Here I am at five, rhino-hide knees poking out from underneath my school uniform. I’m kitted out in the Borrowdale colours: my dress is covered in scrubbed-lemon checks, its collar is creamy white, my school shoes shine like dung beetles and I’ve left my bottle-green hat in the classroom. My hair is blond and I’m sporting what Mum calls a Crow’s Nest. That’s the tangle of matted hair at the back of my head. I wake up with a Nest every morning because I toss and turn on my pillow all night. It takes too long to brush out so I go to school with it anyway.

I used to love my uniform. Doing up the buttons for my first day of school gave me butterflies. But soon I learnt that break-time is no fun in a dress. I refuse to wear dresses at home now, but there’s no escaping them at school. What I really love is the jungle-gym. The thing is though, girls can’t climb up high, go on the monkey bars or hang upside down without asking for trouble from the other kids. Those are the rules. But right now, I don’t care about rules. Right now I’m mad at Raiphy and his khaki shorts.

“Na na nana na! You can’t do this!”

His face is red from laughing and upside down his hair makes him look like a Crested Crane. Shorts or no shorts, I’m going to show him what I’m made of. My hands reach up for the bars. The red paint is flaking and it leaves little scales on the palms of my hands. Up and up I go. I can see so far I forget for a minute what I came to do. This would be the perfect lookout point at home-time. From way up here I’d never mistake other mums for Mum ever again. I shimmy out over the monkey bars. Raiphy’s down below now and his eyes are wide.

“Sies man! We gonna see your pants!”

I’m upside down now, swinging by the knees. My dress is like a golden tent around my head. When I close one eye I can see the sun through the threads. The whole playground has gathered around and the dreaded chant has flared up:

“I-i-h, i-i-h, i-i-h!”

I can hear their fingers snap together from shaking their wrists at me.

“We can see your pants!” someone yells.

My arms are crossed tight over my chest.

“So what?” I say, “They’re only underpants!”

If underwear is so shameful then let them look until there’s no shame left at all.

gif animation sun eye graphic design illustration creative writing

Text and animated illustration by Jo Jackson