Perfect on the Outside

I marched myself down the Irvine Road. Underneath my blazer, my shirt was buttoned to the top, tie nestled at my neck in a perfect knot, socks pulled up to my knees, sitting evenly, shoes tightly tied so as not to come undone. Before I slung my brown, leather satchel over my shoulder and opened the front door, I’d made sure my wee brother was in the same condition. Whilst my Mum slept and my Dad made his way to the office, I made sure that my brother and I entered the day properly. I couldn’t control what he did after we got to our wee primary school in our small Scottish town, but I could be sure he started off on the right foot. 

I, on the other hand, swung my arms as I marched, but not too dramatically. I earned good marks and was polite to all my teachers. I was careful not to be overly polite, though, lest I wind up being assigned to be a Prefect in Primary 7. This was one of the greatest fears of my early academic life and the tightrope I walked from Primary 4 on — how to be the good (nearly perfect) student and child, without being made a Prefect. Prefects policed the lines of students whilst we waited to get into school in the mornings and after lunch. They scurried about doing the teachers’ and headmistress’ bidding. In short, they went about being obviously perfect and telling people how to be perfect and telling on them if they weren’t. Some people even called them Perfects instead of Prefects. They hated them. I didn’t hate them at all. I just knew that, although it was important for me to seem perfect on the outside, I had this inherent flaw on the inside. Being a Prefect would have been a lie. In primary school, being made a Prefect was like being ordained perfect; it was a recognition that you were damn near good enough to be an adult; it was the ultimate legitimization. And I had sorted out by then that, no matter what fairy tale my parents told me and no matter how nicely I tied my tie, I was still illegitimate: a bastard on the inside.

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