Toads and Witches and Childhood Angst

When I was a child I had 3 or 4 quite prominent warts on the side of my little finger on my left hand. They disappeared as I grew older, but I can feel them now as I think of it. It was something I was terribly ashamed of, and I despised anyone holding my hand for fear – entirely warranted – they would shrink away, or ask if I’d been touching toads, or scream that I would give them warts. All of those things happened at one time or another, until I was so paranoid that I felt the ‘horror’ of the warts was the only thing anyone could see on my whole hand.

I used to rub them with the thumb of my other hand: not sure why – checking to see if they had gotten smaller, to see if I could rub them away, to focus on my ‘flaws’ because that’s all I could think of – all those things I suppose. I just found myself  rubbing that finger now, unconsciously, even though they have been gone for years.

I tried all kinds of remedies, over the years, to remove them; banana peels, bandaids (to keep out the oxygen), various creams and ointments from the chemist, cutting them out with scissors…nothing worked, and the remedies were frequently painful. The memories of the very specific pain from the cutting, the sight of the blood, the pale, washed-out look of them after removing another bandaid, are very clear, but I can’t remember what ultimately caused them to go. I have a vague memory of a doctor’s implement embedding itself again and again into them, so I suppose they were frozen, but it seems odd that I can remember having them so clearly, but the memory of the removal of them is so fuzzy.

I even hated the word, and I still don’t use it very often (like I’m avoiding it right now). I felt stigmatised, and every time there was a conversation about witches, or toads, or anything else that could be associated, I shrank a little, hoping that no-one would look at me. It seems very silly and overblown now, but I was deeply self-conscious about it then.

Just recently, a close friend and I happened to get to talking about warts and she mentioned that she had had warts in exactly the same place, as a child, and that they, also, had gone away. I was amazed, but even more so when we compared our hands as they currently are, and found a couple of tiny, barely noticeable, warts in, again, exactly the same places as each other.

I have one wart on a finger joint on the palm side of my right hand, that appeared just a few years ago. I often find myself unconsciously rubbing this one in the same way I did as a child, but, this time, strangely, I like it. It’s a quirk that reminds me I’m me.

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Private Eating Habits

Sometimes, when the bread has gone mouldy, I just cut the visible mould off and eat the rest. And I also drink straight from the juice bottle. And I finish whatever meat is left on the bones after my husband is done with them. And I lick my plate when the meal has been particularly tasty – but only at home. And I put more sugar in my tea and coffee than I admit. And I generally eat WAY more than my share of a chocolate block…

Dorkiness Will Out

I was kinda a moderately dorky kid; different enough to be on the dorky side, but perceptive enough to be aware I had dorky tendencies, which, surprisingly, dials down dorkitude.

When I was in primary school there was already clique-iness stirring, even though our class, school and town were all so small that we’d grown up with each other. I was well aware of my social standing – amongst the ‘smart’, middle-classy kids – so when a ‘cool’, rebel girl, from well outside that group, made friends with me, I was pretty stoked (well, I wouldn’t have used the term ‘stoked’, being only 8 or 9, which would have made it about 25 years ago, and ‘stoked’ wasn’t so big then, but you get the emotion). Let’s call her Kelly.

So, when Kelly invited me to her birthday party I understood that she’d gone outside the ‘norm’ to do so, and I felt like my whole social status was on the cusp of morphing into something more interesting.

The day of the party I spent time getting ready, wrapped a carefully-chosen present, and made certain that my mum drove me to the caravan park where Kelly lived, right on time. After Mum parked, she and I walked to Kelly’s caravan and tentatively knocked on the zip-up awning. There didn’t seem to be a lot of activity, which was a bit worrisome, but I figured that maybe I was just the first to arrive.

After a couple of knocks, Kelly’s mum came out to see us, with a question in her voice and a quizzical eyebrow raise. I, haltingly, stumbled out that I was here for Kelly’s birthday, had I got the time wrong?, was I too early?

There was a little laugh from her mum, ‘It’s not till next Saturday.’

‘Oh. I’m sure the invitation had today’s date, I’m sorry to bother you. See you next week.’ And then I hurried my mum back to the car, shamefaced, red-faced, and having lost face. I was hugely relieved that Kelly hadn’t been there – apparently she was at the pool – but also aware that there was no way that her mum would keep to herself what had transpired.

