If I were to take my place on the doctor’s couch it would not be long before she’d ask me this question. On deep reflection the answer, it seems, is “a lot longer than I thought”…
His name was Steve and he was a fine looking rugged type, the kind of man you could rely on to get you through a scrape. We were inseparable even though he didn’t really speak- it was several years before Palitoy (TM) brought out the speaking model with a pull-cord. Now, Steve was an Action Man (TM) Commando. It is only now that I realise ‘commando’ may well have referred more to his underwear habits than to his profession. He had an appallingly limited wardrobe and I think this had seriously restricted his personal development. But Steve was about to get lucky. A boy the same age as me across the road was having a garage sale. something awful must have been about to happen to him because he had put his entire Action Man (TM) collection up for sale and it was vast. All the uniform and equipment had been bagged up in sets and laid out down the hall, all the way from the front door to the back. I could not believe my eyes as I passed down the line. There was the Jungle Explorer outfit and the Helicopter Pilot and the Deep Sea Diver, and then there at the end was a bag of Cindy clothes… My heart quickened. I was allowed to choose ten bags, just enough bulk to sneak in that bag of glorious pinks, oranges and purples, unnoticed by my mum. I couldn’t wait to get home but the results were what we’re to become familiarly disappointing. Nothing fitted Steve. These gorgeously feminine things of frills and lace had been made for creatures cast from a different mould (literally) and Steve could not be part of their world. Steve and I lost touch. I remember his blank stare as he sat abandoned in the corner and I wonder what might have been. I still have his right hand in my drawer among my keys and bits and pieces awaiting mending.
Years later, as a teenager, I became a soldier myself. I was quite a rugged type and, I hope, the kind of person who could get you through a scrape. I didn’t have as much kit as Steve but I was feeling a whole lot more pressure to conform. I threw myself into my macho role and buried that Cindy so deep inside me she’s taken decades to get out.
So “Cindy” and I go back a long way but there was already something there in me that day when I took Steve shopping that made me want to buy girlie clothes for him. Finding out what that was and where it came from will take a whole lot more digging!