He seemed impossibly old; he must have been all of 19, a schoolboy really, in a scratchy tweedy suit pretending to be grown-up. He said he was from Shoeburyness in Essex. Shoeburyness! That couldn’t be a real place – it sounded completely made up. Shoebury would have been weird enough, but to add a ‘ness’ just compounded the lie. We were in Feltham, Middlesex – why on earth would someone come all the way from Essex for a night out? To visit his friends, or his nan, or some such lie. We were at the R&B club, and for some reason this man-boy, Graham, was the one I’d got off with. This was the booby-prize – we had both been after his better-looking friend, but Janet, as usual, got first dibs on the best looking boys. I didn’t do badly, but I was inwardly both seething with anger and slightly depressed about it. She had a really ugly broken front tooth, and she still came first.
The usual deal at these nights out, which were always with live music in those days, was that you did a little bit of dancing as a display for the boys who tended to stand round the edges, then you would gravitate your floor action towards the ones you liked (discreetly sliding your handbag across the floor with your feet), then they would pounce when the band did a slow one, and you had scored for the night – this would probably lead to a drink and a ‘shall we go outside for a bit’. So during the adventure of going outside, Janet and Handsome Boy did some oral explorations, and Graham hugged me closely, fitting my head neatly under his bearded chin – which could have been pleasant except for the fact that (a) I didn’t fancy him (b) his suit was decidedly uncool (c) his suit was scratchy (d) he had a beard! Yeuch (e) the hug was more ‘I want to spend the rest of my life with you’ than sexy and (f) his pointy little chin (which had obviously been deliberately hidden by that beard) was digging deeply into my skull. I was 14 and wanted a bit of tongue action and dry humping with someone gorgeous. I had no expectations of any follow-on beyond any evening; I lived in the moment. I was always a bit stumped when someone asked if we could meet up again.
Being 14, I had no language for dealing with this weird behaviour by Graham. I read romantic stories and wanted love, but only in the passionate, sexual sense. I wasn’t looking for a relationship; I wasn’t that far away from the years where boys were disgusting, and I didn’t know any as friends – I lived with my mum and 3 sisters and my dad who was a bastard – and went to a girls’ grammar school. They were alien, to be honest, but good alien if I could have a night of excitement.
At the extreme end of what I thought was possible, the idea of getting engaged was ok – some of the prettiest girls in the 6th form at school had been known to flash an engagement ring, which betokened the sort of commitment and passion I read about in that sub-Mills & Boon fantasy world common to most 14-year old girls, but I didn’t understand why anyone would want to get married because that just meant cooking and washing their dirty laundry and being in prison for the rest of your life.
I didn’t know how to wriggle out of his arms, so I just put up with it. I didn’t know how to say I didn’t fancy him, so there we were. The best I could do was point out that the distance between where we lived was too far – he appeared to be gutted, but maybe that was just his schtick. I’ve learned a lot about men (and boys to men) over the years, and I think it is fair to say that a 19 year old was unlikely to have cared that much. Either that or he didn’t get out much; which is possible, given his Dr Who clothing line.