This week it’s another nostalgia piece from the archives of my memories, brought on by my seventeen-year-old step-son, who is currently utterly miserable and forlorn at the break-up of his relationship with his girlfriend.
We are, of course, all doing our best to convince him that it absolutely WILL get better but I know that our well-meaning words provide little comfort to his currently broken heart.
When I was sixteen, I had a boyfriend called Jason, but more about that in a little while.
First I need to tell you about his predecessor. Terry (Tez as he called himself) was my first ever boyfriend. I was fifteen and Terry was eighteen. He was, as it turned out, a veritable nightmare but I didn’t know that when I first started going out with him, to me, he was merely the good-looking bartender at the local youth disco who had caught my eye, mine and a whole host of other hopeful girls in fact. He would serve us glasses of Coke with a cheeky grin and the occasional wink and had perfected wiping down the bar and then vaulting over it, in a move that could have been lifted from a late eighties Bruce Willis video. His rather more undesirable side only became apparent a few months later. Basically, he was mostly uneducated (almost to the point of being illiterate) and feral and that gave him a huge chip on his shoulder. He had been a child delinquent, a tearaway that had ended up in plenty of trouble which resulted in many absences from school. His family were quite lovely but he was the proverbial ‘bad apple’, who loved nothing better than to plough all of his wages each week into a fruit machine on Friday evening and then spend the rest of the weekend taking it out on me, because he was both a bully and a loser, literally. I was young and clueless and I would spend a lot of my time whilst I was in his company feeling worthless and miserable, the more miserable he seemed to make me, the more pleasure he seemed to gain from this psychological abuse but I was also stubborn and though he treated me very badly I was not going to give in and finish with him. I think maybe I thought I could make him the boyfriend that I really wanted and deserved through sheer will power, or maybe just his confusing treatment of me, one minute spiteful and abusive and the next telling me just how much he loved me and how he wanted to be with me forever, perhaps it just kept me guessing enough to keep me there, like some kind of sadistic, perverse curiosity.
I put up with this for far longer than I should have but finally I saw sense and one weekend when the inevitable happened and he got angry and finished with me for about the hundredth time in our year-long relationship I took him at his word. This time I didn’t chase after him as he stormed out of the house. This time I decided enough was enough.
He regretted it ,of course he did and he did try to come back but I had suddenly grown up and realised that despite the fact that he was three years older than me, he was a somewhat damaged, very aggressive, insecure little boy who was trying to be a big man and that irrespective of what he did or didn’t feel about me, I didn’t love him and he was certainly no good for me.
I don’t regret any of it, not really, he was the only truly bad relationship that I ever had so I was glad to get that out the way at such a young age and learn from it.
Lesson 1. Some people come into your life as a blessing, others come into your life as a valuable lesson.
So, finding myself free of that particular misery and now having left school with my expected good exam results, I landed my first ever job. In my first few weeks there, I spotted a very good looking young man. I would see him briefly in the canteen when we would take our morning or afternoon tea breaks but often he used to spend the entire lunch hour, sitting in his car on his own in the car park out back. He would read the paper and eat his sandwiches. I would see him walk to and from his car with a newspaper folded under his arm and I would find myself daydreaming about him. Without ever having said a single word to him personally, I managed to obtain knowledge from various colleagues that his name was Jason and that most importantly he didn’t have a girlfriend. This truly baffled me, as in my eyes he was the dreamiest guy in the whole world. I couldn’t imagine why he would be single and why every girl in the company was not busy falling over themselves to be his girlfriend but I was also very thankful for the fact that he seemed to have completely fallen under their radar and decided that if at all possible I would make him notice me for he was firmly in my sights. I guess I must have mentioned to a few people (basically anyone who would listen) that I thought he was absolutely divine or ‘lush’. That was what we used to say back then. He’s lush, they’re lush, it’s lush!
