I’m having an ABBA morning. Why? Because they make me happy. It takes me back to being 11 or 12 years old and going to the rink on Friday nights, skating round and round to Does Your Mother Know. I was just starting to settle in and get comfortable with the idea of being a kid when everything shifted again.
I hated most of elementary school. I was shy. I was fat. I was smart. I wore my cousin’s hand-me-down clothes. Not good things when you’re a kid. I couldn’t wait to grow up. Most of my memories from Grades 1-5 are nasty. Bullied, poked fun at, not fitting in . . . so much hurt . . . I spent a lot of time in my head, in my room alone, outside alone, hating, crying, and most of all wishing I was an adult. Because when I grew up then I’d make the bastards pay for every shitty thing they did to me, for every moment they caused me pain.
I even had a list, a pay-back list I kept in my diary. It was just a list of names, dozens and dozens of names. I didn’t need to write down what they had done to me, I could recite the list by heart. I suppose if I were growing up today I’d be the kid who goes postal in the cafeteria. But back then all I could do was make my list and wish to be grown, because then I’d have the power and I could do what I wanted.
By 6th grade things started to shift. I don’t know if it was the wonderful teacher we had that year or what. In spring I started playing soccer and football at lunch hour, I’d been going to the rink in the winter and spending hours skating. The only album they had to play over the speakers was ABBA. This was the year I got my first pair of jeans. I settled in. I started to have fun being a kid. But it didn’t last long. The best part of my childhood lasted a few months before my girl friends decided playing games in the field was not cool, sports were not cool. The focus shifted to hair, make-up, clothes, and of course, boys.
I resisted at first. I tried to convince them to at least continue playing until summer break. We could all enter 7th grade as proper young women, but couldn’t we finish grade 6 as little girls? Nobody was interested. They left the field and went down to stand on the pavement, leaning against the brick wall, where they would gossip and brag and scheme. I remember standing on the hill, looking back the field at the boys running with the soccer ball, watching the backs of my girl friends walk away from me, and I knew it was over, whatever peace and freedom and joy in childhood I had been briefly experiencing had ended and a new chapter was beginning. I took one last look at the boys kicking the soccer ball and followed the girls to the pavement.
I wish I could say my transition into teenager-land went more smoothly, but seventh grade was a bitch of a year. By the end of it I had gone numb to everything. I no longer kept a pay-back list because I figured none of these people mattered anyway. I lived for the day when school would end and real life would begin. Throughout high school I kept my eye on that prize. As far as I was concerned none of what happened during my teens mattered in the slightest, this wasn’t real life, that wouldn’t begin until I graduated and left. This attitude allowed me to do things that other people were angered or shocked by. Making out with someone else’s boyfriend was perfectly acceptable to my way of thinking because we were just kids having fun and it wasn’t like anyone was going to stay together and get married and all that crap in our real life after high school. Nothing was out of bounds. Because nothing mattered. It was all one big waste of time, might as well get some thrills out of it, sample a bit of everything.
I remember an incident where a girl came up to me and told me she knew I’d gone out with her boyfriend but it was my lucky day because she was going to let it go. I remember being surprised that there had even been a possibility that she wouldn’t let it go. I had been hanging on the fringe of her clique and she had said repeatedly about how she didn’t really like this guy anyway, how she was probably going to break up with him. So, as far as I was concerned, he was beyond fair game and I’d actually done her a big favour by giving her a good excuse to dump his cheating ass. So I was surprised to have her confront me in the schoolyard.
I remember how her face blushed all red and she turned and stomped away when I just shrugged and said something like duh, of course not, you got no beef with me. This happened a couple of times in high school, girls coming up to me to tell me I’d done them wrong but they were going to let it go. And I have to wonder why? Why didn’t they beat me up? And what must they have thought when they’d get my calm cool logical reaction? They were always big girls, taller than me, and I was pretty tall. I’m sure they expected me to be intimidated, apologetic even. I was quiet too. I never said much in school. Out of school I partied harder and louder than anyone else. Nothing and nobody was off-limits, if I found someone attractive, if I wanted something, I went after it and I didn’t take no for an answer. I didn’t realize it at the time, that I had no respect for anyone or anything, I just thought I was putting in my time, same as everyone else, just getting through until the first day of the rest of my life. I got away with a lot. I’m not sure why.
And all of this has nothing to do with ABBA, except that for a few brief moments in childhood I felt free and ABBA was there with me. This explains everything, right?
Drinking: cold coffee
Listening To: thunderstruck, ac/dc
Hair: needing some colour