Everything was mortifying.
If I wasn’t myself mortified, I was mortified for the girls around me. I noticed it more in secondary school—the way we were taught to hate each other.
Everything was embarrassing. Mum couldn’t understand it—the way I would rather die a Shakespearean death than bring my PE kit in a Sainsbury’s bag. That it would be like a tabloid exposé to be caught after PE without deodorant.
I didn’t shit for the entire five years I spent in secondary school. Can you imagine? But can you imagine if someone had walked into a cubicle after me during those years? It would’ve gone down in history. I would’ve had to go into exile. They would’ve written it in my obituary:
Alanna (probably spelt wrong). Writer. Once took a shit in school.
Everything was a booby trap. Or rather, a 32A push-up trap. I spent an incredible amount of time worrying about having small tits for someone that ended up with F-cups. That’s irony, isn’t it? I couldn’t have snuck my younger self an extra cup size. Just one. Just up to a B-cup. A B-cup would have made me a god.
Everything was confusing. I kissed every single one of my female friends. At sleepovers. In fields. In swimming pools. They each told me I was a good kisser and my head swam with pleasure and satisfaction. Then we discussed the boys we fancied.
We splayed out the instructions we found in a tampon box once, three of us surrounding it like the blueprints of a bank heist. We discussed the very real possibility that one might have an involuntary orgasm while using one. We stuck to pads for a little while longer.
Everything was the end of the world. “Do you know you have a moustache?” Said a fair-haired boy as he leaned in close to my face in music class. My skin still prickles at that one sometimes, like when someone delivers some genuinely bad news. I walked home that day, awash with misery that I did – and always would – look like Des Lynam.
Nothing much has changed about me. If anything, I’ve got more mortifying. But I notice it less.
I notice it less on others too. I like to see people wearing clothes that have absolutely no ties to a trend. I like to see interesting faces. I like to talk about things that used to embarrass me with women I’ve just met.
I like to answer the door to delivery people with hair removal cream on my upper lip.
It feels like opening a window.
Everything is mortifying.
The only thing left to do is laugh.
Alanna Duffield is a London-based creative writer and professional copywriter with a MA and BA Hons in English and American literature. Born and raised on a farm in Sussex, Alanna writes her best stuff while out walking in the countryside—opening and closing the Notes app. In her spare time, Alanna is a published illustrator and hairy dog enthusiast.