That we hide away forever
And we take them out
And show ourselves
When everyone has gone
Some are satin some are steel
Some are silk and some are leather
They're the faces of the stranger
But we love to try them on.
............................... Billy Joel
In the summer of 1977, I was kissed by a boy. My first kiss. It was clumsy, unpleasant and unimportant. Except that it marked a turning point in my early adolescence. The start of a year would see me try many new things.
The year would start with my first experience of buying new clothes for myself. For some time I had been working at my father's office during the school holidays. I cannot describe the euphoria of the moment I purchased a pair of denim jeans and a long-sleeved t-shirt. New clothes from a shop! The feeling of these store-bought clothes on my youthful body was indescribable. Does a butterfly feel like this when it turns and sees the chrysalis, empty and redundant on the plant?
In the summer we holidayed in Taupo, where family friends had a small unit under their home. The family also had a teenage daughter slightly older than me. She introduced me to boys. To spontaneous gatherings at the lake, and whispered teenage daydreams.
While I was trying on a new me, my parents were becoming more emotionally absent from my life. Their own unhappiness and adult problems converged to allow me unfettered access to a new, more adult world. I discovered the fun of having friends for the first time. No longer expected to entertain friends at home, we would meet up at Youth Group, and at the shiny new shopping mall. Teenagers didn’t need parents to initiate or supervise their social calendar.
I discovered a passion for drama and public speaking. That year I won the best actress and best public speaker at school.
By the end of the academic year, I scooped every award except the sports accolades. I was giddy with pride after the awards night when I was called up to the stage over and over again. My friends had risen to their feet in a standing ovation, laughing along with me.
In the years that followed, the new, confident teenager took up drama, debating and student leadership. I explored my passions, by taking art courses. For a brief time, I dabbled in modelling and politics.
These moments in time, often brief, and always exciting are simple expressions of the many facets that make me, an adult. Sometimes vulnerable, sometimes strong. Sometimes certain, sometimes lost. Examined in private, seen by all. The faces of the stranger.