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Friday's child

Reva Klein on what it's like to have... a breaking voice

Even for a normally laid-back chap like Mehmet, the unpredictable pitch of the sounds emerging from his throat is beginning to get on his nerves. He's the first in his class to have his voice break and while sometimes he just ignores it, other times he could really do without it.

When he's feeling OK about himself, he'll join in when his older brother and cousins laugh at him. But, at other times, he thinks that enough is enough. What with certain other unmentionable things happening to his body - and the rollercoaster ride that has become his emotional life - his voice feels like the straw that broke the camel's back.

The worst thing about it is that it's drawing attention to him just when what he wants most inthe world right now is to go through life unnoticed until he's, say, 18 or so.

In the past, he was an active participant in classroom discussions. But he's now decided that the best way to weather this storm at school is by keeping quiet, even when he's bursting to contribute. It's hard not to believe that, in the circumstances, silence is golden. He even thought he saw one of his teachers smile (or was it a smirk?) the last time his voice decided to shift from mezzo soprano to alto bass then back again in a matter of milliseconds.

Like, he's not being paranoid or nuffing, but he swears that all his teachers are taking the Mick behind his back. It's not so bad with his mates who are as sensitive as 13-year-old boys are capable of being in the circumstances.

They'll tease a little now and then, but in a brotherly, self-deprecatory sort of way that's informed by the knowledge that they're next. But opening his mouth and not knowing what noises are going to emerge within earshot of girls is, on a bad day, the height of cringefulness. Even the nice ones can't suppress a look of shocked amusement. The less nice ones, needless to say, let rip with uncharitable imitations at the top of their lungs.

If his mates were going through the same thing at the same time, it would make things easier for Mehmet. Somehow, listening to the older boys in his family talking about how quickly it passes has absolutely no meaning.

And all the bollocks from his parents about becoming a man won't wash.

It's just too embarrassing for there to be anything good about it. In his darkest moments, he moans to himself about life being so unfair. When girls get their period, they get loads of attention from their mums and sisters. Everyone feels sorry for them and treats them special.

But when a boy's voice breaks, all he gets is teasing and people at school telling him he sounds like a prat.

But at other times, he just gets on with it, believing his mum for once when she says it will all be over soon and, hey, he wonders, what will he sound like then?

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