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A Chinese boy arrived in my house and left after a year because he couldn't take the racist abuse. One girl was expelled, along with her boyfriend, for having sex; they were found out because the teacher who was her house tutor read her diary.My only real friend, and my saviour at that time, was a handsome, slightly effeminate red-headed boy with a fantastic sense of humour who was as bitterly teased as the girls.The boys themselves felt threatened by and confused about the advent of girls who disrupted their existing friendships and got lots of attention.I was unlucky with the house I was in: the housemaster's job depended on the boys not telling tales on him, so the boys had too much power.It hadn't occurred to anyone that this might need to be different from the system in place for the boys – house tutors who functioned as policemen-cum-smoke-detectors.The girls were given space – a shared study, a seat in class – but the system for turning boys into men did not seem to have been altered to accommodate us in any broader sense.
Or perhaps it was, more simply, that I had already fallen in urgent teenage love with a beautiful, damaged boy called Matthew. I'd learnt the first lesson of survival: put on a mask so they can't see you're hurt, and get back out there.Each house had two, occasionally three, girls in each A-level year, so if your study mate wasn't a kindred spirit, you were effectively on your own.There was no girls' house (we had to live either at home or in digs), there wasn't a single female member of staff, and there was no apparent thought for pastoral care.I've made mental lists of things that might explain what happened, like this: I am the firstborn child of gentle parents; I was too sensitive, and needed to toughen up a bit.I had come from an all-girls grammar school so I hadn't spent much time with boys.