Little girls' games – in Scotland and England, and surely bairns all over the world play the same! – often involve one girl being picked to kneel in the middle of the ring while the others mock her. Other girls used to hate it when they were picked, but this one used to hope it would be her! I loved chasing games, too, being hunted like a deer through the woods – I always loved it when I was the one counted out to be chased.
We used to play 'slaves' on our way to and from school – one girl had to carry everyone's bags, while the others smacked her and prodded her and shouted to make her hurry. Again, other girls used to moan, but this girl would say "Let me be the slave, please!"
Around puberty, of course I became more aware of my body, how I looked, what parts I should display, what parts I should hide. I wasn't a 'sexy' teenager, a little Lolita, I didn't try like some girls do to attract male attention – I used to hitch my skirt up over my belt on my way to school so the boys (and, I knew quite well, male teachers too) could get a good view of my nice legs, but all my friends did that too, and I just liked (and still like) the feeling of cool air on my skin. I remember becoming very aware of my vulnerability, how the bare skin of my legs, back, waist – whatever parts were exposed, especially in summer, could be gazed at, touched and even whipped: yes, by 11 or 12 I was excited by whipping! In Scotland until very recently it wasn't unusual for girls to be beaten with the Tawse, a leather strap, on our hands, legs or buttocks – in England, where I went to secondary school, only a slipper was used, and less often. Still, this girl was regularly beaten on her bum wearing only thin cotton gym-knickers, for messing about in the changing-room! But I wasn't frightened of being vulnerable, or even of the Tawse, I found it thrilling. It was this delight in being naked and vulnerable that made me like to sleep nude, no matter what my parents said to try to stop me – and I still do!
So I enjoyed any activities where I could change into light clothing – shorts, briefs, leotard, swimsuit etc. At the swimming pool, for example, I'd get my friends to make me a 'human sacrifice', leading me ceremoniously up to the diving board and throwing me in!
My parents weren't very keen on organised religion, but I liked going to church! The local vicar (we were in England then) was Anglo-Catholic (= "high church" Episcopalian) and I loved the chanting, bells, candles, incense, bright windows and vestments, and - perhaps especially - the 'spiritual aerobics', standing up sitting, kneeling - yes, especially kneeling. I can remember as a young teenager getting quite orgasmic thrills from the whole business, I knew it was naughty, I ought not to be having such feelings and thoughts, but didn't understand why. But crucifixes in church or elsewhere didn't have much impact on me, they were very stylised and just part of the decorations.
The only crucifix incident that sticks in my memory was when I was 11 – I was with my parents on holiday in Spain when I was struck with acute appendicitis. I was rushed into a hospital that was run by an order of nuns. I remember lying on a trolley looking up at a life-size, brightly-painted image of Christ on the Cross. There was a livid bleeding wound across his lower abdomen, "Jesus!" I was thinking, "did they take out your appendix on the Cross!"
I first got excited about Crucifixion at school. A master thought it a good idea to give his 12 year olds a series of lessons, pretty well blow-by-blow, on the Crucifixion of Christ. He could hardly have guessed (or could he?!) the impact he was having on the dark-haired little kid near the back of the class whose big brown eyes grew wider at each gory detail!
After that I did begin to look with more interest at crucifixes and pictures of Crucifixion, imagining how they did it, how it felt, experimenting with my own body in that position in the gym, at the swimming baths, etc. And a bit later I discovered the story of St. Eulalia in a little book of saints belonging to a 'churchy' great-aunt. The idea of a 13-year-old girl like myself being scourged, racked, torn with Hooks, and tied on an X Cross to be roasted to death, while she went on being spunky and cheeky to her Tormentors, filled me with delight! Stories and pictures about Classical women facing exciting fates, invariably more or less naked, also fed my appetite. I loved to imagine myself in such situations, e.g. leaning my bikini-clad body against a rock on the sea-shore, stretching up my arms to an old mooring ring, being Andromeda watching the waves and waiting for the monster who will come and devour me (I didn't want Perseus turning up to 'rescue' me and spoiling my fun, I wanted to meet my monster!)
There was a path on my way home from school that passed through rough woodland, where the bushes grew dense in summer. A gang of boys used to hide in there sometimes and ambush us girls, leaping out with long, prickly bramble-stems and wrapping them round our bodies and legs – it hurt like hell, and if you struggled it only made it much worse, so you were trapped, and they wouldn't let you go until they'd searched your bag and pockets for sweets, crisps or anything else they fancied for 'ransom' and you'd earned your freedom with kisses! You could go round another, longer way to avoid this trap, but if you didn't want to be teased and called a wimp, you just saved up the sweets and crisps your mum had put as treats in your lunchbox, hitched up your skirt, and walked bravely down what we girls called The Martyr's Path! I got 'captured' several times – it didn't upset me, I found it quite exciting, hurrying through the woods wondering if the boys were waiting for me, and when I was their captive they said I was 'good sport', 'cos I always made sure I'd got plenty of 'ransom' for them, and when they'd helped themselves to that I'd kiss them 'properly' to earn my freedom! The sight of brambles when I walk in the woods still sends a shiver up my thighs!
So, by the time I was entering adolescence, there's no doubt my true dharma, the most right and natural way for me to live, was emerging: to be naked and vulnerable, to be whipped and tortured and crucified, to be a victim – but not a pathetic one, I'm a brave, spunky kid like St. Eulalia, I'm eager to face monsters naked like Andromeda, I'm 'good sport' for my captors.
But of course, the 'normal' expectations, of parents, teachers, peer-group, hemmed me in and forced me to try to suppress my real self. It didn't work, it only made me unhappy, depressed, impossible to live with. Boyfriends, and later male partners, found me hard to understand – though I loved trying to please them, they either found my submissiveness irritating or an excuse to abuse me. So it's not surprising that I experienced a series of increasingly disastrous relationships. I felt there was something wrong with me, I felt guilty and ashamed. Yet I knew in my heart that it wasn't wrong, it couldn't be, it was – and is – my true self. And at last I've discovered that I can explore and express this important part of myself without feeling bad and ashamed and screwed up about it. Through my poems, stories and fantasies, I can be my true self, and if they give pleasure to my friends and visitors here, that makes me very, very happy!