Sunday, February 18

Sunday scribbings - crushed

My moment of happiness: Robert and I as Mr and Mrs Claus.

The first time my heart was crushed I had just turned ten. Sure, I had been “in love” before, it was just that those who came before Robert really didn't count.

I was a skinny, gangly thing, taller than all the boys in my class and to top it all off I had a weird mop of short, bushy, frizzy reddish hair. My one wish throughout my childhood was to have long hair, but my mother had decided early on to spare me this torture. Being the only one of her three daughters to have inherited her thick, unruly hair, my mother felt she was doing me a favour by keeping it short. Her memories were dark of the long hours she had spent submitting to her mother's merciless tugging with a fine-tooth comb, braiding her hair so tight her scalp hurt. But I believed I would have welcomed that pain, and so year after year on Christmas and birthday wish-lists there it was at the very top: long hair.

But she never relented, and as a result I spent my formative years constantly being mistaken for a boy. Instead of being the stereotypical adorable chubby little girl, with ringlets tumbling down her shoulders, I was a stick-like, straight-backed boy/girl.

OK, so maybe I wasn’t that pretty, but for ages that didn’t matter, there was no real awareness of any awkwardness. Sure it was annoying when strangers assumed I was a boy, but in my carefree existence, gender issues did not feature high on the agenda. And boys liked me, perhaps not in the same way they liked my best friend Lotta (who looked like an angel with her long blond curls), but because I was one of them. For several years I could even out-jump them in long jump, and I guess they respected me for that.

But then Robert moved to our village and everything changed. You have to try and visualise the devastating effect he had on our little community. Not only did he speak with a Stockholm accent, he had lived in America and so spoke fluent English (or so he said, we had no way of knowing of course). He was tall (even taller than me, and that was a first), he was blonde and he was wonderfully good looking. Dynamics in our class changed almost over night. All seven girls instantly swooned and we found ourselves in competition with each other for the first time. The well-established hierarchy amongst the boys was of course disrupted and challenged. Robert became the new leader.

In my innocence I saw no reason why he shouldn’t like me. After all I was one of the most popular girls. I recall the day it all changed, clearly as if it was yesterday. Robert was at the teacher’s desk sharpening his pencil with the only communal pencil sharpener. I was standing next to him, waiting my turn. It was late spring and I can even recall the sun streaming in through the dusty windows. When Robert had finished he turned to me and said, “Why does your hair always look like a mushroom?” I don’t recall my reply, but I do remember trying to play cool even though inside I was crumbling. He hadn’t said it in a nasty way, but the effect it had on my ten year-old self was enormous and immediate. Not only was this my first experience with heart break, but the origins of the very fragile relationship I have with my hair all my life, can be traced back to that very moment.

Many years later when I was living in Toronto, I opened the newspaper one day and came face to face with a photograph of him covering almost half the page. By now he was a successful ice hockey player, playing for Montreal Canadiens. He was still glamorous, he was still dangerously handsome. But although I had by no means morphed into a swan, and I was only a student waitressing to make ends meet, I noted with a sense of relief that whilst my heart did skip a beat or two at the sight of him, it was no longer crushed.


sognatrice said...

My elementary school crush once called me "Four Eyes," which was very out of character for this usually sweet boy. It crushed me at the time, but all was better once I realized that obviously he was in love with me (as Robert was with you). Little boys and their insecurities ;) Great post!

Jean-Luc Picard said...

That's good to know your heart is no longer crushed.

Regina Clare Jane said...

Aaarrgghh... boys. Because of my name, Regina, some of the boys would call me "Reginald". My friends would tell me it's only because they liked me, but I didn't like it in the least.
It's good we can get over things like this- hopefully!

Kamsin said...

Children can be so cruel to one another especially when it comes to looks or being different in some way. Great post!

Lacithecat said...

Ah ... I just let out the biggest sigh. That is so sweet and sad!

paris parfait said...

Children can be so cruel, without meaning to...Sorry your mom wouldn't let you have your hair the way you wanted it. Lovely, bittersweet story of your young crush.

Gypsy Purple said...

What a totally stunning post...oh I truly enjoyed this!!!

Yes, we can all name them...our the growing-up game


La Cubana Gringa said...

Ahh yes, the "mushroom head" haircut...I've been there before. Glad to see we've both moved on!

As for the boy...we learn early, don't we?, that they tend to say stupid things!

Bearette24 said...

Ouch. Children can say very hurtful things. And we all had an awkward phase. My hair when I was 11? Ugh. It was naturally wavy, yet something possessed me to get a perm.

Edvard Moonke said...

a mushroom? lol

aww that's so sweet. it made me smile throughout.

omg said...

Ugh. Boys have cooties anyway. If it makes you feel any better, I always had really really long hair, and I still got picked on. And was once confused for a boy when I was in high school. The french braid and baseball cap combo did me in. Gah.

Wonderfully written post!

KG said...

Oh, I felt your pain as I read this! How deeply our hearts can feel at such young ages!

It was so interesting to read about that precise moment when you went from being best friends with all the boys to being in competition with the girls for one boy's attention. Very poignant.

Caro said...

What an eloquent post.

It's funny how the little things stick with us through the years.

Mardougrrl said...

Oh, as a curly haired girl, I felt this post. I also had the short boy cut growing up, and I also had boys saying things like that when I was younger. :(

Great post!

Sharon said... about his teeth? Do ya think he may be missing some?

Long gangly ...that was me and I was called *BONES*!

My Marrakech said...

I do feel your pain. I so desperately wanted to weigh more b/c I was so horribly skinny and shapeless. I went to ask my mother to buy a training bra and she just looked at me and said, What in the world for?

Bohemian Mom said...

Great Post!
Boys are just mean.

gautami tripathy said...

Boys are horrible and mean at that age.I could feel the pain you must have had at that time.

Painfully yours..

tania said...

fabulous post!

i only wish i knew what would happen if i were to see my first crush again.

do we ever get over those first innocent and crushing (pun intended) comments from boys on our physical appearance? my italian body hair issues haunt me to this day and though the jokes about "monkey girl" didn't help, it all stems from the day a boy asked my why my arms were so hairy.