The time I wrote a rude greeting card, aged 7

I was seven years old, and at primary school in Willesden Green, North-West London. There, my brown skin didn’t mark me out as different, as most of the kids in my class were varying shades of brown. 

One afternoon, I was seated next to a boy from Ghana called Kwame. When I say ‘from Ghana’, I don’t mean he was ethnically African but actually from London like me, but that he had emigrated from Ghana recently, and didn’t speak much English.

The teacher handed out pieces of blank white A4 paper, coloured crayons, and misshapen lumps of white wax. 

“Today you are going to be making a card for the person next to you,” she announced. “You’re to fold the paper in half, design the front of the card with the crayons, then write a message inside using the lump of wax.”

This seemed a pointless exercise. After all, the wax didn’t show up on the white paper, so it wouldn’t matter what I wrote inside. I could write anything. 

And then I smiled mischievously to myself. I had heard other kids talking about something called ‘sex’ in the playground. I didn’t know what it meant, I just knew that it was rude. 

The lump of wax was heavy and unwieldy. Inside my card, I wrote:

Dear Kwame

I hope you are well.

Ariane

PS Sex.

I sat back, pleased with my invisible handiwork.

Then I heard the teacher say, “Now swap cards with the person next to you, and go over the inside of the card with felt tip to make the writing appear.”

I tried to stay calm. It was okay, I told myself: Kwame couldn’t read much English, and even if he did know a little, he wouldn’t know what ‘sex’ meant. I was safe.

Kwame and I swapped cards. I can’t remember what his said. I just remember freezing as the teacher walked over.

“What does your card say, Kwame?”

Kwame read it out haltingly. “Dear Kwame – I hope you – are well. Ariane – PS –”

And then he stopped, frowning.

The teacher looked over Kwame’s shoulder at the card. She silently snatched it from him and strode from the room without a word, the door swinging shut behind her.

“What does ‘sex’ mean?” I asked suddenly, panicked, to no one in particular. “I wrote ‘sex’ in my card. What does it mean?”

“UMMMM!” said the girls in my class. It wasn’t a sound that conveyed uncertainty: in the 80s in Britain, “UMMMM” was a noise that meant “now you’re for it”.

“You better pray, girl,” one of the Caribbean girls said. “You better get down on your knees and pray to the Lord that she isn’t telling your mother right now, girl!”

I started to tremble. Maybe I could say it had been a mistake?

But how could I have written ‘sex’ in error? And now I’d told the entire class that was what I’d done. They were right to say “UMMMM”: I was in big trouble.

But when the teacher came back, she didn’t mention anything about the card, or why she’d left the class for so long. She merely said “I’m going to bring round the box so you can put your materials back in.”

I thought perhaps she’d phoned my parents, but when my mother picked me up from school, she didn’t say anything about the incident either. Nothing was ever said, and for several years after that I was none the wiser as to what sex actually was.

As if not content with writing a rude word in the card, I also stole the lump of wax, as I was going through a kleptomaniac phase. I didn’t want to be discovered, though, so I hid it in my knickers and walked home in a slightly strange way. My mum asked why I was waddling. I said there was no reason, and tried to waddle a little less.

I was a very strange child.

23

THE GREAT WEIGHT LOSS CHALLENGE!

Day 12

Me: 12st 8.8lbs (total loss in 12 days: 5.4lbs)

I need to make it to 12st 6.5lbs by Tuesday to get my Slimming World award (so that it will register as 12st 7.5lbs on their scales with my clothes on).

John: 14st 4.5lbs (total loss in 12 days: 3lbs).

John is doing well!

This post has been made possible by my awesome Patreon supporters: Ricky Steer, Chris Birkett, John Fleming, Mary Clarke, Matthew Sylvester, Brian Engler, Jack Scanlan, Dave Nattriss, Musical Comedy Guide, Mark White, Lucy Spencer, Shane Jarvis, Graham Nunn, Emily Hill and Marcus P Knight.

They receive a whole host of exciting rewards in addition to this credit, including my secret never-published fiction and top secret photos! If you enjoyed this post, please support me on Patreon.

Rewards start from just $1 a month for my weekly Patreon email. It’s like this blog, but I’m even more open in it (if you can imagine that!)

I was a teenage beauty queen

I ran a Twitter poll yesterday asking what you’d like to see more of on this blog. The winner by a hair was true life stories, which is handy as my whole life has been crazy. Not sure how I’m going to break this result to the eight-year-old though.

Anyhow, here’s another true tale from my rather large arsenal…

I was such an ugly, geeky, friendless kid. I had big sticky-out buck teeth, a hairy face, and my mum cut my hair. The girls at secondary school said I’d have to have sex with an animal if I ever wanted to have sex, as ‘you’re so ugly no man will ever fuck you’.

This really upset me, and I vowed I’d never have sex with an animal. And ladies and gentlemen, to this day, I have kept that promise.

