Wednesday, 13 February 2008

The venomous stress of school dances

It’s my kids’ Valentine’s Ball on Saturday and it got me thinking about the dances I went to when I was at school.

One that sticks in my memory (and, I daresay, that of my date) was the matric dance I went to with my brother’s friend Charles. I’d always had a secret crush on Charles so when I was stung on the foot by a bee (I’m allergic) at about 5 o’clock on the evening of the dance, it wasn’t something that was going to stop me going.

‘We don’t have any more antidote,’ my mother said, frantically hunting through cupboards. ‘We’re going to have to go to the hospital.’ (I got stung a lot. We had, god knows why given my allergy, a huge wisteria right outside our back door, and swarms would settle in it in summer; getting stung was simply a matter of walking outside.)

I immediately segued into what I now recognise (because my own daughter does it) as a Force 10 Tantrum. I furiously decried my mother’s insensitivity; tearfully, I told her that she was evidently intent on ruining my life; when she stood firm, I began shrieking and tearing at my hair; finally, I kicked a cupboard and threw myself on the floor of a carpeted room.

My mother, worn down, gave in. ‘But if the swelling gets worse,’ she said, ‘you’re to come right home.’

I was wearing – forgive me, but it was the ’80s – a tight black catsuit and nifty strappy little sandals, and by the time Charles fetched me my beestung foot was distinctly uncomfortable. But I put on a brave face, waved bye-bye to my longsuffering parents, and walked elegantly down the garden path.

In the car, I tore off my sandal. ‘I’m sorry, Charles,’ I said, ‘but I can’t wear this shoe. My foot’s getting too big.’

‘You’re going to my matric dance with one shoe on?’ he said.

I thought about this. ‘You’re right,’ I said. ‘It’ll look odd. I’ll go barefoot.’

By about 9 o’clock the swelling had crept up my leg to the extent that I had to cut a slit in my catsuit pants to relieve the pressure.

By about 11 I was having trouble breathing (all that energetic dancing!) and I asked Charles if he could take me home.

My mother, who was, of course, worriedly waiting up, took one look at me and went pale. ‘We’re going to the hospital,’ she said. When I insisted I was fine, just tired, she steered me into the bathroom. ‘Look at yourself,’ she said, positioning me in front of the mirror.

So intent had I been on attending to the lower half of my body that I hadn’t noticed how the bee venom had attacked the top. I looked like a chipmunk. I was having trouble breathing because my windpipe was swollen. As were my neck, cheeks and the flesh around my eyes.

At the hospital, in the middle of the night, my poor mother stood stoically silent while the doctor berated her. ‘You know she could have died?’ he said crossly, giving me a fat injection.

My mother gave me A Look. I know what she was thinking.

(And, perhaps not surprisingly, but terribly disappointingly, Charles never asked me out again.)

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1 comment:

meggie said...

I am allergic to beestings too. I almost died once when I got stung on the head! The stingy employer- I was grading apples on an 'Apple picking adventure', for slave wages- was so grumpy because he had to take me to the Dr to get an emergency injection. They moved the swarm of bees from the rafter above the grader after that!