Sometimes I shoot myself in the foot because it’s the right thing to do: A Tragedy by YYM

colorful confetti

colorful confetti

Standing in the wings, I looked out at the crowd and felt a rush going from my size 2, Mary Jane shoes, all the way up to the pony tail my mum had done for me that morning.

I was eight years old, and about to have my moment.

It was my brownie group’s Christmas show. I was part of an ensemble piece — but knew everyone would be looking mostly at me. We were going to sing a song called Tails.

Tails! Tails! Tails! you can swing them high and low! You can wrap them ’round your middle! You can trail them in the snow!

It’s testament to how excited I was that I — who remembers no other songs from my four-year career as a brownie — can still tell you every lyric (I’ve stopped short of singing you the entire song). The reason I was so stoked?

Because I knew my tail was THE BEST TAIL.

Everybody performing the song was asked to make a tail — a length of material on the end of a short stick. Most people’s were just whatever they fancied making, but mine had been requested. Verse three of the song went like this:

If tails were made detachable how useful it would be! To change your tail for parties or for playing by the sea!

And Brown Owl had asked me — me! — to make a detachable tail. So, with the help of my mum, I’d made a beaut: it had pleated black, blue and silver (silver!!!) strands, it was topped with a crushed velvet red bow — and on the end of the stick was a hook. Brown Owl told me, “When we sing that verse, you can detach it to show everyone.”

I couldn’t WAIT.

We were on first after the break. As we stood waiting backstage, I noticed Layla standing on her own, and felt a pang. She was new — had just started last week. Brown Owl had told her to come on with our group. But she hadn’t had time to make a tail.

I was a Brownie. I knew what I had to do.

I smiled and walked towards her.

Let me be clear here — even as I was about to ask, I knew she wouldn’t actually accept the offer to hold my tail during the song. I mean, it was my tail. Anyone looking at it would see instantly how much effort had gone into it. It would be obvious how much love had crafted this tail, and that no one but the maker of the tail should actually hold the tail.

Besides: we’re British. We don’t just accept things first time.

But MAN i was being a good Brownie by asking. I lifted the tail up.

“Would you like to hold it on stage for the song?” I smiled.

“Okay,” she said. And took it from me.



Horrified, I stood there as Brown Owl came and coralled us together. “Ok girls, don’t forget the actions!”

Then she moved to the middle of the stage, and the crowd were quiet. She announced us, “And now, Group B with ‘Tails!'”

I shuffled on with everyone else, in a daze.

I sang the words. I did the actions. Layla, kneeling at the front bobbed my tail — my tail! — up and down. She didn’t even seem that pleased about it.

The verse about the detachable tails came and no tail was detached.

The song ended, we smiled and bowed as they clapped, and walked off. Layla handed me back my tail.


I carried it out to the hall and looked for my mum.


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