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It was 8 June, my 14th birthday, and I was filled with that foolish delight that this random occurrence will deliver to those who are still immortal. As I tripped into school bearing a birthday cake for my fellow immortals,I was stopped in my tracks by a Ms. M (I shall keep her name from you for the sake of propriety). She was a flaming red head who had issues with boundaries. For example, the life-skills class had recently taken a turn into the surreal and the supremely gross when she had lasciviously demonstrated the correct way to slide a condom onto the erect male member by using a banana. Not cool.
Particularly uncool because she also happened to be having trouble with the studentteacher relationship boundary at the time. Word in the corridors, heaving with teenage pheromones and Axe deodorant spray, had it that she was conducting a flagrant affair with a grade 11 pupil.He was the kind of boy who happened to be adored by everyone. By everyone, I also mean me.
Charming, smart, sporty, poetry-reading and beautiful. He lived in that glowing, blond, angelic space certain boys occupy just before they reach full malehood. As a lowly 14-year-old I did not feature in his 16-year-old universe, not even as a speck of solar dust. But I would watch him circle my firmament with much moony-mooching and an inexplicable feeling of deep despair. Did I mention I had just turned 14? Ms. M, despite her questionable forays into sex education, was, it transpired, also an authoritarian. In my ears on that fateful morning were my new birthday earrings from my parents. Carefully purchased to coincide with the ‘rules and regulations’ that stipulated girls can only wear one earring per ear,and this solitary adornment should be a sleeper or a stud. My birthday studs, as it happens, were square. Teeny, tiny, perfectly formed flat squares. Not ugly, round, protuberant lumps (I rejected those out of hand), but subtle, clever, practically invisible squares. Sadly Ms. M was like a small, red-earring aberration-detection machine. She swooped in like a drone and dropped her malicious bomb. ‘These earrings are not regulation.’ She was not interested in the semantics of square versus blob, or the birthday cake I was carrying and high-handedly broke my spirit with a double detention. She did it with much evil cackling, just before she took off on her broomstick, to shag the kid next door. I was incensed. I was livid. I was shaken to my very core. Here was a person in a position of extreme authority who blatantly broke the 30-centimetre rule (you know the one stating boys and girls should maintain a distance of a ruler between them at all times). Surely two rulers should apply between teachers and pupils? Yet, this child molester was nevertheless in a position to dispense extreme punishment for a minor infringement that had arguably never been committed.
There are certain wrongs perpetrated against one’s person, that the person can never really forgive. Ever. These wrongs tarnish your once-innocent outlook and charge your life with the fire and brimstone of retributive justice. These wrongs take the world and shift it instantly into a new, brighter, harder place where you see the injury with the piercing clarity of the mad and the young. The sheer injustice of it all burnt a stripe of angry resentment in my teenage heart at all obvious abuses of power. A week later I took to handing out 16 June pamphlets, which some friends of mine had brought onto school property and which got everyone into some real trouble. My double detention suddenly looked like child’s play by comparison.
Clearly this is a story about how a fashion choice can become the catalyst for a youth spent in pursuit of social justice. But it is also a story about e-tolls, and Nkandla and the coming elections. Because unlike my beleaguered 14-year-old self, who had no means to alter the course of her swift and damning detention, we now live in a democracy. And when our leaders think nothing of applying the rules selectively for their own nefarious interests, we do have a way of putting a brake on their broomsticks.
It’s the new season and we have a bumper fashion edition to share with you – I am totally obsessed with the new take on ladylike glamour, shot throughout with seductive, sexy charm. Bring it on, I say (page 89). This month, you cannot have failed to notice we are naked… 2014’s campaign is the result of a chance meeting with Topaz Page-Green, who inspired me with her brilliant project The Lunchbox Fund and Feedie. Help us feed our nation’s children (page 45).
(PS:Years later I met the mother of the boy in question,who told me this harpy had indeed been sleeping with her son and it had taken him many years to restore his equilibrium, stop smoking the spliff she had introduced him to and come back from her malignant impact. I have no words.)