Anyway, a few weeks later in July of 1988, I was busy at my workstation when a butch looking woman called Linda made a beeline for me (she was one half of team ‘Linda and Jane’ if my memory serves me correctly). She was the ‘manly’ one. I don’t want that to sound overtly stereotypical, I know that is not the case in all all-female relationships, but in this particular case, Linda was indeed very masculine complete with forearm tattoos, no makeup, unkempt hair, she was a big woman too and her choice of clothing; grey shapeless baggy t-shirts and dark jeans with a huge chain hanging from the pocket did not exactly improve her femininity. She was, on the face of it, quite fearsome when you are a not very worldly sixteen-year-old fresh out of school. She also didn’t look very happy as she made her way towards me, to be honest, I was expecting her to give me a mouthful for something, though I couldn’t think what I could have possibly said or done to offend her but as she stopped in front of me she gave me a grin, minus a tooth or two and said “Hi, I work with Jason, he’s heard that you fancy him” she looked at me quizzically, waiting for a response.
I could have died. I didn’t know what to do if I admitted the fact were they all going to have a huge laugh at my expense? Was I being set up? Should I deny it?
In the end, I did what comes naturally to me and told the plain and simple truth.
“Errrr…yes, yes I do” I said, squirming a little and wondering where this was going.
She grinned at me again “In that case, he wants to know if you will go out with him?” She said with a little chuckle.
I think perhaps my jaw dropped. I could scarcely believe my luck. I’m not sure if I actually said yes or if I just nodded, mutely but either way she departed, obviously to carry the news back to a waiting Jason.
Sometime later he appeared in front of me and we spoke to each for the very first time ever. It’s weird and very surreal, especially thinking back on it now, that at that point we were already in the knowledge that we would be going out on a date together but we hadn’t even said hello to each other before.
We had our first slightly awkward but hugely exciting conversation and he suggested we should go out that Friday, just a few days away. He told me he would pick me up from my home at 7 pm.
From that moment on I felt like I was floating. Nothing could wipe the smile off my face, not the piles of work I had to get through, not the long, boring, uncomfortable bus journey home, nothing.
The next day at work we exchanged coy, furtive and knowing glances with each other but I don’t recall us actually having a conversation until much later in the day when after considerable pressure from some of his colleagues (namely the boisterous Linda) he came to talk to me in the canteen. For one sinking moment, I thought he was going to call the whole thing off, saying it had been a joke, a dare or a bet or something along those lines but instead he tentatively started our second slightly awkward chat, aware that we now had a huge audience. To my delight as the bell signaled the end of break-time and for us all to return to work, he leaned over and gave me a very quick peck on the cheek, right there in front of everyone in the canteen. I probably went the colour of a beetroot but inside my tummy flipped and my heart beat so fast and I knew I was instantly falling in love with this beautiful boy.
Come Friday I couldn’t get out of work quick enough. We used to finish early on a Friday as was customary with most factories back then, so come 12.45 or thereabouts, our working week was complete. I stood impatiently waiting for the bus, eager to get home, wanting plenty of time to get ready. I still hadn’t decided what I was going to wear. I knew we were going to end up at a pub, I was only sixteen but when ‘made up’ could easily pass for eighteen. Jason was nineteen and had a car (well he used his Dad’s rust coloured Astra estate). He had already told me that his sister, who was also my age, and her boyfriend would be accompanying us, he said he thought it might make it feel a bit less awkward on our first date. He was so grown up, so gentle, so unlike my previous experience of what a boyfriend was like.
I had borrowed a dress from my Mum, well, when I say borrowed, she never wore it so I asked if I could ‘adjust’ it as it was a bit dated. It was a mid-calf black evening dress which when she wasn’t looking I hacked into and chopped up to turn into a black top and mini skirt. Now that my outfit was sorted, I had a bath and concentrated on hair and makeup.
I switched on my trusty curling tongs to style my hair and whilst I waited for them to heat up, I applied some body lotion to my freshly shaved legs so that they were wonderfully shiny and smooth.
I checked my tongs, they were still only lukewarm, so I busied myself with something else. I was constantly daydreaming and mooning so everything was taking far longer than it normally would which was fine as I still had plenty of time. Returning to my tongs for a second check they still were not hot enough and it was only then that I realised that they had obviously decided to pack up, on this, the day of my first date with the utterly amazing Jason…..Aaaaaagghhhhh!!!!!!