I was bullied at my primary school in Willesden Green, Malorees; then when I was eight, my family moved to Pinner in Harrow, Middlesex, where I was bullied at my new primary school, West Lodge Middle School (we used to call it Wet Splodge Piddle School); and then finally I was bullied at my secondary school, Watford Grammar School for Girls. It seems the saying is true that ‘wherever you go, there you are’.

I used to stare wistfully at the other girls at school in Games, and wish I had their perfect, hairless bodies. I used to cry thinking how ugly I was. Here I am, aged 11 in West Lodge uniform:

Ariane1991

But within four years, my appearance had changed. When I blossomed at age 15, I could barely believe it. Suddenly, I wasn’t ugly any more, though I was still virtually friendless. I wore a brace for two years to fix my front teeth, learned how to bleach and pluck the hair on my face, and began shaving my body. I started wearing makeup, put my hair up in a ‘pineapple’ ponytail on top of my head, and got my first proper boyfriend. I remember him saying that if he had a wish from a genie, ‘I’d wish to make your tits bigger’. Charming.

Age 15

Then, when I was nearly 17, the local paper in my hometown of Harrow ran a beauty contest for the very first time: Miss Harrow. The main prizes were a £400 hifi and £100 in cash. I entered with this photo of me and Simon Le Bon, as we were friends (another story for another time). God knows what the staff thought at The Harrow Times if they recognised him! They probably didn’t get many photos of parochial beauty contest contestants with rock stars.

img082

A few weeks later, I received a phone call to say I’d made it into the final five contestants. I had to come and meet the judges at the Harrow Times. Thankfully, I didn’t have to parade in a bikini, demonstrate a talent or make a speech about world peace.

A few days after the judging panel, I received another call to say that I had won, and was to be crowned the inaugural Miss Harrow! It felt amazing, but I’d left school by this point, so sadly didn’t get to feel vindicated in the face of the bullies. Though when I went to college in Stanmore the following year, a girl who had seen me in the paper told me, ‘If you’re Miss Harrow, I’m Miss Universe’ – to which I replied deadpan, ‘Congratulations, Miss Universe.’

I was crowned Miss Harrow at the Harrow Show in July 1997, just after my 17th birthday:

Age 17 (2)

Now this is where my own personal version of The Ugly Duckling gets a little surreal and funny. After my coronation, I had to have lunch with the dignitaries: the new mayor Keith Toms (above), whose wife had made my very fetching sash; the editor of the Harrow Times, Charlie Harris; and the sitting MPs.

The new MP for Harrow East at the time was Labour’s Tony McNulty. You may recognise his name, as he was later implicated in the expenses scandal and had to resign, though that doesn’t really narrow it down much.

tony-mcnulty

Tony McNulty. Image credit: Press Association.

Anyhow, over lunch, Tony told Charlie, the editor of the Harrow Times, that he didn’t approve of the beauty contest – it was sexist, reductive and unreconstructed, he said. Charlie tried to argue that it was post-modern, but Tony said he didn’t want to see another contest being run.

So, for the next 15 years, I was still Miss Harrow.

Every year, the organisers would email me and ask if, as the reigning Miss Harrow, I would appear at the Harrow Show. By then, I was slightly embarrassed about my superficial accolade, so I always said no.

I only made one more appearance as Miss Harrow, which was soon after my coronation: I rode in an open-topped sports car through the spectator-lined streets at the Stanmore Carnival. I was told to wave to the crowds, but I’d forgotten to shave my armpits, so ended up waving at them with my left hand clamped to my right pit.

I know a lot of people don’t agree with beauty contests and would take Tony McNulty’s stance here, but in my defence, given that I was bullied for my looks for years, I kind of needed some official confirmation that I was no longer hideous.

This 1952 video of The Ugly Duckling is really lovely, and will leave you with a warm feeling in your heart. I hope you enjoy it.

 

THE GREAT WEIGHT LOSS CHALLENGE

I can no longer bear (or even bare) my shabby feet, so am going to fix them today. Tomorrow they will be less skanky and more swanky!

Day 3

Me: 12st 12.2lbs (total loss: 2lbs in three days)

I don’t know why the hell I’ve put on 0.6 of a pound. Yesterday I mostly ate vegetables, I couldn’t have eaten more than 1,200 calories, and I logged my foods assiduously in a food diary. Oh well – I’m not going to let this deter me. I’m still winning, after all.

John: 14st 6.25lbs (total loss: 1.25lbs in three days)

This post has been made possible by my Patreon supporters Chris Birkett, John Fleming, Mary Clarke, Matthew Sylvester, Brian Engler, Jack Scanlan, Dave Nattriss, Musical Comedy Guide, Mark White, Lucy Spencer, Shane Jarvis, Graham Nunn, Emily Hill and Marcus P Knight.

They receive a whole host of exciting rewards in addition to this credit, including my secret never-published fiction and top secret photos! If you enjoyed this post, please support me on Patreon.