When I was a small child of about 9 I moved schools.
From the maternal bosom of St Mary’s, Southam I relocated to the symmetrical officiousness of
As I walked into Class 5, wide eyed and nervous the other kids made me feel welcome and the vile Mrs “Baggy” Coleman did her best to take the piss.
As I slowly got to settle down things seemed not so bad and even though I missed my friends from class M1 at St Mary’s, maybe this wouldn’t be so bad after all.
Then, 3 days in, we had the ignominious delights of Country Dancing.
Why they ever forced this humiliating drivel on pre teen children is to this day beyond me. We were given no context as to why we were doing it, or what they hoped we’d gain by doing it but every Thursday from to we would take off our ties and jumpers, put on a pair of pumps and line up in The Hall to promenade, tour and free-for-all.
I had no idea what was coming and the first time was something that was like a kick in my barely developed testicles.
To start things off they would get us to dance around. Ok, can handle this. Lots of jigging about and getting sweaty. Nice. Then after about 5 minutes Mrs Coleman shouted “CHOOSE YOUR PARTNERS!!” and suddenly people were milling about, pairing up and standing to one side. I got partnered with another boy and naively believed we’d both stand in the boy’s line when we were then split into two groups. Boys and Girls.
The other lad, wise to the subtle rules of this Thursday afternoon ritual, immediately jumped into the boys’ line leaving me to stand….AMONGST THE GIRLS.
As we started to dance again I began to well up with tears and snot. What have I done?!! Have I been naughty?!! Have I upset someone?!! What sin could possibly be vast enough to warrant being labelled a G.I.R.L?!!
I start to blub, tears blinding me and I hear one of the actual girls in the line say “Mrs Coleman, Lance is crying!”
This humiliating shit was repeated every week. No explanation. No context. No mercy.
The good looking kids like Paul Bridges, Jamie “Foggy” Fotheringham and Simon Duffield Harding always got girls to partner (usually pretty ones too!) Steven Eden was both good looking and hard. He had the same partner each week so God help any boy who tried to go for Julie Hoare as “CHOOSE YOUR PARTNERS!” was heard.
The rule was that if you were chosen then you had to go with that person. However, kids being kids they would want to go with who they wanted to go with. This did nothing for self esteem issues whatsoever as it is ego bashing in the extreme to be one of a group of boys that no girl wants to dance with. I believed that Paul, Foggy and Simon (not to mention hard boy Steven) are clearly handsome and lovely. Whereas I am lower than a beast of the field for my physical hideousness and lack of a female partner.
The shame and anger being made to stand in the girls’ line instilled in me is rising to be remembered as I type this. Being subject to such embarrassment and humiliation was usually only reserved for punishments. Now we had it as a planned activity. The teachers couldn’t have cared less and acted like we were being petty and stupid if we objected.
I once trusted a lad who said with a conspiratorial wink “we’ll swap halfway through” and then stood in the boys’ line. When I then tried to change places after 15 minutes he smugly went “halfway through is ” (home time). Only saving grace was that I was then sent back to class to get changed for punching him in the face.
Another time a lad said “let me go in the boy’s line I’ve got asthma” and practically ran to make certain he was in the line with an extra Y chromosome.
I finally developed some survival skills and learned that during the opening free-for-all dance, you had to try and gyrate near to an available girl, even if she was a minger. This meant not a pretty one, one earmarked by a Good Looking boy or Julie Hoare. Then when you heard “CHOOSE…” there would be a frantic blur of motion. I once hung on to a girl’s arm so tight that she nearly pulled it out of the socket trying to get away. When the dust finally settled and Baggy Coleman told us to form lines, my partner looked at another girl, pulled a face and shrugged. I didn’t care if she didn’t want to be with me. For once I could hold my head high in the boys’ line.
It was years before I convinced my Amygdala Oblongata to change its ways and not send me into a quivering spasm of fear whenever I had to choose a partner in a martial arts class or when taking Police training.
Whoever thought that this misguided shite was appropriate for kids. I sincerely hope you are working under a car and someone kicks the jack away.