The other kids in our road, they all knew each other already. I didn’t know how to introduce myself, how to find my way into their group. How do you get people to play with you when they don’t know you and you’re completely convinced that they don’t want to play with you and anyway you don’t actually want to play with them, you were just pushed out of the front door by your mother and told to get out from under her feet and go and play with the other children? You’re stuck. Stuck between not being wanted in the house and not really having a place in the street. How do you do it, how do you deal with being new and feeling different?
Well if you’re me in 1970, and five years old, you choose “being brave”. On the outside, being brave looks like quietly sitting there, on the edge, doing your own thing, watching, listening, making silent contact and then doing something outrageous and audacious to get other people’s attention, to make them laugh, most probably. But on the inside, being brave means not showing how you’re really feeling, pushing the fear and the worry and the desperate, clawing need to cry down, away, finding somewhere in your body to hide it, to hold onto it so that it doesn’t come shooting out. Because if it comes out, it’s so awful that it will probably hurt someone or frighten them really badly. It’s a really bad thing to let that stuff out.
Above all being brave means that you must never, never, NEVER, cry in front of the other kids. It’s pretty poor form to go and cry to mummy too, but they probably won’t find out about that. It’s never a good idea to tell anyone about any of this – if you tell other boys, they’ll call you a sissy, if you tell girls, they’ll be sympathetic to your face but then they’ll go and tell the other girls that you’re a sissy, if you tell a grown-up, they’ll tell you to get out from under their feet and go and play now, please, don’t be a baby.
Being quiet and contained gets you respect and a kind of awe because they can’t quite work you out. Boys must always be brave. If girls are upset by anything, they will probably shout and scream and sit and whisper loudly to each other about it and then tell the teacher that it was that nasty boy’s fault. But it’s a good thing to be a brave boy, that’s how to get love, acceptance and admiration and if you keep being a brave boy, eventually you’ll be a brave man, like Captain Scarlet or Robin Hood or Neil Armstrong.
So yeah, sit on the edge, perform audacious acts that nobody else would think of doing and never, ever show any signs of weakness. And don’t even think about going home, your home’s out there now, sonny Jim, on the street.