile for the address.

Lucy Melford