She was, quite possibly, my first love. She was certainly the first good thing that came into my life as a teenager.
Oh, of course, I’d had girlfriends before – a stack of them, if I’m honest but that sounds like boasting, doesn’t it? I’m not really. It might be better to say I was easily pleased. I had so little self-esteem in those days that I was grateful to anyone of the opposite sex paying me any attention at all. And (fairly obviously, I might add), like every teenage boy, I’d had a fair number of girls I’d been besotted with and lusted after in the darkness of my bedroom without any hope of being noticed by them. To those girls I was nothing more noticeable than a worm squished underfoot.
The most annoying trick I had, in those days (it’s never really left me, I admit, only now it’s a blessing whereas back then it was a most debilitating curse of the worst kind) was being ‘friend-zoned’. We didn’t have a term for it back then though it is well-known among the youth of today. I wish I had known it and realised that by having such a term it meant other boys experienced the same thing as I did. For me, back then, I thought I was the only one and suspected there was something very much wrong with me.
There were certainly plenty of reasons to be suspicious I was repugnant to the opposite sex and it was difficult to know which, if any, of my traits (or some combination thereof) was responsible for the fact that I was friends with a lot of gorgeous-looking girls and privy to their innermost secrets but well and truly out of the running as boyfriend material.
I had spots and didn’t wash enough – but then all but the most handsome (and later, it usually transpired, most gay) of boys in my class were much the same. Boys and soap were mortal enemies and we only took baths when forced to by our mothers – or if we somehow managed to snag a girl despite our unique aroma and started using our dads’ old aftershave bottles again. It might have been a good time to begin using mouthwash too but…well, meh…it wasn’t going to happen. We were all just a year or two out of the childhood phase of considering girls to be dangerous aliens who could infect you with a single touch and in that phase bodily odour was a sign of no longer being a boy but a man because you clearly exerted a lot of physical action to produce that much sweat. We might have no longer been avoid girls – instead dreaming of their affections – but we still believed in the manliness of testosterone.
Then there was my growing spurt just before I reached my teenage years. I grew about 2cm per month for a whole year and by the time I left high school at six foot one I was taller than all the kids and the teachers. Unfortunately I looked like I’d had a mishap in Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory. I was a normal-sized kid who’d been stretched a couple of feet. As my father used to put it “he’s all arms and legs – there’s not an ounce of muscle on him!” It was a fair comment.
My dress sense was appalling too. I refused to wear jeans on the grounds (and I still defend the principle) that everyone wore jeans and they were merely a new form of uniform imposed upon us by the authoritative heads of the fashion industry who dictated to us all what we should, and should not, wear. Although later girlfriends forced me out of crappy trousers and into denim years later, in my early teens I looked odd in T-shirts with pressed suit trousers but I cared little for this and stood against the flow.
And finally, there was religion.
To continue reading this story please buy the book ‘The Old Man on the Beach and other stories’ available January 2015.
Copyright © 2014 D K Powell