My growing sexual awareness and experience as a young, unattractive, 13 year old convent schoolgirl in the late 1950s and how things developed as I did.
I don’t really know why I’m doing this. I suppose I started makings notes some years ago – sort of an aide memoire for a little autobiography that my kids, and in turn their kids, could read after I’m gone. But, things never turn out exactly the way you expect and old memories kept popping up and being included; memories and emotions that were true and valid at the time, memories that I now see helped shape my whole life, which directed me towards situations both good and bad. Memories that, above all, I would despair at my descendants ever learning about, but salutary lessons for any young girl growing up – and this is why I am recording them anonymously.
But, don’t get the wrong idea: I am not one of the walking wounded. I had no elevated notions of my own worth that the passing years eroded. From the time I became aware of the opposite sex, I was conscious of my flaws: I knew I was handicapped in the appearance stakes.
For a start, I was cursed with lank, bright ginger hair and crooked front teeth (I was forced to wear metal teeth braces at the age of fourteen – again, not a good look). I was taller than the average girl in my class – yes, that made it harder to hide; but worst of all was my nose. My nose was the worst nose in our school; the nuns called it an aquiline nose, some of my friends, being kind, called it a Roman nose – as if I would garner some comfort from a classical link; the nasty girls who didn’t like me would make fun of me yelling, Hook Nose!
But by the time I was thirteen I couldn’t kid myself any more. I knew it wasn’t simply a temporary aberration that would magically be resolved like The Ugly Duckling was transformed. This was my future. And the implications of that were terrible blows to my ideas of self-worth. I became convinced I was destined to live out my days as a hard-featured, sexually frustrated, virgin, bluestocking earning my living deep in some academic library stack somewhere. I feared that I would die never having even been kissed.
Yes, sexually frustrated, because even at thirteen I was growing aware of strange feelings in my body. Like all girls, my friend and I gorged on all the ridiculous rumours and myths surrounding the one subject that was never on the school curriculum; indeed, the one subject the nuns could never teach with confidence, even if it was: the subject of sex.
Being the eldest of three girls and attending a single-sex convent school, I had zero experience of boys – all I learned was from pals who had brothers, and, by extension their brothers’ friends. They discussed penises and what they were used for: peeing and making babies, though the exact mechanics of the latter were always a matter for dispute.
Boys, they informed me, had their own agenda: number one, they wanted to kiss girls; two, they wanted to caress our chests (or busts, for those of us lucky enough to have one) – they called it ‘groping’, and three, for some reason they weren’t sure of, they liked to feel up under our skirts and ideally have us remove our knickers. (It seemed the boys weren’t sure of why this attracted them so much as, when they achieved this goal, they just looked in amazement)
Despite this, we were all programmed to use our wiles to attract these male creatures and the one certain way was to beautify our physical shape and appearance. I was hampered here by my height, hair, nose and teeth. I despaired.
By thirteen, we were all aware that those girls in the school year above us, the ones that were occasionally seen with boys, tended to be girls that were already physically maturing: girls that, according to rumours, often stuffed handkerchiefs and stockings down their bras to enhance their curves. We would watch them after school walking home with their shoulders back, gymslips cinched tight around the waist (and often rolled up under the belt to shorten them) and busts thrust out.
But the predominant myth in class was that the only sure-fire way of enhancing your curves was to regularly massage them by hand – indeed, those older girls who were well-endowed, it was whispered, managed to attain this volume and maintain it only with the attentive help of boys. Those few goody-goodies in the class would stare, probably jealously, at them and whisper “Slut”. Yes, massaging yourself was good, but we understood there was some additional secret, or magical element, in being groped by boys.
As I grew older – and even now – blatant porn did nothing for me. The sight of a well-toned, tanned nude male body with an erect appendage the size of a baby’s arm evokes as much prurient interest in me as an anthropologist might enjoy viewing the preparation of mielie-meal in a sub-Saharan African village. No, maybe as a cathartic alternative, I responded better to a smile, an entertaining or kind remark, or an interesting personality than to beauty or power; conversational interaction, where I felt that I was admired or valued, would tip the balance for me irrespective of the other’s social status, age, or appearance. Of course, once having given in to such influences, the power of the person I would begin to cleave to, often became irresistible.
