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Interesting Findings And World Unfolding Through My Eyes.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Could Girls And Boys Be Good Friends?

Way back in the mid seventies, when I was five, I had a best friend - a boy called Michael. My most exciting play-mate - we were spies with walkie talkies, we parachuted little toys out of his bedroom window, we filched cup cakes from the freezer and de-frosted them in the sun. Michael’s family were American – lovely people. Their home was relaxed and easy to be in. His dad was an academic – some kind of researcher in computing. He was one of the few dads of my acquaintance that didn’t scare me – he spoke so softly, with a strong accent.
“Keep your bikes on the sidewalk, kids.”
His mum was studying part-time and loved to garden. He had a big sister who was quiet and studious.

One day when my brother had dropped me off at first school (like infants with an extra year) I found that it was closed because of a boiler emergency. I was seven or eight years old. With trepidation I crossed back to the middle school to look for my brother – but the kids had all gone inside. I was too scared to walk into the big school, so I was stuck. My mum was at work – half an hour walk away, across big roads. With a wobbly lip and enormous butterflies I decided that I’d go to Michael’s house – just a couple of minutes walk. I couldn’t reach to open his back gate, so I went up to the front door. It had a bell-pull – a round brass knob that you pulled and then pushed back. When Michael’s mum opened the door I was so relieved I burst into tears. She led me inside saying, over and over, “you did the right thing, you did the right thing.” She made me welcome and Michael and I played all day.

I never had an issue with the fact that Michael was a boy. I had two brothers at home – one of them my closest sibling in age – as well as boy cousins. Michael was sparky – in fact he had the kind of startlingly fast and analytical mind that causes many adults discomfort. In the playground at school we played Underground City and he developed an outdoor version of a computer game he had designed with his dad – called ‘Hunt the Wumpus’. Sometimes the dinner ladies would blow the whistle and we all stood still. They’d say that the boys were all being too rough and take Michael away to line up against the wall with the other boys. I was outraged on his behalf. When I tried to talk to the dinnerladies they’d just send me away to play with the girls.

Our friendship lasted all through first school without too much trouble. But once we were in middle school it got harder and harder. If we played together there were taunts from all directions, “he your boyfriend, then?” And it was constant. I found it unbearable – humiliating and inappropriate. So, I played with him less. He was lonely and pretty miserable, I think. Most of the other boys played football. I played with girls, which was fun – but I missed Michael. Then he went away to France for a year.

When Michael came back I was almost eleven. We still had two more years at middle school. We didn’t really play together at all any more. But we were both told that we would be going to ‘Middle Schools’ Orchestra’ – once a week, after school. I don’t remember making an arrangement, but Michael and I would leave school separately and meet up a few streets away. We’d walk down to orchestra together, go our separate ways (him to the percussion section and me to woodwind) and then casually meet up again afterwards. Michael told me to bring some money one week and introduced me to the joys of a chilli burger at a new burger place nearby. It was a good time. Then one day our class teacher announced to the class, with glee,
“I saw Annalie and Michael out together last night…”
“Whooo! Oooh… He your boyfriend, then??”
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Posted by Ajay :: 9:11 AM :: 0 comments

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