Despite what some (clearly jealous) people think, growing up in a white suburban upper middle class home, and all the privilege that that entails, with a doctor and a housewife (with two tertiary degrees) as parents, three siblings, a dog and a cat, is not exactly a walk in the park. (Though I did, often, walk in the park, the one over the road. With the gleaming child-friendly playground and sea views; attractive blonde women walking various animals and pet children about, sipping chai mocchalattefrappes and tweeting on i-phones, or whatever the 2002 equivalent of an i-phone was. A cellophone with no aerial. A home phone with a really long cord. A tin with a string. What did people DO in 2002? Did they still wear bootleg jeans? I know I wore orange and pink skivvies and leggings (possibly, yes, with teapot motifs) until high school. And then it was on with a continuation of the orange theme with USA hoodies and dickies shorts. Orange. Giant backpacks. Che shirts.)
From the start, I think that, growing up, I had a fairly non-conventional attitude towards various necessary childhood activities, which could have been summed up in two words “my way”. I did not wear shoes until I was four, and my mother was nearly arrested for child abuse as she pulled me, barefoot and hysterically clinging to street signs and spelling them out in sobs, tears and snot (this has always been a pet joy of mine. I once slapped a small child when she refused to admit that cupboard was spelled “cup” + “board”. I was also a small child at the time. But I would do it again. The fight against stupidity accepts no parameters.) through the knee-deep snow in Bristol in December.
People, too, annoyed me quite a lot. I would viscously verbally attack any adult who dared to challenge me on any view whatsoever. My primary school teachers would not argue with me about grammar. Or anything. Especially Mrs Jones. She was a smoker, and when I saw her smoking after class one time I explicated with such persistence about the negative consequences of this abhorrent behaviour (with, I have no doubt, extreme usage of fictional anecdotal evidence) that I was made to sit outside the principle’s office for two hours. I wrote a story about drug abuse (“She stopped, there, at the top of the stairs. Something, dark, called from below, and she slowly stepped forward, into the abyss that awaited”) and got a gold star for using so many commas.
I also broke my nose doing a cartwheel. To this day I still do not fully understand in what way, exactly, this is possible.
In intermediate I had to come to New Zealand. So I sat under a desk and read.
It was a nice desk; it faced out of a window, from which I could watch everybody else riding in tiny circles on scooters and hitting people with scooters and holding hands and getting pregnant and so on (Evan’s bay intermediate. Need I say more.) I did not have a scooter. I really wanted a “RAZOR!”, which was metallic and shiny and (I assume) could corner extremely sharply. But my mum did not believe in scooters. Or trans fats in school lunches. Or TV. So, these being the primary measures behind acceptance into pre-teen society, I remained a non-homogenised child, and read War and Peace (boring. But they shoot bears and fuck peasants) and the Satanic Verses (fucking boring. Everybody has the same name) and Annie Proulx and Margaret Atwood and Mark Doty and other various tomes I collected from the shelves of my parents' bookshelf that were reachable for a 120cm child (I actually grew a whole 40cm in high school!) and occasionally teachers would approach me (moderate trepidation in their voices) and ask if I would like to emerge and participate. And I would look at them. For a bit. Then utter a measured “no”, and return to Bill Bryson or Forster, and they would dither for a bit, then leave me alone for another week.
In addition to this scooter-related failing at life (I fucking swear, EVERYBODY had a scooter! It was a seriously big deal. Not having a scooter was kind of like not having a favourite dinosaur; unimaginable, inexplicable and unacceptable) I never had a bedroom. I feel that there is some sort of adolescent rite of passage in which one is required to retreat and lurk for four to six years in a dark, somewhat acrid-smelling cave filled with posters of guitar-clasping individuals in eyeliner and vaguely explicit jeans and tissue boxes and broken cd cases and pieces of ego, to emerge, wearied but not spotty, an unsullied fresher with a limitless alcohol tolerance and positive outlook on life and ipod.
But all I had was an alcove in the hall. It had a bed and a pinboard, but the amount of angst possible without doors and walls proved severely limited. I tried my best with surly lesbianity (and goddamn did I try! Waistcoats, lip piercings, the entire Tegan and Sarah back catalogue) but after five years of emotional anguish and not a single tattoo, I gave up the premise and turned away from drama class and cask wine, and set off to find my place in the world. LOL. Jokes. I went to Mexico.
After being sufficiently (catholically and cathartically) heterosexual for a year or two, I cut my losses, bought some scratchy tweed pants, eighteen scarves, and a longboard, and went off to some cold place to sit.
And so I became.... Not a child. Called Brian.
Called Ruby. LOL. Enjoy.
Called Ruby. LOL. Enjoy.