A long-promised tale: part 4

An occasional series where I tell the tale of my first real boyfriend. Parts one, two and three are available on the links if you want to start from the start!

To be honest… now I have a new boyfriend I felt a bit weird about telling this any more. I didn’t want to seem like I was longing for the past. But it’s part of my life. It happened and it was good and then one day it stopped happening and ultimately that was good too. If I tell the tale with fondness now, it is because, at the time, it was special.

So. I left Part 3 at the point where we had met, carried a bench and smiled at each other. I thought that was it. It was so busy and I wasn’t sure what the next part of the evening would entail: turned out to be a trip to the props store.

For an amateur theatre, their props store was pretty stunning. Hidden, at the end of a row of shops, behind a battered, green wooden door on a busy city street was a similarly battered hallway. Hatstands, picture frames and other detritus littered the cramped space. Beyond that: a steep flight of stairs as creaky as a cliched haunted house.

Up those stairs was where the awesome began. The landing opened out into a room which took up that entire level of the building. The room was stuffed with any and all props that could ever be imagined: there were whole sections for lamps, for washing machines, for outdoors, fantasy sets, sci-fi sets, historical sets. And that wasn’t all. This vast, brimful space was repeated – not just on the next floor, but on the floor after that too. Anything anyone could have hoped to feature in a play was in that room (for example, I later went there with a play set in a hairdresser in mind: within seconds I had been shown to the appropriate section and given a set of special hairdresser chairs, blow driers and a sink).

As newcomers, our minds were blown. That dusty treasure trove could have entertained me for hours. We wandered around, it was like a museum to the possibilities of theatre – I swear I got several story ideas just from the random items I saw there.

Not everyone was as enthralled as I: but the slim, nice man was. More often that not he would end up next me as we lingered by whatever had grabbed our attention. I made some exclamatory comment when I saw a stack of record players and he smiled. I could sense something. Some connection. I wanted to talk to him, I thought he wanted to talk to me. The only thing putting me off was his age.

He was clearly older than me. Quite a bit older. There was no way, I told myself, that he would be interested. He’s an actual man, not some boy from my old school. No chance. And so I continued to linger near him. The most passive approach to picking up men ever. I maneuvered myself next to him whenever possible, hoping he would break the ice. When our ‘tour guide’ paused to finish up his talk as we waited to leave I stood close. So close that I brushed against him. At the time it wasn’t creepy. Or maybe it was. I was young and painfully awkward.

And then, at last, the silence was shattered. “Wow that was really interesting” I remarked as we left the building. “Yes,” he replied, “I loved it”. Silence again. Argh!

“I have to say…” he continued, “Your t shirt is excellent. I love David Bowie.”

YES! THANK YOU BOWIE YOU WONDERFUL MAN. I knew I had to have that t shirt the moment I saw it. I just didn’t, at the time, know why.

We pair up

Most of my friends seem to be in relationships these days. Not that strange; I am in one myself.

Not so very long ago this would have been truly unbelievable to any one of us – high school was as dry as a desert in terms of viable boyfriends and our tendency to spend lunch in our own HQ meant that we were seen, I suspect, as something of a lesbian coven (only a problem when trying to get boys!).

One by one we overcame the many obstacles that shy teenage girls face and began to date people! Some got boyfriends at uni, some through mutual friends – my first boyfriend came from a theatre group that I joined (a tale I will finish someday).

Things had changed (very much for the better)! And then, just recently, things seem to have changed again.

People are getting serious. People are moving in with each other. People are becoming a single unit when I know there are two of them really! I don’t feel like this is something I understand – the need to so seriously assert ‘We Are A Couple’. Obviously there’s nothing wrong with being serious or living together. It’s just the way they seem to go ‘Oh we’re adults now, yes, we are a serious couple of adults and we do all the same things!’

I’m sure their point of view of it makes sense. And I know I’ve A. Only been with my boyfriend 6 months when they’ve all been together for several years and B. Lived with my (previous) boyfriend before so have no desire to rush into that again.

