Farm life did not prepare me for being a teen, for understanding the sexual act. My father was quiet and shy. My mother was brought up to be a Victorian daughter and didn’t know about periods, sex or babies until it happened. When this mother of mine sat me down in the garden and told me about ‘periods’, I ran away. Somehow I had got to thirteen on a farm, surrounded by sex, my menstruating mother, pregnant cats, pigs and cows without hearing a thing about periods. And that they would go on for years and years, disgusting! I guess mum wanted to tell me before someone else at secondary school told me. My best friend had hers but mine didn’t start for years and I thought I was a freak. Agony. I actually longed for it to come.
Bras and breasts didn’t appear either. They had no place on my lean body. When the bra did, it wasn’t a normal bra and didn’t look the same as the others. I didn’t need bras, still don’t but changing for physical education in a singlet was not cool. And falsies – was I the only one wearing them, push your finger in and the dent stayed.
I was quite wild actually. My horse was my ally and my legs were strong. I grew up riding bareback. I loved nothing better than being down the farm, on the horse, using the tractor, managing the animals, helping with haymaking, feeding out, working as part of a team, being one of the guys.
School was a trial. I survived by being the clown. I was immature and easily intimidated. We rock’n rolled in the toilets and went to Crusaders at lunchtime. I learned the violin and played badly in the school orchestra. We were all girls of course.
And boys. I just got helpless crushes on them. I was not considered attractive. I could never, never talk about these feelings. They had no words. To have them exposed would invite deep shame. But I did write, about my horse, our holidays, my surroundings, the seasons. I wrote passionately and at length about those things.