The day should have been one of triumph. In a desperately close championship rugby match between two of the ‘houses’ at my school, I found myself bundled out from the scrum with the ball bouncing loose in front of me — just five yards from the try line.
With seconds to go, all I needed to do was grab the ball, get over the line and score to make my team champions.
I’ve always had the build of a rugby player, rather than a svelte runner. So, although a couple of opponents tried to halt my progress, I had enough bulk to push one out of the way and drag the other, as he held on to me and I held on to the ball, over the line.
The championship was ours, and a call up to the 1st XV could be in the offing. Yet all I was thinking about was how I dreaded returning to the dressing room — as it would mean removing my rugby shirt and exposing my chest.
From childhood, I’d always carried too many pounds, but, as I reached puberty, the fat suddenly raced to my chest. I had gynaecomastia — or, at least, that’s what medical dictionaries called it.
Going to an all boys’ school, you can imagine the string of taunts and nicknames that were used instead. At school, you’re likely to be picked on for anything that sets you apart. From red hair, to wearing glasses, or being too tall, they’re all seen as fair game.
Photo Credit: Richard Cannon