Pursuing my self-improvement regime in whatever area I could, the thirteen-year-old me would snuggle down in my single bed and once the light was off, would begin massaging these buds on my chest, falling asleep imagining that in a very short time they would attain the size, shape and glamour of Jane Russell’s or Marilyn Monroe’s. I soon discovered it wasn’t that easy, of course, but I did discover something else – that when I rubbed, pulled and tweaked them as I lay fantasising future romantic encounters, some very pleasurable, shivery, sensations occurred – not only in and around the massaged area, but also shooting down to between my legs.
Very soon I would find myself absently playing with one side or the other when alone reading, though I never told anyone, for fear of being thought weird. Then one day, as my friend Pam and I were walking home from school, we noticed a film was showing in the local cinema: it was ‘Gentlemen Prefer Blondes’ starring Jane Russell and Marilyn Monroe. The posters outside displayed the two full-fleshed women cavorting in what looked like top hats and see-through swimsuits. I knew the movie had been around for some time, but I’d never seen it – and even at twelve, could not have bought a ticket and gone in – you had to be over sixteen. But we ached to see these two idols of ours.
We had just passed the cinema when Pam said to me: ‘Shall we creep round the back and try to bunk in?’
All of our friends had either done something similar in the past with varying success, so we knew the procedure: you went back to the back door, which only opened out, and waited until someone left, then as the door was swinging shut you grabbed it, nipped in, listened at the other inside door for a raucous moment in the film and slipped in. Sometimes you got caught and ejected and sometimes you didn’t. In those days the films ran continuously in a loop; if you came in half-way through a show you just watched it to the end, sat through the supporting film, and then you could see it from the beginning again. We weren’t concerned anyway; we just wanted to see any of it, beginning, middle or end.
So we strolled to the rear and tried to look inconspicuous as we lingered alongside the rows of dustbins; almost immediately the door pushed open and two young men appeared. They saw us, of course, but laughed and held the door while we dashed in. Five minutes later we were seated, in the dark, in a row of almost empty seats that were slightly shielded from the view of the usherette by one of the pillars for supporting the balcony. We tried to be as quiet and inconspicuous we could and I was relieved when a man came and sat down in the seat beside me, providing extra shielding cover. The film was about half-way through and extremely titillating – there was actually a scene where tasselled nipples gyrated and spun to the music – unbelievable, I’d never even imagined anything like this in my life!
It was about this time that I became half aware of a pleasant sensation in the slight swelling I called my breast (I didn’t even need a bra, at the time) on the side the man was sitting. He had his elbow on the support between us and it seemed he was gently rubbing against me with his arm – mind you, it was so slight I wasn’t quite sure if I was imagining it or not. Either way, whatever was happening was very pleasant and I didn’t move away. Then the film ended.
Pam whispered, ‘Let’s go, I don’t want to be home too late.’
I was horrified – I wanted to see it from the beginning and especially wanted to see the syncopated breasts again, so I said, ‘No. I’m going to see what happened at the beginning – you go ahead and I’ll see you tomorrow.’
Pam moaned a bit, but eventually agreed. She had to move out past me and the man beside me, so we all stood up to let her pass. It was very dark, so she escaped out by the door we entered without being spotted. The man had taken his overcoat off when he stood and threw it across his lap on sitting down; the bottom of it dropped across my left knee. All I thought was that it was just something else that was covering me up from view and I sunk myself a little lower in the seat. Of course, this movement knocked over my school satchel, which was at my left ankle, onto the man’s foot.
For the first time I looked at him, smiled apologetically and tried to look as mature as possible, in case he gave me away, and whispered, ‘Sorry!’
He looked old, so he was somewhere between thirty and fifty probably; he bent down to the floor and handed me my pen and pencil case that had slipped out of my satchel. He smiled back. ‘You’d be better putting that bag on the seat beside you, don’t you think?’
He was right. I closed it up and put it where Pam had been sitting and thanked him.
He lifted his coat and slid half of it over my legs. ‘That’ll keep you warm.’
