'What's it like to kiss a boy?'
||It had been a quiet week in Firbank Road. It was just
before the schools broke up for the summer holidays and the streets
were full of serious looking grown ups going about their business.
The estate that we lived in was new then, with two blocks of flats
eight storeys high. There were four flats on each landing and I
knew everyone that lived in the block and most of the people in
the other one. Our next door neighbours had one daughter called
Linda who was tall, blond and wore clothes that my mum would approve
of. She was seventeen years old and had a steady boyfriend. I was
ten years old, skinny and shy. I longed to be grown up like Linda
but I much preferred Marion who also lived on our landing. Marion
was fifteen, smoked, kissed lots of boys and always talked to me
and told me things that I wanted to know. She always gave me her
old Jackie magazines that I liked because they had a problem page
and a fashion page. There were some things that they never told
you about on the problem page.
So I would ask Marion. 'What's it like to kiss a boy?'
'Well it's sort of like when you eat ice-cream but wetter'
'What does it taste like?'
'Nothing. Like your own spit'
'You get to like it after a while especially if the boy's a good kisser'
'What's a good kiss like?'
Marion lit a cigarette and blew smoke rings. I hoped that one day I would
be able to blow smoke rings just like Marion did, confidently,
perfect every time with pursed pillar-box red lips. I would practice in
the mirror until I was lip-perfect. She wore a black leather jacket
and her smooth shiny dark hair made her skin look pale. I thought that
she looked like how Snow White would look if she were real
and living in Peckham. Sometimes she wouldn't answer my question for a
minute or two. She would look into the distance, tilt her
head to one side and frown as if she were thinking intently on her response.
I would try and hold my breath and will her to answer.
She always did answer in her own way.
'You'll know when you get one'
If she were not going out she would let me into her bedroom to play records.
She had her own record player that could hold ten records at once and
would let me chose the first five. Her dressing table was a treasure trove
of lotions, potions and pots with different kinds of make up in all the
colours that you could think of. The lipsticks were in black cases, gold
cases, swivels and push-ups. Marion would let me try on the lipsticks
as long as I wiped it off before I went home. 'Why do I have to wipe the
lipstick off Marion, can't I show mum she wouldn't mind, honest'
'Your dad wouldn't like it'
'Dad's don't like their little girls to wear lipstick'
'Because...it means you're growing up and a boy might try and kiss you.
Dads don't like that'
'Yuk! I wouldn't want to anyway, boys are horrible' But I did want to.
I desperately wanted to be grown up, just like Marion. I wanted to look
like her and know things that Marion knew. I
wanted to walk down the street in a way that made boys look at me and
want to be my friend. Boys just teased me because I was
thin and had knobbly knees that were permanently scratched and scraped.
I was ten years and three months old when my friend Sally, who was also
ten and skinny, invited me to go on a blind date at her flats. He was
twelve, called John and I had instructions from Sally to be at her place
on Saturday morning at 11a.m. I told my mum and dad who thought it was
hilarious. They teased me until the day of the date. They told my aunts
and uncles when we visited them. I had to ask Marion's advice. She wouldn't
laugh, she would help me and tell me what I should wear, what I should
say and make sure that I didn't do anything to make people laugh at me.
I called for Marion a few times that week but she was always out. On the
Friday before my big date I called for Marion again. Her mum told me that
she was staying over with her friend and wouldn't be back until Saturday
afternoon. How would I manage without Marion? My mum was nice but she
treated me like a little girl. I wanted to be fifteen; I wanted someone
to tell me how. My mum was thirty years old, how could she possibly understand.
On Saturday morning I woke up and decided to imagine that Marion was advising
me whenever I needed her advice, talking to me whenever I needed someone
to talk to.
'What shall I wear Marion?'
'Wear something grown up'
'But I haven't got anything grown up'
'Well, wear your favourite dress'
'What about this one?'
'Is it your favourite?'
'No then, I said your favourite'
'But don't you think it's a bit..."?
'Why is it your favourite dress?'
'I just love wearing it'
'It will look good then, wear it'
I wore it. It was my first straight dress and I had a tantrum in the shop
before my dad bought it. He chose a pink gingham dress that
came in at the waist (which I didn't have) and flounced out to a full
skirt. I cried when he was going to buy it and said that I would
never wear it because everyone would laugh at me. The lady in the shop
tut-tutted, especially when my dad reluctantly let me chose
my own dress. It was the most beautiful dress that I had ever seen. It
was a straight dress, just like the ones that grown up women
wore. The flower pot print at the bottom sprouted a large sunflower that
ended at the bodice so that the white petals were like a sun
at the top of the dress. It was pale yellow and I loved it. My mum helped
me to put my hair in bunches and I wore the whitest long
socks that I had.
I walked carefully to Sally's house so as not to fall over and graze my
knees. I sat on the wall outside Sally's and talked with Sally, her friend
Kenny and John. We laughed when the younger kids came and asked if I was
John's girlfriend. Sally's mum gave us sandwiches, cake, crisps and lemonade
to take outside. When I had to go home John kissed me on my cheek and
I told Marion about it when I next saw her. She listened intently,
looking into the distance as I spoke.
'Sounds like you had fun. That's important. Always remember if it stops
being fun don't do it'.
I nodded in agreement. I was not entirely certain what she meant but
I knew it was important to remember. We were still friends but it
was different to before. I still asked her questions but not so many.
There were still many things that I didn't want to know about, and
I knew enough to know that.
© Sue Noonan
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