I wish we got training on how to do people. A little map that steers you through social minefields and tells you things like How To Start A Conversation, When To Let The Matter Drop, Avoiding Conversational Lulls and Not Making That Clicky Noise With Your Tongue. An app that plays soothing music during awkward silences. That tells you when you’ve got spinach in your teeth or are standing too close.
Some people seem to know these things automatically. I’m guessing they’re the same ones who flushed my head down the toilet at school. The cool girls who wafted white musk and self belief. Like another species – pink and glittery and terrifying.
I watched those girls like a seagull eyeing chips. I was ravenous for what they had. The boyfriend and the chest and the matching underwear. For a time when I’d stop saying the wrong thing and I’d wear the right clothes and listen to the right music and most of all, I’d finally Fit. I did my best. But it never happened. I never grew into my blazer, just like I never grew into my gender: both always seemed a bit too big.
Puberty descends and carries us, kicking and screaming into adulthood. We get better at filling the silences. We start to look the part. But I’m still mystified by life. I look at other people and can’t believe they’re made of the same messiness that I am. I wonder if I’ll ever fit into the world, or even my body. I don’t know the answers. But then, maybe that’s not the point. Maybe part of growing up is not being frightened of the questions.