Tag Archives: growing up

As I turn 18

2 Jan

I feel like I am totally alone in this fear but like so many things I am afraid to talk about, many others probably share it.

As I turn 18, my mind is full of worry, hopes, dreams and fears for the future. Most are what you would expect, scared of becoming more independent from my family, worrying about school and so on but there is another fear in the back of my mind. This niggling voice saying “now you’re fair game, there’s nothing to protect you”.

You have probably seen in the media many a disgusting countdown to some child celebrity turning “legal” at 16 or 18, old enough that the old men leering over them are accepted readily by both the law and society.

You may have seen the kerfuffle around the “women who eat on tubes” facebook group a while back, a group where non-consensual pictures of women innocently sustaining life are mocked and shamed.

How are these related? you might say. Well these are both voyeuristic, misogynistic situations where women and girls are viewed as sexual objects without their consent and sometimes even knowledge. They violate a woman’s privacy, they encourage violence against women by disregarding the fact she is a human being with rights and feelings.

These are both situations where I, as a child, would have some degree of legal protection, or at least the illusion, but would not as a woman.

One day I was waiting at a bus stop in Hampstead Heath, leg hair flying in the wind and enjoying the last bit of summer warmth. A balding man of about 35-45 years old struck up a conversation with me about the weather, “thats nice” I thought “you never get strangers talking to each other in London”. Oh how innocent you were Lilipop.

Conversation quickly turned to my leg hair and got very very creepy. I felt desperately awkward as his eye contact shifted from my eyes to my boobs and he questioned me on my reason for growing leg hair (because no woman can do anything without it being to sexually please a man) and if I was hairy “all over”. He offered to buy me a drink from the Starbucks opposite and I said no. That no was totally disregarded of course and this man kept asking.

“I’m 15” I said quickly, then turned and ran away.

He didn’t follow but some have. This situation has played out in 100 different places, with different people and different outcomes. What if it happened again? Where is my “top trump”, my “get out of jail free” card? What can I say or do that will get rid of these weird men because saying no doesn’t work.

As a child, I do not legally have the capacity or say yes or no. It is Paedophilia, it is Statutory Rape. Headlines in the Daily Mail and 5 years in jail. Men can respect this but not me.

As a woman, I can legally say yes or no but it doesn’t make a difference. I said no but I smiled at him when he said hello so really I mean yes, right? He wants a yes so he will get it by any means necessary. Now I am no longer a child I don’t even feel like I have the right to say no at all. I feel unresonable for being a person.

As I turn 18, I am scared for a future where attack feels imminent.

There is nowhere to hide anymore.

I’m scared.

20 Apr

Jelly speaking.

I’m scared out of my mind.

The last two days, the last week, the last month, I’ve been scared. I’m an almost 15 year old girl, ready, apparently, to start living in the real world in only a matter of years, and it keeps on hitting me that I have no idea what I’m doing.

Yesterday evening we had a discussion at my school about GCSEs, about Year 11, about Sixth Form, about university and getting jobs and the importance of everything we do everyday and how we need to choose carefully, and I hummed in my head to the tune of my tapping leg: ‘what is the point what is the point what is the point what is the point’.

You see, we’re going to pass all our exams and then go to university and sweat nervously through our interviews. Some of us will go to Oxbridge. Some of us will get nice jobs in advertising or insurance or become doctors and teachers, and maybe we will fall in love (or not at all because there’s 7 billion people in the world and what’s the chance that you’ll meet the Mystical One?) and it will be comfortable enough until we retire and finally die, and there you go, that’s your one shot, congratulations.

I want to be a scientist – making medicines to help combat diseases so I can save lives and going against everything my mum believes in. Maybe I should be bean astronomer, or an oncologist, or fight the pollution problem from the back of my lab. I’m a self-confessed nerd, and this personally sounds like heaven, and is probably what they mean when they say a ‘fulfilling career’. Despite my pipe dream however, I know I’m not going to leave an impact beyond perhaps a scientific paper or my maybe children. After I die, I’ll be dead and gone and in a few decades everyone I knew will be dead and that will be that. That will be the end of moi.

It’s a depressing thought. I know I’m not really destined for great things, but once upon a time I believed that when I grew up I could be happy all of the time. No school, I thought, no bullies, no people telling you what to do, no worries about money or hanging out with people you don’t like. There would be someone sitting by your bed every morning who would look you sincerely in the eyes and tell you that you’re beautiful, and life would be exactly how it should.

A theory that has been disproved by extensive analysis of every adult I’ve ever known. It turns out that there’ s many ways things can go wrong. I’m scared to grow up because I think I’ll turn out like a secondary character in a bad movie. Or like my parents. Or like everyone who knew from early on that life wasn’t easy but who kept on pushing because they didn’t know anything else and because all they knew was in a meat suit at the back of two eyes.

My tapping continues and the tune gets louder. Someone is saying something about UCAS applications and my mum is taking notes, and I am thinking what a gloriously superfluous existence I lead and what a useless life I’m planning.

The only thing that saves me from crying continuously in my room, my head in the sand until it all stops swirling, is the thought that people are people, and if you sift through the dungheap of humanity enough you can find someone to cry on in the middle of the night, and that might be the best feeling in the world.

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