I can still feel the burning, roiling humiliation in my stomach as we drove home, knowing I would have to go to school on Monday and hear about it. I looked at the invitation when I got home and realised that I must have just been excited about going, and not checked too closely, because the date, very clearly, said next Saturday’s date.

When Monday rolled around there wasn’t a lot of joking at my expense, just a bit of teasing, but it was obvious to me that any burgeoning social status change had been shelved, probably due to my clear (to fellow primary-schoolers) display of dorkiness. I don’t recall a lot about the actual party the next Saturday, just a vague feeling of awkwardness, as the reality of spending a few hours with a party’s-worth of ‘cool’ acquaintances manifested itself.

Kelly and I were polite, even occasionally friendly, with each other through the rest of our concurrent schooling, but we never really got past the awkwardness.

Long Ago Teenage Angst

When I was in High School, I would sometimes go to class late because I was afraid that no-one would sit next to me if I sat down first.

I’m a shoplifter

HL and I were down town shopping yesterday and we walked past an upmarket homewares store. HL nudged me and said, “Try not to steal anything this time, huh?” I blushed, having completely forgotten my shameful connection with this store.

About a year ago HL and I were window-shopping amongst the ridiculously over-priced, but drool-worthy, stock in this Upmarket Homewares Store (UHS) when my cheap side won out and I wandered over to the ‘CLEARANCE’ section to check out some (Embarrassing Confession: I adore Christmas and all the paraphernalia that goes along with) marked-down Christmas ornaments.

I hummed and hahed for about 15 minutes, but ultimately decided not to add to my already overwhelming collection of what I like to call ‘Christmas Crap’ (and HL enthusiastically agrees with this name) and we left the UHS to go in search of a gift for my dad. The lady at the counter gave me a searching glance as we walked out and I thought she was a bit rude, but, whatever, this was a snooty store.

We were actually on the look-out for a cocktail shaker for my dad and they were proving incredibly difficult to locate in our small city, so, when I thought of a Gifts and Engraving store on the other side of the CBD we decided to walk all the way there on the off chance that they might have one.

On arrival, the G&E store was terribly crowded, so we sidled in and, using our ‘shopper-on-a-mission’, highly-focused eyeballs, tracked down a small selection of cocktail shakers. We started to examine our options and, wanting to pick them up and see how they felt and how much they cost, etc., I set down my over-the-shoulder wallet on the shelf so I didn’t have to worry about knocking something over with the wallet if I turned around suddenly (yep, I’m awfully clumsy, and I was just trying to preclude a disaster).

For just a moment I experienced a strange disconnection and surreality as I noticed that this store was selling the EXACT SAME CHRISTMAS ORNAMENT I’d been examining at the UHS. And it didn’t seem like the kind of thing that would be likely to be found here. Weird, huh? Waaiiittt a minute (it was literally that slow – like in a cartoon)… I think, no, I KNOW, I brought this with me, attached to my purse.

Oh crap, oh crap, oh crap… I’m a thief, a shoplifter, a criminal…What if the lady has sent the police after me, and, right this second, they could be closing in on me? (yeah, over-reaction, I know) I have to return it, but, what if, when I try to return it, the lady just thinks I stole it, but had an attack of conscience? Oh crap, oh crap, oh crap…

I turned around, and with a grimace, showed HL. He laughed, loud and hard, and said he’d walk back with me to return it. Which he did. Laughing at me. The whole way. Joking that his wife was a thief.

I got quite nervous when we got close to the UHS, wondering if the lady would detain me until the police arrived and took me in for questioning (too much tv in my life, not enough actual criminal behaviour). HL said he would return it and explain that his wife had accidentally taken it, but I thought that that might sound a bit like he was covering-up for his klepto wife, so I went in by myself.

As I walked up to the counter the lady had her mouth pursed very tightly and was glaring down her nose in my direction so my words didn’t really come out right. “Umm…I was in earlier…and I was looking at things on the clearance rack (gestured in approximate direction)…and I think…when I turned around…this thing (gestured at offending ornament)…seems to have gotten caught on my…ummm…purse-strappy thing here…see? I’m so sorry…It was an accident.” I stammered, and ended with a weak grin.

I was hugely relieved to watch a smile grow on the lady’s face as she took ‘the item’ and giggled understandingly. Even though I was still embarrassed, I almost skipped out with the feeling of a burden having been lifted. It didn’t even matter that HL was almost doubled over with laughing at me.

I haven’t gone back in since, though.