I thanked him again, he was right, I could feel the warmth of it from where it had been across his knees. My new friend and I settled down to watch the supporting feature – a strange film, that I now suspect was dubbed, which involved some risqué goings-on, including one scene that embarrassed me so much I was afraid to look to my left. A man and a woman were kissing in the back of a car, then – out of nowhere – he opened her blouse, button by button, and began to massage her. He did it so long and so savagely I couldn’t tear my eyes away – I suspected I wasn’t putting enough effort into my own massaging. I planned to change that tonight.
My companion had been pressing his leg against mine ever since the schoolbag incident, but now I could feel some other sort of rhythm vibrating through it, a regular sort of swaying that would slowly build in speed and then slow down – I thought nothing of it. Then his right hand found my left, which was under his coat for warmth, he squeezed it once, I turned and smiled and he smiled back. His hand was hot; it was comforting in the darkness.
Bit by bit, he eased my hand over onto his knee; the underlying rhythm was starting again, for a moment it paused as he drew my hand over his knee and placed it on top of something hot and hard, yet yielding at the same time. My mouth went dry as I realised what it must be – or must it – I may be wrong? Confused, but curious, I circled it with my hand – it couldn’t be skin, it felt like hot silk sliding over an underlying hard but flexible bar – it was not unpleasant. His hand covered mine and started to show me the rhythm, slowly, very slowly, forward and back. I felt empowered, out of nowhere I had a man’s penis in my hand and I was doing something with it! He was now rubbing his right elbow in circles on my breast and he was obviously doing it on purpose. Then his elbow lifted a little and I felt his right hand fiddle a bit first, then squeeze inside the top of my gymslip, right on top of my breast – just like I’d been watching on the screen minutes ago. He was grabbing my nipple through my blouse and pulling it, then trying to cup my small bud in his palm, squeezing it – and the shivers that were shooting through me were galvanising my left fist jerking on his penis, which had now taken on a life of its own, causing his entire pelvis area to surge back and forward maniacally.
His groping hand shot back, back under the coat where he clasped tightly around my fist again in such strange tremors that for a moment I wondered if he was alright. Then he slowed, sank back down in the seat and stopped still – but still I could feel a pumping in the fleshy shaft, though it was rapidly losing its rigidity. He gently pushed my hand further down to where it ended; it was wet, leaking something hot, something that I’d heard of but never imagined I would ever experience. His trouser leg was soaking as well, it felt hot and sticky. I withdrew my hand slowly, and lifted it to my nose – a very strange musty smell. Then I saw him looking at me peculiarly, so to reassure him I smiled and he smiled back.
What happened next didn’t really surprise me – I was being educated very rapidly here. I knew they all wanted to feel under skirts, but none of my friends really knew why; as he turned towards me and his left hand slipped between my legs I was almost wetting myself with anticipation. He stroked along my thigh, electrifying me. As his fingers slipped under my knicker elastic and onto my skin I unconsciously spread my legs and became aware of some sort of wetness – please don’t let me have wet myself, I thought! His fingers slid about, playing around my opening, and whatever this sliding was doing, or wherever his fingers were going, was triggering pleasures of a sort I’d never experienced before.
So this is why they do it; they must get pleasure from it as well, I thought, just like I did feeling him. Then he started a gentle movement in one spot, one spot that became the focus of my life for the next few minutes, I struggled to stop myself moaning with the ecstasy, and then suddenly, I found my pelvis mimicking the thrusting movements of his penis, except I was jerking against his fingers – and my god, wet stuff was squirting out of me as well!
I lay back and luxuriated in the afterglow of the experience as the man started to fidget. He straightened up in his seat, lifted his coat, and without a word to me, he stood up and shuffled out onto the aisle. I didn’t see where he went; I thought maybe to the toilets – but he never returned.
As I lay in bed that night, a hand towel beneath my hips in case of the same sort of liquid accident that had occurred in the cinema, I retraced the tracks of his fingers along my thigh, up to, into and around my crevices, lingering as he did, where he did, finishing with the same precise fingertip vibrations in the middle – and erupted, stifling my noise in the bedcovers.
What a revelation. What a serendipitous gift; a gift I have utilised for the rest of my life. I couldn’t wait for school in the morning, to tell Pam what she missed.