7 Mar 2014

The Scent of Friendship Lingers on International Women’s Day

I don’t feel very much like Pooh today," said Pooh.

"There there," said Piglet. "I’ll bring you tea and honey

until you do.
” A.A. Milne

True friendship grows out of a genuine desire to sweeten the life of your friend when they have a bitter pill to swallow. When sight began to fade during my teen years, I found such a true friend at school. In honour of the female spirit on International Women’s Day (8th March), I will never forget the sweet fragrance of one particular friendship...

It was easier to ignore the dimming of objects, the blurring of words, the discomfort of puberty as sneaky changes were taking place right before my eyes. I was reluctant to say anything to the girls at school for fear that my new glasses would attract ‘‘special’ attention – or worse, be ridiculed and seen as the teacher’s pet.

A new school year dawned and I had not yet found a group of friends to confide in. The home teacher noticed my squinting tendency while I peered hopelessly at the blackboard and moved me from the back of the room to sit right in the middle of the front row. “Did you bring your glasses to school today?”

I cringed deeper into the chair. At thirteen, my life was being turned upside down – all due to a riotous collision of hormones.

One Italian-Australian girl sitting next to me in the front row didn’t seem to mind my ever-growing peculiarities. Antoinette was a kind and studious girl, who ignored the antics of the immature drama queens in our class and achieved high standards in her school work.

On one day, in the second floor classroom, rowdy girls snickered.

“What are you doing?” asked Antoinette, amused as I fumbled around my bag under the desk.

“Be quiet,” I snapped.

Show me!” she said.

I put on the new gold-rimmed frames and pulled a ghastly expression, and then hid my face on the pages of a French textbook as dramatically as if I were before Marie-Antoinette at the court of Versailles.

“Tres magnifique! Those glasses suit you.”

With a playful pinch to her leg, I was relieved my new friend still liked me.

Sitting at the desk beside her, our shoulders nudged together warm and close, so close that her black hair brushed across my cheek, the fragrance of her perfume sweetening our friendship.

Two Peas in a Paranoid Pod


On some days, fuzzy writings at the far edges of the chalk board still eluded my vision, so I turned my failing eyesight to copy Antoinette’s neat handwriting. Watching her craft clear, precise strokes  to form words and sentences, was like watching a magician produce something beautiful from out of a blank space. One minute, an empty page – the next, an army of black ink-soldiers standing with military precision upon faint lines.

She often interrupted the private show by tugging at thin strands of her black hair and whined, “I’m going bald, you know?”

“You are not,” I laughed.

“See?” She held out a long strand of invisible hair, and studied it closely before tossing it away.

“Just stop pulling it out, then,” I teased, and continued to copy her writing.

Two peas in a paranoid-pod – with Antoinette critical of her lack of hair, and my embarrassment with all the new bodily changes stealing vision – we soon became inseparable confidantes for one another.

A great resource for girls and young women...

The Dugdale Trust for Women & Girls will be launching their new national website Rosie for young women

Rosie Respect

The site will be a space for young women to connect with the best web resources, helping them navigate life's tricky situations. Rosie will have tips, links, and videos all centred around a theme of respect.

the Dugdale Trust for Women & Girls was launched last year by

The Victorian Womens Trust.

Please share in the comments, what true friendship means to you...

© 2014 Maribel Steel


Max Ivey said...

hello; this post was warm and funny and i could feel your lot for each other as i read it. I'm shocked you don't have mor comments. would love to help you by drawing some attention to your blog. I'm taking part in what is called a blog hop this week. I answer four questions about how i write and then give links to bios of three others who will do the same next week. it gives each of our readers a chance to be exposed to the other's special voice. and of course we would all share the posts on social media. my email is maxwell@midwaymarketplace.com if you would like more information. I really want to feature other blind blogggrs. thanks and take care, max

maribel steel said...

Hi Max, glad you happened to find me in the wide world of bloggers. Thank you so much for getting in touch, hope to exchange emails soon. Do visit again, have a really special piece coming up next week!
Cheers, Maribel

Paul Graham said...

Your post gave me a new perspective on International Women's Day. Previously I had thought of it solely in terms of celebrating the struggles and accomplishments of the gender as a whole and a time to reflect on what remains to be done. How did I miss the personal aspect and the fact that many would also reflect on the individuals who have influenced them and shared their tribulations. The sighted are not immune to missing the obvious ! My eyesight is not great but I have no idea how I would cope with the prospect of substantially losing it. Hopefully as well as you and Max though I am far from sure of that

Lenie Hokansson said...

I know exactly how you feel - in grade 6 I also had to start wearing glasses - just at a time you become very aware of yourself as an emerging woman. What a blessing you had such a good friend. Reading your post was a joy - you obviously don't waste your time feeling sorry for yourself - way to go.

maribel steel said...

Hi Paul,
That's an interesting point of view - thank you so much for sharing it...by the way, you would manage beautifully as a blind person if you had to because you already possess the talents required, the only difference between us is that sighted people haven't had the opportunity to use them!
Next week - visitors to my blog can read my intriguing take on benefit #1 of being blind...best, Maribel

maribel steel said...

Hi Lenie,
Great to know we have some things in common...thanks for stopping by.
I smiled when I read your comment that I don't waste time feeling sorry for myself, I can at times, but after a while it feels too indulgent and nothing exciting ever seems to happen when I feel blue. So red, yellow and orange are the colours of life I like to embrace, just more fun seeing the lighter hues. How about you, Did your eyesight fade as you got older? Best wishes, Maribel

Susan Cooper said...

I have worn glasses since I was 9 months old. It was a been a challenge for me because of all the name I would be called because of it. All that said I could so understand how you felt. When you have a friend who accepts no matter what, disability and all, it's a pretty great thing at any age. :-)

maribel steel said...

Hi there Susan, thank you for stopping by and sharing our connection through appreciating the friendship others give us and the acceptance we have to work so hard to cultivate in our own lives.

Tania Parisi said...

Hi Maribel, Aunty told me about your blog and was touched by it. We were sitting at lunch with Mum, Aunty, Sonia & Belinda when she shared your beautifully crafted memoir with us. It seems like yesterday when I'd want to be part of what you guys were doing! I had a chuckle and I can imagine both of you sitting there in one of the classrooms that I would have sat in 10 years later, being typical teenagers. I hope you're well, the no longer 3 year old Tania xx

maribel steel said...

Hey Tania, thank you for sharing the news that you girls were reading this story together with Antoinette! How life moves on...you used to follow us around some days, would love to know how you are going - email is: maribel@springstudio.com.au
Love to the family, Maribel xx