I was 11. It was a blissfully sunny English summer day and I was laying on the lawn. My Mam and Aunty were teasing me about my ‘boyfriend’. My Aunty said to my Mam “we will be getting her bottom drawer together soon”. The ‘bottom drawer’, for those who do not know, is a collection gifts and linens traditionally given to newlyweds.
I recall very distinctly a knowledge that they were wrong. That their vision of womanhood was not mine. I had heard of universities but did not know anyone who had been to one. I wanted to be an archeologist. I did not know how once got to be such a thing. I wanted to be ‘clever’ and like some women on the telly and not like those on our housing estate. I knew marriage, kids, school gates and bottom drawers were not my destiny or desire. I knew also that I had to carefully hide these thoughts from both family and friends who I knew would think I was too big for my boots. What I now recognise as both ambition and something that I later called feminism. These feelings were both liberating and scary.