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October 2018, vol 14 no 3

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Keitha Keyes

Australia, Growing Pains

Two bad things happened when I was 11, in the last class of primary school. A teacher called me “a bumptious little girl” and I had to learn to dance.

The story of why the teacher made such a comment to me is best left forgotten. But the learning to dance thing was truly horrible.

For about six weeks before the end of the school year we had dance lessons every afternoon.

First a couple of our teachers would demonstrate each dance. Then the teachers danced with a couple of the students to show us again. Finally we all had a go.

one, two, three, kick
back two three
turn around
and face your partner
slide, slide, slide, slide
waltz and waltz and waltz and waltz

The boys were lined up on one side of the school hall and the girls sat along the other side. When each dance was announced the boys would rush or dawdle across the open space to get a partner. A dorky boy with glasses was swift on his feet and usually got to me before anyone else. Embarrassing! But I guess it was worse for the girls who were left over. They had to dance together, just girls. If there was still one girl left she had to dance with a teacher or help with the record player.

hard to dance
with my eyes closed
wishing
I could hold hands
with some other boy

When the big day came we were allowed to wear our best clothes. I don’t remember the dress I wore but I remember that underneath it I had a hooped petticoat which made my dress stick out in all directions. Most of the girls wore pretty shoes but I had to wear my school shoes because my family couldn’t afford going-out shoes.

The best part of the whole dance-day thing was when we each got a stick jaw toffee to lick on the way home.

for a moment
in the dying embers
of my memory
I remember
that awkward little girl


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