In 1972 and 1973 we holiday in Lyme Regis again, at the hotel run by Vicky’s parents (1971 we deviate from our Dorset habit and go to Kent, for some reason). I look forward to seeing Vicky again but cruelly, she has not waited for me and now has a boy friend. I am devastated by this frankly inevitable turn of events.
For some reason I remember next to nothing of the summer of 1972 (apart from the fact that Lynsey De Paul’s lament about a crossdressing boyfriend, “Getting a Drag” haunts the summer charts). No doubt I harboured puppyish feelings of rejection, but it may be that 1973 is simply more memorable. In 1972 there are a lot of families with children staying and when we return the following summer most of those families have picked the same fortnight for their holiday. While I had little to do with the other children in ’72, in ’73 I become good friends with most of them, and suddenly I have a gang to hang out with.
I find this new bunch of friends a blessed relief from the complicated relationships at school – these short-term friendships prove amazingly easygoing, and we all hang out together and play rounders on the beach. Even more usefully, there is a boy there who is even more nerdish than me. At one point he tries to commandeer the hotel’s only television to watch Face the Music on BBC2. That act alone is enough to single him out and leave me mercifully off the hook.
This second year Vicky spends time with us a lot more, although occasionally she trails off after her boyfriend. I remember being in an upstairs café by the beach and feeling jealous as they pass by arm in arm.
The fortnight is not a complete break from transgender thoughts. Just before coming I have read an article on kids’ talent shows at holiday camps which includes the story of a boy who always enters crossdressed, encouraged by his mother. And on the radio at about the same time, there is a story about a boy who wins a seaside carnival queen competition by convincing the judges that not only he is a girl, but prettier than any of the other girls. The Lyme Carnival is imminent, and one evening the gang (plus Vicky, who is interested at the time in becoming a hairdresser) discuss crossdressing in the context of the carnival. One of the boys, who is over 16, talks about how his sisters used to try out make-up techniques on him. I long to ask Vicky to make me up, and enter me for the Lyme carnival, but stay fearfully quiet.
Since my asthma has improved, I have gained weight. Asthma attacks used to burn off the calories, but now that attacks are rarer that doesn’t happen. I have also taken to compulsive sweet and biscuit eating, so my weight starts to balloon, mostly around the stomach. This has the effect of making my breast development less apparent, and in due course makes me more self-conscious about sunbathing as I now feel ugly and fat. That last Lyme summer holiday, those things don’t seem to matter – in the end it is probably the most stress-free fortnight of my teenage years.
As Vicky is unavailable, I fall hard for one of the summer waitresses. I remember her as willowy, with long straight red hair and a taste for long peasant skirts. Two of the children staying have birthdays and she organizes a party in the hotel’s basement. At the end of the evening she wanders round regally bestowing kisses on the boys, and I manage to snatch two – my first real kisses. Despite the age difference and the fact that she is at least a foot taller than me, I pine for this waitress for the rest of the holiday.
As the summer ends, I return for the fourth year of secondary school. In that year we start studying for O-levels. Romances between pupils blossom and become more serious (though not for me). The doom of my first school disco awaits. My trans feelings grow and before too long I try to find someone who might be able to help.