” I am currently writing a memoir and I would love any comments and opinions from this wonderful online community of writers. I will be posting various excerpts, paragraphs and chapters here that I am more or less happy with, or absolutely hate, looking for help and feedback. The memoir is about how I came out as lesbian a little later in life, blind to my sexual orientation up until that point, but harbouring this profound feeling of being different and failing at relationships with no idea why. Any comments will be greatly appreciated, even if you just want to tell me you don’t really like it, or I shouldn’t have put a comma in that sentence. Thank you in advance!! “
I was suctioned into this world by a doctor with a plunger in Kuwait, then moved to Bahrain a year later, already multicultural by the age of one on account of my parents’ jobs. Both from England, they met in Bahrain at the bank where they worked, became best friends, fell in love, married and had children. My dad continued working and my mum became a mother, as was their deal. She had two more children in Bahrain, each two years apart, my sister and brother. I don’t remember much from these first few years apart from walking into a stable door and bleeding from my eye; playing tag in a scorching hot playground, being terrified of Santa Claus and clowns, and Lucky, our maid from Sri Lanka with her beautiful face, always smiling. She helped bring us up and was heartbroken when we moved away when I was 6 years old. My dad got a job in London, commuting Monday to Friday from an island off the coast of England where we moved to live close to my grandma, my mums recently divorced mum.
My earliest memories of sexual, or at the very least romantic, awareness begin when I was in primary school. Eight years old and in year three, to be exact. But mostly I was preoccupied with doing sums, writing stories and practising the splits. I sat on the clever table in my class opposite this boy. I always wanted to be cleverer than him. Times table competitions and spelling tests were my time to shine and prove, once and for all, that I was the best. My ego took a knock when, one day during story time, I asked to go to the loo. I stood up and, seeing an opportunity for greatness, swung on the backs of two chairs to show off my physical prowess. Overexerting, I landed on my back, winding myself, peeing a little bit. The teacher ran over as I cried, desperately gasping for air that wouldn’t enter my lungs as the whole class looked on, confused, laughing. It was over within about a minute and I continued to the loo, hands clasped at my sides, telling myself off for showing off and vowing never to do it again.
At some point I became aware of the fact that boys and girls had crushes on each other and felt very strongly that I too, as a girl, should have a crush on a boy. I looked around the classroom assessing each boy in turn, not really knowing what requirements I was measuring them up against but knowing that I had to choose one. One of my best friends, Jenny, had a crush on Stephen which must make him worthy, so I decided that I, too, would have a crush on Stephen. I wrote his name on all the pages of my purple diary and drew hearts around them. I did all the cliché things I had ever seen people do when they had a crush on someone except speak to him or look at him or try to be friends with him. No, those things were out of the question. I wondered why I hadn’t dreamt about him when this was an obvious sign that you were in love, so when he appeared in my dreams one time, passing me on the street and saying hello, I woke up ecstatic. This surely meant I fancied him for real, right?
I also had my first kiss around that time.
She was at my house and we decided we ought to practice kissing, you know, for boys and marriage and stuff. We hid behind my parents’ bed sure that no one would find us there and lay next to each other. She initiated, quite forcefully demanding that what we were doing was quite important, then kissed me. Eight-year-old kisses with closed lips and curiosity guiding us. The next week I saw her flirting with Stephen at school, trying to kiss him as he ran away, scared. How dare she?
I also received my first ever valentines’ gift that year from a sweet, shy boy who I didn’t really speak to. He gave me a necklace and wrote me a little note. “To Sophie, From Alex.” I was a little grossed out and never wore it.
Poor boy wasn’t to know that his Valentine’s crush was more preoccupied kissing Alice. Maybe I would have been more grateful had I known that I wouldn’t receive another Valentine’s Day gift for 15 years.