Avoiding The Hump
I was very tall for a teenager - especially a Scottish teenager - and used to slouch a lot. This worried my mother greatly. Concerned I might develop a hump, she decided I should do modeling class in Glasgow to learn how to walk properly.
I’ve never been modeling material, but I’m not against it. Though I couldn’t comprehend what my classmates were training to model for other than maybe the 1950s. And that is why in class when we were practicing runway walking, I was often to be found muttering “Oh for fucking fuck sake” under my breath when it was my turn to strut and swish across the room. Though not as under my breath as I’d hoped, it turned out.
My mother was advised in no uncertain terms that, as I was ‘a bit of a character’, I would be more suited to the speech and drama classes held by the same company.
The speech and drama classes turned to be of a fairly similar flavor. All my classmates were female and dressed in varying shades of pink. The speech part of class consisted of reading poetry out loud and the drama came from getting a critique afterwards on delivery and posture.
(Turns out some people don’t like not being perfect.)
Now, I like poetry (not all of it obviously - I’m not completely crazy) but I was dismayed to discover that Edward Lear and Ogden Nash were not considered poets, and neither was Brecht because he was too angry apparently. For the purposes of class, poetry seemed to be exclusively written by women called Emily and covered such topics as flowers and birds and femininity and loveliness.
(Honestly, after a couple of weeks I was almost homesick for the strutting and swishing.)
There was one girl who distinguished herself from the others by wearing black. Her parents were very well to do, and she seemed to get away with a lot more. With blunt rebelliousness, she would stand up to read some poem about loveliness and then do a quick switch and resolutely drop into Sylvia Plath.
This was hilarious on two fronts: One because of the gasps of shock around the room, but also because there are some poems that sound hilarious in a Scottish accent.
“You do not do, you do not do. Any more, black shoe. In which I have lived like a foot.”
Unfortunately she didn’t stay for too long.
I could handle the pink but I really struggled to find anything to recite that didn’t sound exactly the same as everyone else was reciting. ( I mean how much lovely flowers, birds and urns can you take?) Perhaps because they thought just plain old words on a page was too much for my pretty little head, I was was offered a book of poetry with pictures in it. The fireside book of David Hope and told to “find something in that.”
And that is how I landed on reciting a poem called “My Special Day” about an older lady who is having a birthday. It began:
“I watched as the postman drew nearer my door, in anticipation of presents in store.”
I don’t remember the next line, but the line after that I do,
“Because birthdays are special when you’re 64.”
That line is ingrained in my mind because the teacher was very particular as to how it should be stressed. I had to repeat it often, to get it absolutely right.
Birthdays ARE special. Birthdays ARE special.
She was very insistent. My teenage mind I wondered if it was because she was 64. I wasn’t sure - under the bright lipstick and bouffant hairspray she could have been any age. Maybe she’d read a survey that revealed that 64 was THE birthday to have.
What I did know is that when I said it the way she liked - as if I was talking to a frickin’ idiot, frankly - she would clasp her hands together and smile most appreciatively. And my classmates would marvel like I’d just managed a particularly difficult gymnastic feat at the Olympics.
There was no ignoring it. I was completely a fish out of water. They knew it and I knew it.
I suppose I could have pushed my mother into letting me leave, but I liked traveling into Glasgow, and I especially liked occasionally sneaking into bars after class for a small spot of underage drinking. (Yes I know it was wrong but consider Pernod and Blackcurrant its own punishment).
Also, if I’m honest, over the weeks I learned to like these people. Each Saturday was like going to a foreign country where everybody spoke some strange incomprehensible language, even though the worlds they used were still English. But they weren’t bad people. They meant no harm. For all their pink and posturing and completely ridiculous pronunciations, we weirdly accepted each other.
Besides when I managed the couplet at the end in the same class style - the tone a heady mix of patronizing and slightly deranged -
“My daughter was calling a half-world away. To tell me she loves me on My Special Day”
- the teacher would wipe a tear from her eye and my charmingly clad classmates would applaud with such gusto that it was hard not to be proud.
Admittedly knowing that the relationship was distinctly short term, made the whole thing easier. As with anything, once you know it wont last forever, it’s wise to make space to enjoy the good parts.
When I left class I never met up with them again. I did wave to one of them once, across a busy street one Saturday night in Glasgow. I was rough and ready for a stand up gig and she was beautifully coiffed in shades of tan and fuchsia. But we both smiled warmly.
Though I still am way too slouchy, my mother was right. Sending me to these classes probably did stop me getting the hump. About many things.
Also, it was my birthday last week and it was lovely. Even though I’m in my 50s, it really was a special day. I can’t imagine how amazing 64 is going to be.
Till next week.
This is a reader-supported publication. Please consider becoming a paid subscriber.
Well hello there, Peeps
So this week I had plans. Mark and I had both agreed that this would be the time to
Keep reading with a 7-day free trial
Subscribe to Notes From The Valley to keep reading this post and get 7 days of free access to the full post archives.