Like all my siblings I was a late bloomer. Out of 4 of us all well into our thirties by now; one holds down a real job and same one has borne the one and only grandchild to my surprised but delighted folks. The other 3 are busy wondering what we would like to be when and if adulthood ever comes knocking. Until such time I will be busy blogging away about me and my rapidly expanding spandex collection and the like.
My own physical development was similarly protracted. As a growing girl I was prodigiously backward.
My milk teeth didn’t make their way into my parents’ change purse until my first holy communion. I lingered lowest on the school wall chart well into secondary school and the tragicomedy of my borrowing a 28AA bra from a classmate which I then used to swing in sweeping circles when the teacher’s back was turned (I had that much use for it)are all solid anecdotal evidence that I would never have made The Holy Faith Cheerleading Squad, not as a student that is and not that they know what one is.
Further humiliations include being asked to slow dance by a guy on his knees and being urged not to wear leggings by a much admired and fully maturated peer when dressing ourselves for the ceilidh at the Gaeltacht. (That’s camp in Ireland to any American’s reading.)Her delivery was blunt and pitiless and I shall never forget it.
The years rolled on. Braces came and went. Exams were passed and enemies were made. But one thing remained the same. My boyish prepubescent limbs clung to childhood with a tenacity and determination that never surfaced in any of my scholastic endeavours. By 15 I was feeling it. Adrian Mole and his zits had nothing on my self pitying and increasingly anxious beanpole frame.
Humour that old ally of the defensive and insecure was employed to an admirable degree. Humour and horizontal stripes.
When alone it didn’t seem so funny. I was envious of the chubby kids, a bit of flab on my thighs would have been welcomed or so I thought. And so I took drastic action.
I asked the Great Almighty Father in his kindness and mercy to endow me with a healthy and full-grown female form. Nothing fancy just a regular body with hips and an end to vests. Please Please Please!
I knew it was a cheap shot. But hell one undeserving sinner is as good as the next I figured and it was hardly an unreasonable request.
At the convent come fifth year we shed our gym slips and became young ladies in scratchy woolen kilts. I remember wrapping and wrapping it endlessly about myself. I tucked the sweater into the kilt and wore pyjamas underneath at times to look less kiddish. This did little to win me any regard from the authorities. Bulking out a navy v -neck and blanket skirt combo was a thankless task. It just meant there were more things to fall down when not hanging loosely about my person. I persevered. I finished the course through to its unspectacular finale.
I left the establishment a child of eighteen and returned to it in October for the Debs looking every inch the woman. Little needs to be said of the event except that I filled out my black lace three-quarter length tu tu gown beautifully. The bodice was delicately decorated with hand-stitched red roses. Yes over that magical summer something astonishing occurred. My prayers were answered and then some. Slight still and the legs had a way to go yet but I had blossomed. The holy father had come up trumps. The proportions were most to my liking. Strangely it seemed to happen almost overnight. Getting dressed was no longer a sorry affair of layering up. No sir. Getting dressed became from that point the most joyous, fun and self affirming activity and happily remains so to this day. Which is why I try to do so more than once in any twenty-four hours. Its my way of giving thanks.
Naturally it took some time to adjust to my new shape. Like any immature teenager I longed to show off my new present. Together my family and I welcomed and cajoled, teased and disciplined the rapid manifestation of my delayed womanhood into the world.
I remember one Christmas going off to mass with my Dad and my younger brother. I had chosen for the occasion an exquisitely soft cream wool box jacket. It had a Peter Pan collar and big round same fabric buttons. It came to my hips. On my lower half I was sporting what would now be termed jeggings. Muted grey jersey tight-fitting leggings with pockets, stitching and little jean studs. Jackie Kennedy if she had the legs would have done the same or so I thought. My Dad and my brother were in the pew behind me and I recall seeing him looking at Vincent and gesturing towards the pants and solemnly shaking his head.
Then there was the time I disappeared out of the house at two in the afternoon in the tiniest little denim shorts, t-shirt and massive Reebok boot runners only to call home at midnight to say I was with some new friends in Greystones. Just what every Northside head of the house wants to be told under the circumstances. My Dad came to the phone. My mother was away in the west. All his meagre parenting and coping skills were tested in that one phone call. He roared at me to come home and then he rang my mother.
A girl doesn’t skip delicately from teenage androgyny to having a lovely figure in one graceful step. Not one with my clumsy uncoordinated ways. But therein lies the fun. Toeing the line was never my thing back in school and less so now. Precocity is a huge part of my personal style and lately more than ever I have been channeling it as London is the place to do it. My latent physical maturation has left its mark in many ways. A lifelong respect for the Du Pont industry, a healthy body image (can I say that?)a love affair with clothes and a fuller consideration for any Divine presence. Well don’t knock it till you’ve tried it. Where indoctrination fails reward succeeds.
Funnily enough our twenty year anniversary school reunion is up this month.
Best of luck with it ladies.