On Being Eleven

When we were eleven, we rode bikes, planned secret rendezvous behind the sports-equipment shed and wore masses of butterfly clips in our hair.

When we were eleven, we got our periods. A friend’s mum gave her a glass of champagne to celebrate ‘becoming a woman’. I told my mum that my first period looked like bark chips in my undies. The blood was a stale brown colour, rather than a fresh pink – innocent and clean. My mum gave me pads and those tampons with the paper applicator. I hid them up my jumper sleeve and went into the only cubicle at our primary school with a sanitary bin. 

When we were eleven, we had fleshy lumps of fat beneath our nipples. I waited to see which would grow first: the lumps or my breasts. I had a yellow crop top with frilled edges. Our chests were tender. 

When we were eleven, I imagined that my vagina was full of electric energy that I could shoot out. It ran down my legs and I directed it with my knees. When the laser hit someone I had the power to read their mind – a split second of access to everything they were thinking. I imagined this when I  needed to go to the toilet. It helped me hold it longer, made it less uncomfortable. I had to be careful though, because I’d heard horror stories of people’s bladders bursting. 

When we were eleven, life was all about secrets and notes – sharing them and keeping them. We told each other everything. It was unimaginable to have no secrets. They burst out of me, all juicy and red-raw. I gave them to you to hold, dripping and sticky. Once they were out they stained and embarrassed, but part of growing was letting them out. 

When we were eleven, a friend’s dad made nachos for our sleepover. The most delicious nachos I’d ever had. Topped with cheese, salsa and sour cream. We stuffed ourselves until our stomachs ached and our fingers were coated in a red mess. Eating was one of our favorite things. In that same year, I discovered the joy of chicken salt. We ripped into parcels of hot chips at the pool and I wore my first bikini – a simple pattern of blue and purple bordered with white stripes. A boy pointed to the newly exposed flesh around my middle and told me it was too round. 

When we were eleven, instead of going to religious education, a group of us wrote a sexy encounter on pages ripped from our exercise books. We used all the lingo we’d recently learnt in sex ed class. The teacher found the notes and we cried  with embarrassment. I confessed to my mum over dinner. She was disappointed. She told me it would reflect badly on her the next time she taught at the school. I chewed a knot of guilt with my roast potatoes, my body rebelling as I forced down dry mouthfuls. Later I tried to burn the stories by creek. As the paper ignited, singed pieces flew off into the forest. I got scared they would start a fire. I doused the paper, stamped on it, scrunched it up and hid it in my room. A clump of poorly written erotic fiction. 

When we were eleven, I kissed the boy who told me my stomach was too round. I had to do it otherwise I would get called that word. That word that starts with ‘f’. He called me every night and I dreaded the sound of the phone ringing. His attention made my body feel hollow and confused. It took me years to understand why.

When we were eleven, I cut my own hair. The style was to have your hair pulled back and two strands pulled down onto your face, resting on the outside of your eyes. Trying to get each strand level, I cut it shorter and shorter until both pieces stuck up in the air like horns. These strands were spikey and wild, disobeying the direction I brushed the rest of my hair. They separated me from the girls whose mothers had carefully styled their hair. They exposed my love of running through paddocks, wading through mud, chasing lizards and eating until I was in pain. For my school photo I restrained them with gel onto my forehead.

When we were eleven, our bodies were strong enough to out run, out kick and out play the boys. 

When we were eleven, we wished we were sixteen. We were certain that age would carry beauty and confidence. We wanted freedom and to feel comfortable in our bodies. We wanted to harness our bodies power rather than stumble through their growth.

When we were eleven, we were waiting for everything to happen. We began to feel uncomfortable, to feel watched. We planned outfits and hairstyles and had things yelled at us from car windows. We thought it was exciting. Thought we didn’t have a choice. We ignored the blistering sensation that grew in us as our bodies changed. Gradually we learnt to hide what came out of our bodies, learnt to look fresh and pink and clean. Learnt to hold onto the feeling of being watched, to ferment it into something more powerful.

When we are 100, we’ll be able to shoot lasers out our vaginas. 

 

 

 

Georgia Mill is a writer and artist who grew up in central west Victoria and now lives in Melbourne. In 2018 she was short-listed for the Scribe Non-fiction Prize and long-listed for The Lifted Brow Prize for Experimental Non-fiction. She has exhibited locally and internationally.

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