Tête-á-Tête

When I was growing up, I was a loyal reader of several fan magazines. Never mind that tinsel town was thousands of miles away. I looked forward to each issue and reading about my favourite actors and actresses and even monthly columns that were written by the young celebrities themselves. I now wonder, with their supposedly busy schedules, if they really did write those columns but I realise that it is inconsequential to me now. Among its pages, I also read that a few up-and-coming actresses had written beauty how-to books, offering advice on make-up, boys and dating. And I'm not sure how it came to be but something in me felt that if they could do it, so could I.

Never mind that I was only fourteen years old (maybe it was more like thirteen going on fourteen) and that my book would never be published. I seem to recall that I was twelve when I first started writing the book. I could be wrong but that age seems to come to mind. Never mind that I had never even dated and knew nothing about relationships. And never mind that I didn't know anything about proper make-up application and which colours suited which complexions.

I wanted to write that book. And I did it with an enjoyment and ease that seemed to come naturally to me. I didn't know everything that I wrote about but I knew some things. At least, that was how it worked out in my fourteen-year-old mind.

The word "Girl" had to be in the title somewhere (because they had it too) and I first titled it "Girl Talk" because I must have liked the sound of it. Sometime later, during a school assembly, the vice-principal happened to mention "a private tête-á-tête," about us schoolgirls having a private conversation. I liked how it sounded and decided to use it as part of my book title. It seemed to fit: Girl Tête-á-Tête. Actually, it was Girl Tete-a-Tete, without the special characters, as I didn't know about them at the time. It didn't sound pretentious, merely different. And I wanted it to be different.

The pages were filled with my own articles (about diet and exercise, recipes, even caring for one's fingernails, among other topics) and short stories (which were mostly to fill the rest of the pages). There were pictures of women on some of its pages which I had cut out from magazines. Other pages were filled with my own illustrations. It was a labour of love. I even dedicated it to my cousin and eight school friends on the inside of the front cover. They must have been the ones I didn't hesitate to share some of its pages with.

To top it all off, I pasted a photograph of myself (taken when I was ten) on the front cover as part of the design. All of those actresses had pictures of themselves on their book covers. Why shouldn't I do the same?

I did what I set out to do because I wanted to do it. I think it was also a bit of a challenge. And there are times, so many years later, when I wish I could do what that fourteen-year-old did.

It is not that I have never even tried. Perhaps it is that I have not tried hard enough. I realise it is different to be fourteen years old or even twelve years old. I looked at life differently then. And life, also, was very different then.

That book is still in my possession. A childish endeavour, yes, but it helps to remind me of who I was and what I was capable of, as inexperienced as I was in so many areas. No doubt it was only the written word, pouring myself into my writing (an activity that became very familiar to me, not only then, but in my later years as well), and mainly for a ghost audience.

But there was something in her, a certain spirit, that I seem to have lost along the way. And I sometimes wish I would, or even could, listen to the spirit of that girl that I seem to have left behind.



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