Over the years, the fact that I am a vicar’s daughter has raised numerous smiles and winks from people who think they know what that means. There are two types of vicar’s daughter, I’d imagine. Those who remain good and sweet until someone corrupts them, and those, like the girl who wins Bart Simpson’s heart, who go off the rails and rebel from the beginning. In a small village, where everyone knows your name, rebellion is impossible. Unless you really don’t mind hurting the people that love you most. And I did mind that.
My parents will tell you that I was a difficult teen. Sometimes I wouldn’t eat my vegetables. Sometimes I would sulk and slam doors. But I never took drugs, I never came home pregnant and I only got really drunk once (or maybe twice) and really that’s just a sign of not ever having drunk enough before. As teens go, I was pretty boring.
There was a sense of freedom when I arrived a Uni. I could suddenly begin to live on my own, out of the shadow of the duty and conformity of the vicarage. It wasn’t a miserable childhood, but the expectations to always be good and polite were stifling for a child who probably had too big a personality for it. If I rebelled at Uni, I still did it on a small scale – finishing my degree in Theology, going to chapel on a sunday morning (until they all drove me bonkers) and not coming home pregnant, or on drugs.
After Uni, I went to work in a Christian retreat. The life of service and quiet nearly destroyed me. I was too big for there, too, or too proud. I didn’t find God in the quiet, I found a new misery and loneliness.
And then I rebelled. It was a conscious decision. I moved to London to work in a bar. My letter of application to the graduate bar-management training scheme said: “I am a vicar’s daughter desperate to move to London and make friends with people my parents will disapprove of”. I think they gave me the job just for that.
I lived in London with Uni friends, we partied a lot, I didn’t eat properly. I found a boyfriend who wasn’t like all my other, lovely boy-next-door boyfriends. Not the sort of boy I could take home – who taught me a lot about how to find out who I wanted to be, and who I wasn’t. I stayed out all night and slept all day and didn’t ring home for years.
But rebelling wasn’t really me, either. I was lonely and I was miserable. And then I fell in love with my housemate, who was take-home-able, but still not too dull, and we got married and I trained to be a teacher and we bought a house, and he started doing really well at work and now…. well, now I find myself at 31, with a mortgage, married to a man who works in the city and I can’t help but think that I didn’t rebel enough, really, and now it might be too late. Where is my campervan? Why am I not travelling the world, playing the guitar and writing poetry?
I am working through this with a wonderful counsellor who asked me yesterday if I ever just felt like painting myself red and running through the room naked. She’s brilliant. I think I’ll be ok.