Monday, May 13, 2013

First Word: Tessa Too-Kong: Rosebud


My granddaughter (Mi Mi, she calls herself) has a rosebud mouth. It was the first thing I noticed when I held her in my arms for the first time, four months after her birth. She yawned and closed her lips into a rosy bow of satisfaction and I was lost… 
            Rosebud was part of our elocution lessons – we had to pucker our lips and say the words, “petite pomme, petite pomme, petite pomme” in ladylike fashion, and then widen our mouths to say “petit poire” to demonstrate the vulgarity of displaying one’s tonsils (I had yet to come across Spanish). Being groomed in the social graces was all about performance: deportment  – gliding with a stack of books on your head, holding your shoulders down and tucking in your pelvis, stepping with the balls of your feet and not on your heels; speech – petite pommes only, mellow tones, listen, steer the conversational track, incorporate stragglers … Only then, apparently when you knew all the rules could you break them. 
            All the public school boys I know pretend a social boorishness born of privilege. My first English boyfriend – a Winchester man who had shunned Oxford and Cambridge for hotbed LSE (much to establishment horror) flung down a triangular milk carton on the refectory table across from me, straddled his chair with dusty bikers’ boots and proceeded to gulp down what was obviously his breakfast in one fell swoop. It was the equivalent of the strutting peacock displaying his wares and I recoiled in distaste at the petit poire performance. Later, he told me I was the most beautiful thing he had ever seen (that was a long time ago!) and I began to have an inkling of the workings of the male psyche. No rosebuds there.

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