It's not that I ever wanted to be anything when I grew up. I just didn't
want to grow up.
So when grownups didn't get an answer to the "be" question straight away,
they asked the "do" question.
"I want to fly. Like Peter Pan."
"You want to be like Peter Pan?"
"No. I want to fly like him."
When I was told that Peter Pan never grew up, I said, "I don't want
"But, Pamela, you have to grow up. Everyone grows up."
"Why? What if I don't want to?"
"It's the way of nature, darling," my mother said.
My mother was grown up. But I could talk to her in spite of that. In a
way she was right.
Nature started doing things without me being able to stop it.
"My, how Pamela has grown, Mrs. Thomson," one of the neighbours said.
So? I was getting taller. I seemed to need new shoes before I wore the
old ones out. I could handle growing up after all, I thought, if it meant
new shoes all the time. It also meant breaking them in, getting blisters
on blisters. Maybe my feet should stop growing for a while. When the
blisters hurt, I'd say to my mother: "Mum, I don't want to grow up."
"That's just growing, darling," she'd say. It seemed a lesser evil.
I kept growing and my breasts formed and I got my first period.
"Pamela is growing up," I heard my mother say to someone on the phone.
So that was growing up. Well, I could do without it. I could do
without things that bobbed when I ran, not being able to swim at that waterhole at a certain time of the month, pimples bursting out on my face at odd moments. I'd cry for nothing, before I knew why. Growing up was the pits.
When I poked out my tongue in class, the teacher said, "Pamela, do grow
When I sulked, I was told to grow up. Being grown up was something my
friends wanted to be. They said they could wear high heels and stockings and go into
town alone. Big deal.
I'd rather fly.
So I climbed up on a rock and tried it. Luckily it was at the waterhole.
I started thinking the grown ups could be right. That I had no choice. Or did I?
What was so great about being grown up? The adults I knew didn't seem
so thrilled about it. They were awfully serious most of the time. The
things that escaped them that made me laugh, they sucked in again.
I managed to make it to sixteen. I grew up on the outside, began flying
on the inside. I think my mother understood. She'd smile and shake her
head when she caught me miles away.
Then I fell in love. I thought I'd grown up inside. I'd sit around and
dream all day. I'd love everyone, smile everywhere.
Mooning, they called it. "Grow up," they said.
I married my love. Now she'll grow up, they said. I felt expectation breathing about me. So I started playing the grown-up game - with one concession: I'd answer the phone "Neverland here. Looking for the lost boys?"
It didn't last long. "Grow up," said my husband.
My daughter was born. Part of me grew up. A bigger part of me went to
play with her.
"Who's Peter Pan, Mum?"
I told her the story.
"But, Mum. Everyone has to grow up. I can't wait till I'm nineteen."
"Oh it's not a matter of age, my darling," I said. "It's in the mind."
She gave me a quizzical look as I prayed she'd understand one day.
Maybe it was because I never grew up that my husband left me.
"You know, you are a bit strange, Mum," my daughter said to me one day in
her late teenage wisdom.
My pre-menopause friends said, "Pamela, you ought to grow up you know.
You can't always say and do as you please."
"But I'm not hurting anyone."
I'm a grandmother now. Would you believe I've fallen in love? I
ride rainbows with leprechauns, wear purple underwear. Somehow nobody seems to bother
anymore. It suits me like that. I blow bubbles and raspberries wherever I
choose and my world is full of indigo and cyclamen. My grandchildren, they