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Tuesday, 2 June 2015

A Tomboy in the Making


Petzi

She was looking forward to the party. Yes, a real party with drinks, cakes and games. She took her duffle bag, grabbed Petzi and off she went.

Petzi was her teddy bear and the party venue was a doll and teddy bear party at her local kindergarten. She was five years old.

Some of the other kids had already arrived and had lined up to enter the party room. The tables and chairs had been decorated with colourful tissue and crepe paper, and plates and cups were laid out for all the children. Each child sat down with their favourite doll or teddy waiting for a piece of cake and some apple juice to be dispensed.

When it was her turn, the nursery teachers said to her:

"And why did you bring a teddy and not your doll? All the other girls have brought their dollies and only the boys have brought teddies."

The girl was surprised by this question, patted Petzi on the head and said: "Because he's my favourite!"

And so it began. She knew then that she didn't meet some people's expectations, was different from other girls and didn't fit the mould.


Afternoon coffee and cake

In 1960, petticoats were all the rage and her mother dressed her in a white dress with red roses on special occasions, such as on this Sunday when the family went to visit a retired teacher for afternoon tea, or rather, coffee and cake as was the German custom.

The girl was wearing her special dress with a petticoat … and it was itching. She told her mother about this and wanted to change into one of her ordinary skirts, but it was a Sunday and they were visiting, so the petticoat and dress were the order of the day.

The retired school teacher, a spinster, lived in an immaculately clean house filled with dark, polished oak furniture. When the lady opened the door, the girl's mother handed her a bunch of flowers, carefully selected from a florist shop, and introductions were made. In the dining room, a table with a starched white linen table cloth was set for coffee and cake and the girl and her young brother were poured real hot chocolate from a shiny coffee pot. They were given a piece of gateau with whipped cream and tucked in while the adults made polite conversation.

Soon the girl got bored and started pulling faces at her little brother. She wanted to get up and play, explore the garden or climb a tree, but she had been told to sit still and behave. Sitting still isn't an easy thing to do when you're bored and your petticoat is itching, so her long legs were dangling from the chair and she was fidgeting while half-listening to the adults' conversation at the coffee table.

She must have been day dreaming when she accidentally knocked over her cup of hot chocolate. The thick brown liquid started seeping into the starched white tablecloth and the polished oak dining table. Her mother gasped and apologised profusely to the old lady, trying to help clean up the mess while the girl was shouted at by her father for misbehaving. She was sent out into the garden and told to mind her little brother. Some relief at last! But wearing her best dress, she didn't dare to get dirty as she was in trouble already and didn't want to incur her parents' wrath.

They were never invited back to the teacher's house and the girl was blamed for it.