Maybe I’m just different too? I like to be coupley but in my own way. And I like independence. And while I may sometimes secretly wish I could boss my boyfriend around the way I see my friends do, I know that that is not really what I want or need in a man. I think I need someone who knows his own mind and will not be pushed around. That’s not always the easiest route though, I guess.

Anyway. It’s late and I’m rambling. I’ve just realised it’s the weekend so I can stay up late but I think I’ll just fall asleep. WHAT HAVE I BECOME? (aaaand I didn’t publish this til Monday. But I was right. I did just fall asleep.)

Escape and Further Movement

Turns out that lying on your side, twisted round so that the laptop is resting right on your stomach is NOT a good way to blog. Too tired to move though.

Sequin cushion is digging into me too. I know, I know, ‘first world problems’… I just wish I had thought through my soft furnishings before purchasing them.

Perhaps this time I’ll do better… for I am moving house! I have a month left here in the house I share with one of my best friends and then I will be moving, ooh, at least 5 miles(!) to a nearby village where, for the first time ever, I will Live Alone. Daunting. Remind me not to watch any scary films – EVER.

It was time to go. All the signs were there: occasionally having to call the police about onstreet domestic violence had really lost its charm. As had the delightful sounds of a large family who liked to sit in their car and blast the loudest beating music you’ve ever heard – of course this was when they were not standing outside their house (they never shut the door) shouting about either A. Jesus and how one must love him or go to hell or B. Who smashed in who with a baseball bat and what to do as retaliation.

Personally I’d have trouble reconciling the loving Jesus and the baseball bat smashing but they seemed pretty chilled about it.

Crap, I nearly forgot my FAVOURITE NEIGHBOUR EVER: Mad Van. Man Van was a madman. He liked – no – he loved to park outside his house. Keep in mind that this is a row of terraced houses with nothing but a strip of pavement and then road outside the doors. No private parking; you take whatever gap there is when you arrive and you just accept that.

Not Mad Van. If he couldn’t park in the exact bit outside of his house (and he lined it up with a lamppost – seriously, 30 cm away would be WRONG and TOO FAR) he would employ a variety of tactics to get his own way.

1. He would just drive into your car – presumably hoping to shove it forward so he could fit. Sometimes this would be done on the way out so I guess that was just vengeance.

2. He would drop pins (or maybe push them in) next to your tyres so you would get a puncture.

3. He would print out his very own fake parking fine tickets and tuck them under people’s windscreens. They looked real from a distance but close up it was just sad, yellow paper with SCREAMING WORDS.

None of this is normal. Well, you don’t need me to tell you that. You may wonder why we didn’t report him to the police… the thing is, there was never any concrete evidence. Maybe that pin just fell there? Maybe someone else put the ticket on? Perhaps another driver clipped your car? We all knew it was him though.

Now I’ve written this I wish it led to up a glorious revenge… Oh how I wish…

The terrifying world of jobs

As I mentioned in my last post, I’ve just re-read this whole blog (ok so it took 10 minutes!) which kinda made me think of things I wanted to write about – or at least finish off writing about, having begun their stories in the before-time.

And one of those thing was work. I posted about my crazy-busy shifts at the clothes shop over the Christmas period and about my disastrous knee. My last post about it was on Boxing Day as I dreaded the next days’ 8 hour shift after completely wrecking my knee in the store that day.

I never did that shift. Turns out my knee was more wrecked than I’d thought: when I awoke on the 27th to go in I literally couldn’t get up. Oops. I had to ring and cancel.

They said they’d let me know when my next shift would be. I still had a week on my contract and most people were kept on after Christmas anyway.

I never heard from them again.

Many jobless months passed by. Sometimes I put in effort and applied, sometimes I felt too sucked into a soup of mopeyness to do anything but bookmark possibilities. I’m not proud but hey, it was damn hard and miserable-ising!

But then! My parents went ‘Hang on – are you actually not making much effort? Come round sometime and do it with some company and moral support!’

For which I will be forever grateful. Literally in a few weeks I had an interview. WOOP WOOP! (I am immensely grateful for this and for my parents!)

Amazingly I didn’t bugger up the interview and now I create learning materials for blind and visually impaired children as well as managing a toy library!

