1980s Transformers and disobedient girls

A perfect afternoon? Getting home from school when Transformers was on telly. Most of the time it had finished. Sometimes I got lucky.

My parents were still together in a fibro house in Padstow. My father would pick me up after school, which means I was under 6 years old.

Home sweet home

I loved transformers.

They were strong. They changed themselves into cool stuff. They were endless possibility. They were robots in disguise. Did you hear the transformer music when you read that?

Try again: Robots in disguise.

But no matter how much I loved the cartoon, transformer toys weren’t something I touched.

Before learning to read, or understanding what a weekend was, I knew what boy’s toys were. And I knew which sections of a department store had been dressed up in pink for me.

My Mum was a feminist. My Dad wouldn’t dare utter a sexist word, lest Mum overhear and unleash the fury.

Who knows where ideas come from? All I can say is I knew about the great divide before I could write my own name. I knew what I was, what boys were, and how the two shall only ever meet to procreate.

The great divide was as real and normal as cornflakes.

Then one day while shopping, my parents lost me.

No problem, I often wandered off. Never understood what all the fuss was about.

This afternoon, though, I ended up in the boys’ toy section. The forbidden land.

No one was around. On my toes I was tall enough to reach the first shelf.

I stood in the middle of the aisle and looked up.

Holy mother of fun. The shelves were lined with Transformers. So many things waiting to be turned into other things. So many moving parts.

So. Many. Toys.

You know how in some movies you see a hero rolling around on a bed full of money and bags of cocaine?

Hold that image.

Now picture a toddler freeing as many Transformers as she can from the store shelves.

Like a Roman banquet I devoured each bot, twisting all its parts before going in for more.

With my toes on the first shelf, reaching up for a second Sunstreaker, I caught two eyes in my peripheral vision.

Cue record scratching to a halt as the room silences. I fell off the shelf, landing on a Decepticon Starstream.

Who was the new face in my aisle of paradise?

A girl, about the same size as me.

She picked up one of the toys in my glory pile. It was Windcharger, the fastest of the mini-bots, already transformed it into a Firebird.

This was awkward. I’d been caught doing the kid version of watching really kinky porn. Nothing was wrong per se, but you’d never look at the person the same way again.

“You like transformers?” She asked.

“Yeah, I watch them after school.” I replied.

A familiar voice that wasn’t my own came out “But I don’t play with them. They’re boys’ toys”.

Clearly. This was all just a misunderstanding. I meant to watch The Notebook and somehow Kinky Robot Romp came on instead.

It was quiet in the aisle. We both looked at the pile of transformers. Some were robots, some transformed into cars and trucks and planes.

“Don’t tell anyone. I wish I could play with them.” I said quietly.

“Me too” she replied.

We looked at each other. We looked up at the shelves of Bumblebees, Wheeljacks and Kups. We looked at the pile of Transformers on the floor.

We sat opposite each other and playtime was on.

We drove the cars, screeching them across the carpet. We flew the planes, holding them high in our little hands. We transformed them into robots. We transformed them back.

Then I heard someone shrieking a little girl’s name. Saw a woman standing at the end of the aisle. “Get over here!”

“I got to go” she said. Just like that she was gone.

In that moment in a big department store, we learned we could be ourselves, and that barriers were made to be broken.

That day we learned rules don’t always make sense.

That day we weren’t alone.

That day, two disobedient girls were set free.

More than meets the eye