When you’re young and impressionable it’s amazing what you think is impressive. I look back on the people I idolised as a teenager and realise they definitely had feet of clay. The same applies to the boys I fancied. I always fancied boys at school who were a couple of years older than me and the mere fact of their age made them seem somehow advanced from where I was at and imbued them with glamour. The reality was, I’m certain, very far from that.
My first boyfriend was a year older, drank and smoked (although it turned out I was better at both these activities than him), had already tried sex and was studying drama at college whilst I was in the sixth form at school doing A levels and still quite naive. It turned out I was terrible at doing A Levels and managed to flunk three and when I went to see him in a college drama production he was toe curlingly terrible at acting. He somehow seemed sophisticated until I scratched away the surface a tiny bit and realised with a lurching stomach that he was just embarrassing and hastily extricated myself from him.
There was an older boy I’d see around the bars and clubs who I fancied like mad. He was tall and slim and was studying art at university. I was 17 and he was 20 and his status as an independent living student made him seem intensely fascinating. He was a Goth (the first time round, it was the 1980s) and wore tight black trousers and had his hair moulded into a huge burgundy quiff. To me he was amazing looking although if memory serves me correctly he was really just a bit weasly looking with mean little pointy features.
I managed to attract his attention eventually after a lot of strategic loitering around and we ended up kissing in a nightclub doorway. It was a bit of a limp passionless kiss which should have told me all I needed to know. I accepted the offer to go back to his bedsit in a rundown part of town and we walked there at 2am, both a little drunk. I metabolised drink quickly so my rosy glow was wearing off and I remember feeling a little nervous. I’d never gone back to a strange man’s flat before after just meeting him. In my head it was all safe and fine as I’d seen him around for months anyway so we were practically good friends. I had no sense of danger.
We entered his bedsit through a dingy hallway which smelt of mould and garlic and walked into his flat. He’d decorated the flat with his own art projects. I thought they were really avant garde. In retrospective, they were merely pretentious. There were a series of Barbie dolls with knives through their heads stuck to the wall. He’d carved a pattern of Jean Cocteau style faces into the peeling paint around his fireplace and there was a life size shop dummy of a woman in a leather dress with an axe in her head. More alarmingly, there was a picture of Myra Hindley on the back of the kitchen door. He also had a lot of kitsch items such as 1950s kitchenware, which I liked a lot, and I realised as he minced about the flat making me a coffee, that he was actually really quite prissy and uptight. I had no worries that he was a violent serial killer with a dark side. The whole set up of the flat was an outward exhibition of an art student posturing and showing just how shocking he could be if he only tried really really hard to shock.
We sat and drank the coffee and I soon realised that far from the moody and mysterious stud I’d pictured him as from afar in the bars, he was shy and nerdy. He was actually painfully shy which made things difficult. I’d decided by this point that I was quite going off the idea of sex but would probably allow a bit of mild below the waist action should he ask nicely. It didn’t occur to me to just leave and go home.
We sat in awkward silences punctuated by stilted conversations. Every now and then he’d say: “So...is there anything you fancy doing?” I think i knew what he wanted me to say.
To which I’d reply coyly from under my dyed black fringe of hair: “Talking is good.”
He must have been going crazy. Eventually he overcame his shyness and disappeared off to the bathroom, coming back into the room in a huge pair of old man’s flannel pyjamas. I was a little disconcerted. He sat shyly on the edge of his bed in his baggy attire which smelt of dead old men and eventually plucked up the courage to kiss me again. I noted very quickly that he’d also taken the opportunity to pull something small and pink out of the fly of his pyjama trousers.
I sorted that out in five minutes flat and was soon washing my hands and on my way home, thankful to be escaping. I was still very miffed when two weeks later he still hadn’t rung which was absurd anyway seeing as I hoped never to see him or his pyjamas again. I’m so glad I don’t have to be a teenager again. At least I’ve learnt to say yes or no now of my accord.