When I was in my early teens I planned a mission to get my own tights and mascara. Mum’s mascara didn’t work very well and I fancied something other than tan for the tights – plus it didn’t feel quite right borrowing my mum’s! I walked up to our local shopping centre and into Woolworth’s. I must have hovered around, maybe in and out of the shop, maybe even failing to summon up the courage on the first occasion, but eventually managing to overcome my fear. I went in and picked up a pack of grey tights and a mascara from the make-up counter. My heart was pounding as I took it to the counter and walked out with it in a little brown paper bag. I couldn’t wait to get home and try it – what a thrill! When I got home I rushed up to the bathroom and took it out of the bag, unscrewed the white lid and pulled out the brush. It was brown – bugger – I wanted black – but in the moment had picked up the wrong one. Anyway it was cool to brush it onto my lashes and it had a nice look – but I still needed to get the black! The tights were great and I wore them on many occasions including in bed at night and once when I went out carol singing with the church. It was a cold night and I figured it was ok to wear them as additional cold protection – but boy did it feel good to be expressing myself in secret – in the open – yet hidden. This was our little guilty secret. I’m sure my mum found the tights in my bed on more than one occasion when she changed the sheets.
At around this age I also used to make Airfix kits. I was pretty good – always very careful to apply the paint precisely to achieve the perfect look. I thought it would be fun to paint my toe nails – and tried out various colours. Gloss and matt. Again I experienced that wonderful feeling of exhilaration. One time my mum came up whilst we were playing together – admiring our nails. We were in the loft room and I heard her feet on the stairs. I had to move quickly to hide my feet – although again she probably peered under the crack in the door and saw what we were up to.
I also used to paint my little finger nail with clear gloss – a few coats to get a lovely smooth finish. Then had to wear a plaster when I went to school. Again it was nice to be out in the open, in a small way, even if I was concealed beneath some beige sticky fabric!
During all this time my opportunities to express myself were few and far between – but very special. I learned that the world would not accept me – I was incompatible with what was expected of ‘this boy’ and so would have to remain hidden – possibly for ever. I also learned a magical feeling of freedom and excitement such as we could not experience in any other way. Almost a religious experience in its intensity. Why do I expect a religious experience to feel this way? Because of the language people use when they describe it. Certainly, during my teens, I expected religious experience to be ecstatic and I was getting a small taste of it when I expressed myself in the physical world.