I’ve just finished the autobiography unit of my online writing course. The idea was to look at various aspects of life at 10, 15 and 18 – clothes, likes, fears, music etc – and see where it went. This is what I wrote:
I don’t mean to criticise, but there’s a major design flaw in God’s plan. It’s in the way that the gifts and skills which he bestows so generously are like presents from a great aunt who you never see: they’re just not what you want.
Take prettiness, for example. Completely wasted on a ten-year-old. There’s a photo of me on holiday in Majorca and I’ve never looked so cute. I’m lying on a sun lounger in a bikini, grinning cheekily and unselfconsciously at the camera. My stomach’s flat, my hair’s long and blond.
I was first choice to be the Queen’s assistant in the Church parade and to be The Virgin Mary in the school play. I was so lovely Dad’s best friend said he’d wait for me.
If Dad’s friend had been a horse or a packet of midget gems, I might have been interested.
8 years later and Dad’s friend is conspicuous by his absence. Huh, who can blame him? Who’d marry me? Dear God, now would have been the moment for the Being Pretty gift.
Here’s a photo of me at a summer family barbecue. My hair’s short, thick, shapeless and mousey. I hate being outside. The sun makes me squint. I’m uncomfortably hot but refuse to change into shorts and let everyone see my fat thighs. I wear jeans which are too long and an oversized t-shirt with Morrissey (“he’s NOT gay!”) of The Smiths on the front. My belly’s spasming with period pains.
I’m pathetic. 18 and I’ve only ever kissed one boy. Called Nigel, of all things.
The other wrong gift is knowledge. What’s the point of 80-year-olds having knowledge and insight? Shouldn’t they be allowed to sit back and watch Corrie with a nice glass of sherry rather than feel obliged to pass on pearls of wisdom to people who aren’t listening?
No, knowledge would be better at 15. If I’d known that – yawn! – “the coolest thing is being true to yourself” life would have been a lot different. I might never have dumped Katy as my best friend in favour of Vicki. Katy was a buck-toothed, born again Christian, top of the class. Vicki had a denim jacket, bleached hair and stomach cramps from the number of fizzy drinks she got through.
My tutor said I could have stopped after the Nigel paragraph because the later ones blurred the impact. It does now seem that a mish mash of thoughts at the time, at 18 and now, so I’d clarify that in a rewrite.
Another student thought the humour would work better in a different style than the monologue, which she found almost in the style of stand up comedy.
When writing I spilled out both the comic and tragic. It’s quite a challenge to even know what the right tone should be, but one I enjoyed experimenting with.