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An Early Lesson in Being Myself

'To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.' Ralph Waldo Emerson

I remember the day well. The science teacher had brought in a large piece of strong blue cheese for us to try. It was white with streaks of blue mould running through it. It smelled like the oldest smelliest socks you can imagine and kids were choking and clutching their noses as she unwrapped it.

‘Oh I love blue cheese,’ I said, jumping up from my desk. This was a monumental lie as I’d tried it before and nearly gagged. I’m not sure why I made such an announcement. I suppose I wanted to be different and stand out in some way.

Kids looked at me in amazement. ’You like blue cheese?’ asked Peter. I nodded casually.

‘That’s amazing,’ said Claire, ‘I’ve never met anyone our age who likes it before.’

‘Well, I like unusual flavours,’ I said, proudly glowing in the light of my new found fame, ‘the stronger the better,' I added.

The teacher looked impressed, ‘well you’re in luck,’ she said, ‘because this is the strongest blue cheese I could find.’ She proceeded to cut some chunks off the cheese to hand out. Kids recoiled as she put pieces in front of them. One boy had to run out of the room. A few others tried it then quickly spat it out.

‘Right Alex,’ said the teacher, ‘as you like it so much ‘ll give you a big piece.’ She put a large slice of the stinky cheese in front of me.

‘You can have mine too,’ added several kids, passing their chunks over. Soon I was sitting in front of an enormous mound of pungent cheese.

I put a small piece in my mouth. The taste of mould spread through me. I wanted to spit it out and wash my mouth out with water but everyone was watching. ‘Mmmmmmm,’ I said through gritted teeth.

‘You just finish it off,’ said the teacher, ‘I don’t want to have to take any home.’

For the rest of the lesson I had to eat the stinking, putrid blue cheese.

But the good news is that I learnt my lesson. I didn’t pretend to like anything for quite a few years. I had a slight relapse with beer a few years later, but that’s another story.

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