My hair at that time was a short choppy bob which, as far as I was concerned, looked like nothing if it did not have a ton of hairspray applied to the point of being crisp and being curled and teased into a messy, tousled look. With my trusty tongs having bailed on me in my hour of need I was in total panic.
“MUM” I yelled from my bedroom in sheer panic. She appeared at my bedroom door, wide-eyed in fear wondering if perhaps her accident-prone offspring had somehow managed to cut off her ear or take out an eye out with a make up brush, her many previous years experiences of my escapades a forewarning; as I child I was always getting into some scrape or another, I had cut myself out of sheer curiosity with a razor blade, one night I had gotten my roller boots stuck on my feet at three ‘o clock in the morning and my Mum had bleary-eyed and without her contacts in, had to try and unknot them so I could take them off and go back to bed where I should have been in the first place, I had decided to try and taste a novelty soap shaped like a Clementine, that was in a bowl in our bathroom, and as a result I had got the entire thing stuck in my mouth. Thankfully I had long since stopped going looking for trouble but I was still quite accident prone.
I explained my dilemma. Bless her, she knew how important this night was to me, I had talked about nothing else for days, she had heard countless times how dreamy Jason was, and what little facts I did know about him, I had probably recounted to her at least eleventy-billion times.
“I’ll nip over and see if Robbie has got any,” she said instantly throwing me a lifeline.
Whilst she was visiting our neighbour on the quest for a loan of some emergency hair tongs, I focused instead on doing my make up.
Having completely finished my make up sometime later and still wrapped in my bath towel, I wondered what on earth could be taking my Mum so long. I went into my parents’ bedroom at the front of our house and peered through the upstairs window across the road. I could see my Mum on the doorstep to Robbie’s house, clutching a pair of tongs but nattering away as she was inclined to do.
She returned, what seemed like a lifetime later with the borrowed tongs but unfortunately they were not like my super-volcanic metal ones that you could almost hear frying your hair as you used them. I gave them a try but just could not get my hair to do what it was supposed to, it was now getting close to seven and he would be here soon. I started to panic again. I was getting clammy and nervous.
I decided there was nothing else to be done and I would have to wear my hair up on this occasion. I pulled it into a high ponytail and fanned it out a bit and gave myself a small quiff at the front, fixing it all with a monstrous coating of super-hold hairspray. I got dressed, put some perfume on, sorted my evening bag out and took a look in the long hallway mirror, deciding that I looked pretty grown up and that all being well, I would probably avoid getting asked for any ID, which of course I didn’t have.
The doorbell rang.
“I’ll get it” my Mum called up the stairs with obvious glee.
I could hear some muffled conversation whilst I stood there steadying my nerves and then a moment later she called back up to me “Jason’s here” followed by “and you are right he is very good looking” with a huge emphasis on the very!
OH GOD MUM!!!!!
I rushed downstairs at breakneck speed said a very brief ‘Hi’ to Jason who was standing in the hallway and literally dragged him out of my front door before any more embarrassing comments could be made, calling “See you later” over my shoulder to my parents before shutting the door behind me. He’d have to meet my Dad at another juncture!
We walked down the front path towards his car, me in my spiky stilettos tapping on the Victorian tiles of our garden path. He made a complimentary comment about how I looked and was grinning from ear to ear. There were two people in the back of his car craning to get a first look at me. I sat down in the front passenger seat, a bundle of nerves and turned around to say hello to his sister and her boyfriend and at that instant, I realised that I was really, properly, very much overly dressed for whatever our evening was to be.
It probably didn’t help that with the hastily improvised hair, the make up and my home-adjusted outfit I had ended up dressing like one of the girls from the Robert Palmer video “Addicted to Love” complete with the dark smoky eye make up, shocking red lipstick, a very short, tight, black skirt and a long sleeved top that had a plunging, cowl neckline, a thick elasticated hook and eye waist-cincher (such was the fashion of the day). A chunky black and gold snake necklace and a pair of black patent heels finished the look.
I’m not sure if he spotted the doubt on my face and was just being kind or whether he was just very pleased with my obvious efforts but he paid me another compliment and it seemed genuine enough, after which I relaxed a little.