This is genuinely the first job I’ve ever had that I actually like – it’s somewhat creative, it involves books, the people are nice and it’s actually worth doing! I’ve always tried to find the worth in whatever daft job I was doing and to not have to search and search for that worth is lovely.

And I think I’ll leave it there for now!

A long-promised tale: part 3

The ongoing saga of my first serious boyfriend continues (click ze links if you’ve missed parts one or two)

Week one of theatre was over. My friend J had enjoyed it but declined to return. I, however, knew that I had to continue – it was the thing that was lacking in my life back then. I needed a creative outlet or I’d go crazy!

The weeks went by and my theatre adventures settled into a routine: every Thursday one of my parents would give me a lift into the city. I’d take part in the workshop (fast becoming one of ‘the regulars’) and then we’d all retire to the bar after for a few drinks.

Although every episode had its fair share of low-level stress and awkwardness (I really do struggle with talking to people I don’t know), looking backing I mainly remember a very pleasing sensation of belonging. A core group of around 10 of us become good friends. I fit there. The things I wanted to talk about were the things they wanted to talk about too. I’m pretty sure that any measure of confidence I have with approaching strangers was sparked off in that old, dusty red bar room.

I always think: however it may have all ended I don’t regret a single moment of it. It was a pretty important part of growing up for me.

And it was a vastly important part of Men As An Actual Concept Rather Than Just A Theoretical Distant Thing.

I’d become good friends with the younger man, C, I remember in particular standing outside the Theatre with him one week before the class started. He was wearing mirrored sunglasses and smoking a cigar. A cigar.

I was hopping about feeling like the ‘cool kid’ I’d never been at school. One of my friends arrived and asked if I was heading in. I told her I would soon. I wasn’t giving up this chance for one on one communication so quickly!

Looking back I can see how pathetic this was (and how pretentious he was). I know he liked me as a friend, he would often seek me out for a chat, but I equally know that he never saw me as anything more than that. I believed strongly in the power of hope I guess.

The other man, S, I had hardly spoken too. Until the props and scenery workshop that is…

To this day I’m not 100% sure why he particularly caught my eye that night. I remember he was wearing a nice jacket. I also remember I’d recently noticed his arms – slim but in a nice, defined way – and I suppose that was in my mind as he lifted the prop furniture. I decided that I had to speak to him that night.

Our communication began in an extremely insignificant way – I saw him approach a chest which really required two people to lift. My opening was there! I scurried over to help. He smiled and thanked me… and that was it. We had to carry on tidying. People kept talking to each of us. My grand plan of approach seemed to already be over.

Of course then, I had no idea what the rest of the evening would lead to or, indeed, why it was so lucky I had chosen to put on the particular t-shirt I was wearing…

What happened a year ago

There’s a lot in my mind at the moment. A whole muddle of new beginnings, old reconnections and ongoing confusions.

The only thing I can handle dealing with now is an old reconnection. To explain that I have to go back to last night… and to explain last night I have to go back to September… and to explain September I have to go back to one year ago, a little house just down the road from where I live now…

I had moved home in the May of that year. I was 2 thirds of the way through my degree course. Various events meant that staying where I was had become rather impractical and inconvenient (probably another story for another time) so I decided to transfer to a very similar course in my home town. After a lot of badgering and repeated explanations (yes I have studied this so I will be able to follow your course. Really, I HAVE!) the university finally let me in.

Now I just needed somewhere to live (I could have stayed with my parents but I get on with them so very much better when we all CHOOSE when to see each other) and, as luck would have it, a ‘vacancy’ appeared. One of my friends (who had just graduated) lived with her boyfriend in a house owned by her stepdad. Unfortunately over the summer, the boyfriend had turned a bit… strange. Personally I had never liked the guy but my friend E did so I had kept my mouth shut. Long story short: their relationship was not going well. He moved out and they agreed to give it one more try. This left her alone in a house big enough for two. The spare room became my room, I brought in my furniture and together we re-arranged and even re-decorated. We were both pretty excited – neither of us had really lived with a friend before.

