Friday, September 06, 2013

Memories triggered by Goldfrapp's 'Annabel'

A rather beautiful film has triggered memories of my boyhood. 

Goldfrapp’s “Annabel” has a lonely boy in an idyllic setting. A boy dressed in black. A lonely boy with an intense inner life.

What made me shiver as I watched this was the fact the boy could have been a portrait of me. I was lucky to live in a series of houses with beautiful gardens. Less lucky to be so isolated; less lucky to have to struggle with the dislocation between my inner and my physical self with no help of any kind.

My mother sent me away to a boy’s boarding school, tears in her eyes, because she knew in her heart it would damage me. But felt, as a woman, subservient to the male. Subservient to my dad who subscribed to the view that it was bad for a boy to be too close to his mother.

 So there I was, eight years old, torn from my mother, and forced to undergo 9 years of what looks very much like the so-called “reparative therapy” that is still sometimes so wickedly imposed on boys who display effeminacy.

It’s a regime that involves forced separation from feminine expression or influences: a toughening programme of sensory deprivation, physical discomfort, team sports and bullying in a macho environment. All designed to desensitise the growing boy and make him fit to be a man.

It failed. Of course. It simply left deep scars it takes a lifetime’s work to heal. 

The bigger sadness is that it still reflects so much of the disastrous conditioning that is imposed on boys. 

The wonderful thing about the film is that the boy’s mother understands. She gives him a glittery dress: she gives him permission to be herself.

And the child’s life changes and becomes full of joy.

It’s the kind of childhood I could not even dare to begin to dream about. The kind of film I could not even have begun to conceive.

It’s not even worth speculating on how different my life would have been if I had not had to deal with the intense fear and self hatred and shame imposed on me. 

All I can do is give thanks for my amazing loving family. Give thanks for the life I now live: and the opportunities life gives me to bear witness to who I am. 

Give thanks to Goldfrapp. Her beautiful song, her beautiful film.

And be amazed at the rapidity and profoundity of the changes that have brought this work to be.

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