To be fair, I have always since followed the rule that “there is no such thing as overdressed” and as such I am well known for wearing the most impractical clothes and shoes for almost every occasion ever….but at least I look fabulous darling!
So, we were off on our first date.
If I’m honest (and this is something that always surprises me) I can recall some events in the most intricate detail ever, my friend is always amazed that I can remember exactly what we were wearing at every single occasion but often other more significant details are completely lost to me. For instance, I can’t actually remember if on our first date that night we went to the cinema or if we ended up at a pub called the Dog and Duck at Plucks Gutter. I ended up seeing Jason Friday, Saturday, and Sunday of that weekend and pretty much every night thereafter so the details of what happened and when are a bit of a blur. We did go to the cinema, we went to the Dog and Duck many times and we also had many evenings in with a Chinese takeaway and a bottle of peach Taboo or Archers.
All I do remember is that I wanted to be with him at every possible moment.
It was the Sunday afternoon of our first weekend together and we were at his house, laying on his bed, cuddling and kissing and I decided to ask him about his past relationships and how long he had been single before he started going out with me. He said he had previously had one other girlfriend, Lorraine, who he had been in a relationship with for a couple of years but that it had ended a few months back. He also said, whilst tutting and rolling his eyes in obvious tedium, that most people at the factory believed him to be gay. This was not a huge revelation to me, a few people had already said a similar thing to me when I had been outspoken about the fact that I was rather keen on him and, to be fair, Jason did have a noticeable ‘campness’ about him, he was also a bit of a loner and chose not to mix with people, I recalled the times he would sit in his car on his own at lunchtimes, though they soon became a thing of the past, as working together as we did we would spend every lunchtime together, we would drive to the supermarket up the road and get something to eat, laughing and joking all the way around the shops, being silly, holding hands, kissing everywhere, often to the disapproving looks of people around us.
His family were all really lovely and down to earth. His mother was definitely the boss of the household and his dad was always cracking jokes, he reminded me a little of Jim Broadbent. His sisters were both so warm and welcoming. His younger sister who, as I mentioned, was the same age as me, and her boyfriend were often with us and we made a happy foursome on our many dates. During the course of our relationship, I actually changed jobs. I was not really suited to working on an over-locker at a clothes factory. I was completely rubbish at it and almost everything I did got sent back and I would always have a crowd of well-meaning women around me, helping me to unpick everything and do it again. Unsurprisingly in a factory that works on piece-work, it was untenable to keep me on, I was a liability and it was therefore not really a great surprise when the factory manager called me in one day to say that regrettably, they would have to let me go. I was upset of course and it was embarrassing, but it ended up being a blessing. Within a matter of a few days, I had secured another job, this time in the offices of another factory as a Data Assistant. I had my own desk, my own computer and was to report to the Finance and IT Manager. This was much more suitable for me and it was still on the same Industrial Estate as my previous employment so my lunchtime meetings with Jason continued unhindered. Suddenly I was an ‘office’ girl with a steady income and a steady boyfriend. Life was good.
I remember going shopping with his sister one weekend for some ‘grown-up’ clothes for my new ‘office’ job. We were looking around River Island and I kept picking up clothes that I liked and she would simply shake her head and I would sigh and return them to the rail, I’ll never forget her advice to me when we were looking for skirts “Think Loooong” she said, “think Long!” It still makes me smile today. I did even buy a long skirt and a sensible looking blouse just to make her happy, I wore them to work and then one day I had to go straight to a prize giving meeting at my old school because myself and a number of other students in my school year had won awards for the best exam results in the county for our GCSE’s and the local press were to come and photograph us with our certificates. I stood there with a handful of my friends, on the school stage for the all-important posterity photograph that would be framed and put into the hall of fame of the schools’ achievements. When I saw the picture in the local newspaper a week later I was horrified to see that I looked like a middle-aged woman. My frumpy skirt and blouse compared to the teen fashion of my friends around me looked completely out of place. I decided to return to wearing what I felt more comfortable in and clothes that suited my age better.
