As a skinny kid with big ears, my life was a truly happy one. My kind and loving parents guided, cared and provide me with everything I needed or wanted, and the sun shined into my life on a daily basis. Apart from a few tearful times and experiences, which generally happened to most kids, I don’t remember ever being unhappy.
My eighty-five-year-old auntie recently commented that she only remembers me wearing a smile so broad you could easily imagine a coat-hanger had been inserted behind my lips. There was nothing I could remember which made me unhappy, except for two memorable exceptions.
My major cause for unhappiness started the day I attended secondary school. From the first day, it was obvious I wasn’t going to enjoy this period of my life and education. The problem being I was and still am highly sensitive. I’m also very different to everyone else in so many ways, but mainly the way in which, I think. As a result, I instantly became a target for gobby boys and verbal bullies who took pleasure in tormenting a reaction out of me, and they rarely had to try that hard. They taunted me over my differences in search of a humiliating or emotional reaction. There was always someone stupid enough to listen to their cruel and warped opinions. Unfortunately, it was generally me!
They made me feel weird and labelled me as being far stranger than I really was, and daily I endured this sad ritual. All I ever wanted to do was fit in and be normal. It would never happen. As school came to a conclusion, so did my unhappiness. Mentally, however, now things had changed much and my individuality and standing out, and not being afraid to do so, became my advantage.
Who wanted to be normal, anyway?
Ordinary individuals are everywhere and reaching this low standard no longer seemed to be an achievement. Forget being normal or ordinary, I upped my bar and my objective now was to become extra-ordinary, which was my very worthwhile objective!
The other thing which for a while made me extremely unhappy was my mother, who for some reason was adamant I should take up dancing lessons. I highlighted my deep reluctance and loathing for both dancing and mixing with girls, and pleaded with her for months that this was something which would end badly, for me anyway. She was immovable on this point and still protesting bitterly; she dragged me to the village hall to observe my fate in motion. She presumably hoped that this excruciating ordeal would get me interested, and me to modify my decision. The prospect of this twice-weekly tribulation mortified me as it was all girls, and I would be the only boy, and it looked soppy. I felt doomed.
However, when my mother made up her mind, there was no stopping her, as she was as stubborn as a cat. She had been considering the prospect for approximately a month before the summer holidays arrived. Then, and to my extreme satisfaction, just like school, the dance teacher also took a break. It was a reprieve, but only a temporary one, as mom enrolled me for classes the following September sealing my fate. She had no pity and constantly told me I would enjoy myself, and I felt as if I were on death row. It wasn’t so much the dancing lessons which gave me concern; it was being seen by the local boys from my school who already provided me with grief on a daily basis. They were already conscious of the fact I was strange, as I enjoyed my own company, and I didn’t have an interest in football or other typically boyish pursuits. Now, when they discovered I was doing dancing lessons, I know they would tell everyone I was a homosexual, or a (homo) as it was referred to in my school days. At that time I had no idea what a homo was, or if they made them in my size, but thought it wouldn’t be a good idea to be one.
The negative potential of my approaching embarrassment made me miserable and extremely unhappy. So unhappy that I had nightmares about the potential repercussions and my mother realising this fact made me a deal. If I would attend dancing lessons a few times with a positive attitude and still didn’t like them, then she would let me stop. This sounded fair to her, but not to me, and neither did she provide me with her definition of a few. She failed to understand that just being seen or associated with dancing classes just once was enough to deliver irreparable injustice to my already crippled reputation, which I feared would follow me into adult life and continue to haunt me there.
The summer, typically for the UK, was a warm and wet one, and I seemed to grow approximately six inches in height between June and September. It also triggered other interesting changes within me. Most noticeable hairs began sprouting from the most unexpected of places. Puberty had arrived with a vengeance, and my squeaky voice lowered to that of a base baritone almost overnight. My feelings and mentally had also noticeably altered as quite suddenly I began regarding the fairer sex from a more enlightened perspective, and I became excited and attentive around them. What was happening, I didn’t understand?
In September, and as expected, my mother took me personally to the dancing lessons. She was ensuring any thoughts of playing truant didn’t become a reality. To make things worse, she pinned a dinky little bow tie on me, which didn’t go unnoticed by the keen-eyed boys on the way to the classes. It left them rolling around in fits of laughter, and me red-faced and dying of shame. Here was a gangly thirteen-year-old boy wearing a lovely little bow tie, and still being escorted by his mommy. I thought I’d never live it down. I felt like the pied piper of Hamlin, but rather than rats, a string of scruffy boys followed us. They were all keen to discover the next scene in this enjoyable and interesting story which was unfolding before them.
Although the first ten minutes were a dreadful humiliation, the dance lessons were not what I expected at all. For the first time, I noticed that the girls, particularly the older girls, smelt nice, were feminine and gentle to touch. They also blushed wonderfully when you looked into their eyes, and they attracted me like strong magnets. Best of all, and although I wasn’t certain of the full benefits at the time, the hall was devoid of male competition. I was the only young stag in this large herd of adolescent doe’s, who were all fiercely competing for my attention, and I felt privileged and special.
Although I didn’t want to tell my mom she was right, I began enjoying it. What was there not to enjoy, I was the only boy in a room full of pretty girls of mixed ages who were as interested in me as I was in them? I felt like a kid who had just been handed the key to a candy shop and told to enjoy himself. The immature boys who jeered and laughing at me through the windows on that first evening quickly faded into insignificance. Their attempts at dance class-related humiliation failed to get a response or reaction from me, if only they knew. I had become the centre of girlish attention and everyone wanted to dance or sit with me and be my friend. A few months earlier, I, like most prepubescent boys, had felt difficult and awkward around girls. Now, due to the feminine attention being lavished upon me on a daily basis, I had become comfortable and popular with the ladies. This fact hadn’t gone unnoticed and looks of surprise and bewilderment, as well as glares of jealousy, were normal as I sat comfortably with groups of pretty girls fussing around me at school. I began to realise that being different and standing out for the right reasons was a big advantage.