At first it went damn well. We got on brilliantly, we had loads of fun… and then things changed. We both began to get annoyed with each other often. Things just didn’t seem to run smoothly any more. I felt like she’d become rude and distant. I don’t know what she thought about me. I would guess she thought I was inconsiderate. I didn’t agree.

The first step on the road to ruin was probably the moment when I said ‘How would it be if my parents’ insane cat moved in with us?’ and she said ‘That’s a great idea!’

It wasn’t a great idea. She had never had cats before and this cat is… well. He’s a bit unusual. He’s always been nervous and twitchy so I wanted to keep him in for a while or at least let him out when supervised just to make sure he wouldn’t run away. E thought he smelled. Bad. To be fair he did use his litterbox A LOT.
To this day I maintain that that cat does not smell. I have proof from everyone else who has even been near him: he does not smell. I am very concerned about cleanliness in general and I was pretty miffed about the whole thing. The dam broke when she texted me to tell me she didn’t want the cat any more. He’d been there less than 3 weeks.

We fell out. I was hurt that she didn’t want my cat and that she couldn’t even tell me in person. She was… I don’t know… very anti-cat.

Looking back it sounds strange and silly perhaps. At the time it was big. I think we’d have fallen out anyway. It just happened that that was the ‘thing’.

December came and life at home didn’t improve. Tensions were riding high and I had the feeling that everything could explode at any moment. As though we were just waiting for the trigger. We had previously been part of the same friendship group although she had very much lost touch with everyone (by her own choice). I still saw my friends and wanted them to come round.

I casually invited 3 friends round for an evening of board games the following week. Nothing big, nothing loud or boozy. Board games for goodness sake. I let E know immediately. The next day we put up our Christmas tree. During this time ‘friends’ came up and E decided to let me know that she didn’t like my friends and didn’t want them to come round. She also demanded that I ask her permission before ever inviting anyone round.

BOOM.

A long promised tale: part 2

So. Here I sit, in my living room, ‘Newsnight’ being mainly ignored in the background, red blanket wrapped around me because I’m still recovering from this damn cold (on antibiotics now!) and at last I think I might actually be in the mood to tell this story properly.

We left me before having just entered the studio theatre, peering around at the assorted strangers. Were there any cute ones? The honest answer is: yes.

The even more honest answer is: there were maybe two but on second glance, was that one a woman? A really masculine looking woman… surely it was a man? And yet he brought to mind my sewing teacher from school.

Looking back, I’m honestly not sure how much I ever believed that the person before me was a woman. He had a slightly feminine haircut and way of moving. And there was that resemblance to the sewing teacher (on reflection I think she just looked manly). But really it was just something I mentioned to J which then became ‘A Thing’.

Anyway. If he was a man: he was a rather cute one. If he was a woman: um. Not so much. I hoped for the former as I only swing one way (and if I did swing the other way, I don’t think ‘she’ would be my type).

Anyway. The second cute guy was shorter and blonder and muscular(…er?). Younger too I guessed but I stink at guessing ages. The rest of the group was made up of a pretty wide range of people – a couple of girls who looked to be around my age, some older women, guys from maybe 25 to 40 and finally, two older gentlemen.

I took my seat. I remember that first class pretty well. We had to think of a character and then come up to the front one by one. We then acted like our character and answered questions from the rest of the group who had to guess ‘who’ we were. I chose to be a rock star as I had recently become somewhat obsessed with David Bowie. It was a bit awkward. Actually. It was a lot awkward. I think people struggled to guess.

Next we were paired up. Then we had to stand in front of the class, one pair at a time, and improvise our two characters meeting in a lift. I was paired with E. She looked my age (I thought) but turned out to be around 8 years older. I stink at guessing.

Our ‘improv’ went fairly well, I guess. Nothing stands out about it now! The two cute guys were paired up. I forget what the blonde one did… I think he was some sort of young delinquent. The other one was ‘World War Two Veteran’. He did it really well – he sounded so weary and lonely! We watched as these two guys put together a strangely sweet little scene from nowhere – an unexpected connection between the very old and the very young. Memorable. As were the men themselves.