Not long after, in late October (or early November) we went on a day trip to France, as part of a large group, and I got completely and utterly horribly drunk on half a bottle of whisky that I had decided to buy in the duty-free shop and then proceeded to drink! Don’t ask me why because I didn’t even really like whisky but it had seemed like a good idea at the time. It was horrendous. I was sick everywhere and I mean EVERYWHERE! The even more unfortunate thing is that I had zero recollection of that entire day, unlike everyone else around me…. Jason, his family, and his friends. It must have been mortifying, humiliating and obviously incredibly off-putting to have seen me in such a state and unsurprisingly just two weeks later Jason and I were no more a sweet thing. I was devastated of course and despite that he denied it profusely, I knew that the trip to France had signaled the end of it all. I felt stupid and loathsome and sick and despised myself for having made such a mess of things.
With the exception of just one time a week or so after he ended it, I don’t recall ever seeing Jason again. He came to pick up some things from my house, there were some things that I had that were his and also a few gifts I had already bought for him and his family in readiness for Christmas that I still wanted them to have. It was a horrible and miserable experience for both of us and he couldn’t wait to leave. Against my better judgment, I couldn’t resist asking him if there was any possibility we would get back together, he was pretty resolute that there was no chance at all. He wasn’t being unkind, I guess he was merely trying not to give me any false hopes, of which there were clearly none. I felt both distraught and full of self-pity but reluctantly accepting of it, It was, after all, my own stupid fault I couldn’t blame him in the slightest.
That was the last time I ever saw him and despite that he genuinely was my first love, I did quickly get over him and move on. I haven’t really thought about this in almost twenty-eight years. The past is the past and I generally leave it there, rarely ever looking back but sometimes an odd random memory will float back to the surface and things that are almost entirely forgotten, like people and places and the many details that accompany those periods will once again start to emerge and unfold like a story in a book.
For instance, I remember now, that at the time I was a bit fixated on the fact that we started dating in July and it ended in November….. July, August, September October and November
Like he was some kind of serial lover, not to be confused with ‘cereal lover’ though if I recall he was quite partial to a bowl of Weetabix or was it that he hated them? I can’t quite remember now.
That probably makes me sound a bit ‘cuckoo’, not whether I can remember if he liked Weetabix or not, the other bit…… but in truth, I have always had a fascination with ‘order’ and ‘codes’ which is probably a nuance of my mildly OCD behaviour plus a rather fanciful imagination and when you mix those with a romantic belief in both ‘fate’ and ‘signs’ by which I mean that life sometimes gives you little hints as to what path to follow, in the end, I perhaps pacified myself with the fact that no matter what, we would never have made it past November!
Whether this was simply a coping mechanism at the time or just a silly fantasy that I had indulged, it served its purpose. I concluded that it was never meant to be and that ‘Jason the serial lover’ quickly became a very brief and fairly insignificant part of my past.
That was a whole lifetime ago.
So whatever became of Jason? Having brought him to your attention, I am sure you would feel quite unfulfilled if I couldn’t at least tell you that much.
Well, I can tell you that he is currently very happily living in Jersey with Steve, his partner of twenty-five years.
Was I shocked? Of course not.
No matter what else happened in my life or his, I would never deny that he was the first flesh and blood boy I truly loved (my love for David Bowie, of course, an unconditional given).
I’m absolutely positive, taking into consideration ALL of the circumstances both known and unknown at the time, he could never say the same about me, however, he taught me or at least I learned from this experience my next important lessons in life.
Lesson 2: Loving someone and losing them hurts like a bitch.
With all the best of intentions, as we pass through adult life, we simply cannot protect ourselves from getting hurt by those we love or perhaps from hurting them by the things we do even if we truly don’t intend to but we can always learn something from these experiences and carry those lessons forward with us.
Oh and Lesson 3: don’t drink Whisky, not EVER!
I have since learned many, many lessons in life which have allowed me to become my final incarnation; a happily married woman to my wonderful and very patient husband.
Sometimes it’s such fun rediscovering a long-forgotten part of your past but in truth, it feels like it happened to someone else entirely, it is merely now a story to be told.
The Virtual Recluse