Saturday, 22 September 2012

When I was eleven

Today I popped into the Sun Theatre in Yarraville to see the film, "I am Eleven".  It's a series of interviews with eleven year old children from all over the world.  They talk about their lives and share their thoughts on life, culture, religion, war and many other things.

If you can, take the time to see this film.  It is funny, astonishing and humbling.

It's extraordinary to hear Remi from France talk about the three types of love there are in the world: love for family; love for people you know, but who aren't your family; and love for people you don't know.  I haven't spent a lot of time with eleven year olds, so I don't have a benchmark to know whether this is what eleven year olds generally sound like.  Remi also had clear views about racism and the French Government's tough immigration laws.  It was incredible to hear him speak and refer to himself as a citizen of the world.

Vandana and Ginisha live in an orphanage in Kerala in India.  They have meagre possessions and speak about never having known a father's love, yet they see the beauty in their shabby, even squalid, surroundings.  Their wide smiles and ambitions for themselves in the face of a very hard start in life brings tears to my eyes.

Billy from the UK has a perpetually worried look on his face and an adult turn of phrase.  He's a comedian but it's hard to know if he knows this.  He speaks about growing up, getting married, having children, grandchildren and then "boom, it's all over".  He seems non-plussed but the cinema audience roars with laughter.  His favourite films are "Dirty Dancing 1 and 2" because of the great dance moves.

Kimberly from New Jersey in the US precociously enacts the scene of her future marriage proposal.  Her Jersey accent is pronounced and it all happens on one date.  It's a boy she will meet in college and he will tell her that he likes her hair.  It's all over after that.

Since seeing the film, I've been trying to think about what I was like at eleven.

I know that I had reached the height I would be (167cm) and had already reached puberty. It was really hard to buy age appropriate shoes.

I was bigger than everyone except the Egyptian girl Dahlia Aziz which meant I had to play Goal Defence or Goal Keeper in the netball team and was always cast in the male parts in school plays.

I had piano lessons, played for as many hours a day as I possible could and attended "gourmet cookery for children" classes with Mrs Quade at the TAFE in Toowoomba.  This meant I cooked dinner for the family on Tuesdays.  I look back at the recipes and laugh at the idea they were considered gourmet, but still remember techniques I learned there like how to skin fresh tomatoes for cooking.

I was in love with Bo Duke (played by John Schneider), the blond one from the TV show, "The Dukes of Hazzard" and would throw a tantrum if I wasn't allowed to watch the show.  My bedroom was wall-papered with pictures of him I had torn from American fan magazines.

I would ride my bike all over town.  I was given a new bike after my brother dismantled my old one and had pieces left over after reassembly.  My parents asked me to take the garbage outside which I did in a huff and returned.  I hadn't even seen the brand new bike waiting for me!

Days would be consumed by reading novels, one after the other.  I think it was at about this age I decided that I would read every novel in the school library, starting with the letter A.  I think I made it to C.

It was at the age of eleven that my worst dental experience occurred, leaving me with a lifelong fear.

My best friend was Angela Seymour.

I think I was in love with Philip Hamilton or Treg Kleidon or one of those boys.  I don't think it was reciprocated, but Philip did attend a college ball with me while we were at university.

I wanted to be an actress or a writer or a musician.

It's interesting to think how much of the person I am today, thirty years later, was evident at the age of eleven.  A good age I think.

What were you like when you were eleven?  Would you recognise yourself?


  1. Ah....i loved reading this. I used to buy Smash Hits mag...i was DESPERATELY in love with Simon LeBon. I papered my room with Smash Hits posters. (mostly of Duran Duran or Spandeau Ballet). I was in love with a boy called Matthew O'Conner...and my most enduring memory of that year was my aunty, my nana and my mother ganging up on me informing me that i had to start wearing a bra! It was imperative otherwise my boobs would end up at my belly button in no time. Hilarious when i think the little triangle bra mum finally bought me - i think each 'cup' was probably the size of 50c piece!

  2. Danielle I laughed, no, guffawed when I read about your bra. Wasn't going to be fitted the most excruciating experience! John Taylor, Duran Duran's bass player, was my man. Such feminine looking men! See the film if you can.