So, a boy called Warren Turner was the fastest runner at our primary school.
I remember him as his christian name and his surname. He wore his thin, sandy hair with a bowl-cut fringe. His nose was sharp and his ears were big but my God he could run. And due to his incredible feats of speed, we forgave any physical expression of difference he had. He taught me that if you looked a little different or didn’t quite fit the mould that it was OK – as long as you had a skill set that could impress, you would survive the playground.
There were other full names in my primary years. Glen Bardsley was the first to be called to the principal’s office and get the strap. Fiona Laird was the first girl in my class to have boobs. Raewyn Twomey was the first person who seemed to understand where I was coming form and I held her in my heart as my first ever best friend. These people were my first crew and they layered themselves across my journey. Teaching me how far was too far, how big was too big and shaped me to step up and survive my formative years.
In primary school, we practiced being grown up and we practiced fitting in. It was a simpler time – before character strengths and social media. There was no school uniform and we made up our rules as we went along. We played kiss chasey. Firstly so as not to be caught by boys. And then so we could get caught by boys. I always wanted Peter Ecott to catch me. We were all arms and legs and looked like stick insects. We ate sometimes food every day and yet still moved like a sea of knees and elbows.
And then our bodies started to change a little. Warren Turner’s voice started to sound all wobbly so he stopped talking to us. Glen Barnsley moved his sharpness to another school. Fiona Laird started wearing floppy jumpers to hide her growing boobs. My bestie and I were late bloomers so I suppose we just kinda clung to each other. We still made cubbies in the bush, devoured Milo off the spoon and somehow survived in our pre-pubescent bliss bubble.
A bliss-bubble that popped for me quite suddenly one Sunday morning in 1984.
It was a swimming friend’s mum that suggested I look at my hips. It was a morning right after aggregate swimming and our treat for getting up at dawn to race laps was the promise of a cream bun from the bakery on the way home. I can’t remember why she was at our local bakery with us. And I can never remember her ever being there again. It was an innocent comment. A suggestion aimed to help me rather than wedge such an acute corner into my journey so far. She told me I should watch how many cream buns I was eating, she told me as I wiped the creamy jam off my nose. Unbeknowns to me, I was developing my “womanly body”. And cream buns can be dangerous, “they go straight to your hips.”
Apparently even when you don’t have any because you’re 12.
So that there, at the counter of a suburban bakery that Sunday morning, I learned that what you put on your tongue eventually sits on your bum. The words of wisdom shared to me by a parent of a peer who existed to me as a full name because in my world she was special at something.
And a body – food relationship was born.
Think hip openers, earth based back bends and savasana.
The path of your journey is coloured with different people and different places. Some times will be remembered acutely and some will fold into memory spaces for you to forget. For me, the corners of my journey, places where I have had to shift and change directions, often have someone with a full name holding the sign of suggestion. Friends at school who showed me boundaries. Friends in the playground that showed me love. Friends at the bakery who showed me well-meaning suggestions that became mis-interpreted directions towards relationships of control and self-value. I’m not for one minute blaming anyone’s full name for what had unintentionally been done or for where I may have been at. Because without being where I was back then, there’s no way I could be where I am now. My journey has been like anyone’s – up and down and then around and around. Because no path is straight. And real paths don’t always just move forwards.
And it’s what you learn on the way to where you’re going rather than simply the destination at the end.
Last night, I took my daughters to a movie. One which invited to them to become aware of media and social stereotypes and to embrace their bodies with where they are at. I thought I was going for them, but I suppose I was also going for me. Because my work is the body – I bend them, I breathe with them, I heal them – and being conscious with the choices that you make when there are corners laid across your path, means we can create a different future.
Where it is your own full name that chooses where you go.