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.

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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…

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.

Making Contact

I am really bad with physical contact. Really, really bad.
I had cause to reflect upon this recently, you see, for every time I am a wee bit tipsy I lose this inhibition of mine and it’s a right old tactility-fest. I then stagger around enthusiastically patting my friends while exclaiming ‘I have to do this now; it’s the only time I know what human contact is like!’

Of course that’s not strictly true. There are three other times when contact is ok:

1. Hugging my mum. I have no problem with this at all. Also includes: leaning my head on her when she’s next to me on a sofa and occasionally linking arms.
2. Hugging my grandma. Slightly more awkward (with a lot more bending down, she’s a short lady) but still perfectly ok.
3. In… I feel I should put this delicately as it’s sharing a list with family and that’s already weirding me out to an extent where I may delete this if it reads oddly… in a romantic context (and in a romantic context if you know what I mean and I think you do). With someone I’m comfortable with. I mean if we’ve all acknowledged that sex is on the table then all systems go. And we’re not necessarily literally having sex on a table. Wherever it’s happening.

And you see, that entirely does not include things such as first dates or men in clubs or men I’ve just been talking to for a bit. Not that I don’t ever want any contact, just that I am stating the fact: it will be awkward. Just know that.

My first proper kiss was an excruciatingly awkward moment. Let me take you back, back…

Christmas. A few years ago. I was part of a theatre group; we took acting classes together. There was a Theatre Party. Everyone was going. Even me with a fever, a blocked nose and a slightly woozy feeling in my head. I had to go: the guy I liked was going to be there (and there’s a long, long story for another day: The Guy I Liked: AKA My First Boyfriend).

Throughout the evening we talked, we danced, we looked superb. The party ended early (the average age of the theatre crew was definitely hitting the 60s) and the younger people decided to carrying on partying elsewhere. On the way to a local bar one of my friends saved the life of a drunkard (again: another time).

The bar was crap and full of raucous, annoying people. I panicked about the guy and didn’t even know if I actually liked him. I continued to feel ill. My friends told me they were sure he was going to try to kiss me. I wasn’t sure I wanted him to.

Eventually people began to leave. We waited for taxis. And of course, all at once it was just me and him. My taxi arrived. I thrust a Christmas present at him (great timing), he leaned over… and I thought WHY NOT SAY SOME MORE WORDS. So I did. And he got nothing but tooth. ‘Oh! Sorry… I was… I mean you might get my cold anyway!’ I squeaked.

He replied that he didn’t care. He tried again. I managed this time to stop speaking mid-sentence, I believe I attempted to kiss him back but in reality I probably just stood there like a rubber fish. I then went ‘Ahahaaa, ok, hah there’s my taxi – BYE!’

Yeah.