Wasted on the young

There is an October chill in the air and most people on this Sunday morning will be tucked up under warm duvets, but not me. I am shivering, tired and light-headed sitting on the cold tiled floor of my parents’ porch. The skin-tight black jeans and leather jacket are not keeping the cold out.

Why am I sitting here and not in bed? My parents weren’t expecting me home. I had been to a friend’s party, stayed over, but left at 8am while everyone else was still asleep. Or rather, stomped off in a sulk, because I had failed to land the boy I fancied. My parents are at church and the key has not been left under the flower pot. So here I am, stuck, trying to avoid being seen by the neighbours.

This kind of ridiculous scenario only plays out when one is a teenager. Who else would be sitting out in the cold, locked out of their own house, because mum and dad don’t trust them to have a key, without losing it? My parents had sussed out my fecklessness a long time ago.

But my teenage stupidity stretched far beyond this. I was incredibly naïve and gullible from puberty until about 20, particularly with boys and sex.

My first boyfriend, who was 18 when I was 15, barely spoke to me. He just wanted to stick his tongue down my throat and his hand down my pants. But that’s as far as it got. When he stopped ringing me, I couldn’t work out why, when clearly he got bored of me not ‘putting out’.

Then I seemed to find myself in numerous ‘blowie’ situations – usually beginning with drinking copious amounts of cider in a particular night club, snogging someone who I thought wanted to be my boyfriend, being led outside and having my head pushed down on a throbbing, sweaty member. I just assumed this was normal and complying would make him love me, even if it (at that time) never culminated in penetrative sex. It was also very rare in these episodes that the youth of the moment would even attempt to pleasure me.

I was then surprised when none of them ever phoned me, asked me out on a date or wanted to see me again. I would sit in my bedroom staring at my posters, feeling very alone, only revealing my true thoughts to my diary.

Then when I did have a boyfriend, with whom none of the above happened, I put myself in a very odd position one night.

There were no proms when I was a teen, but there were ‘balls’ – an excuse to get dressed up and quaff alcohol in a posh venue. So my boyfriend, H and I had arranged to go to one of these shindigs with a few friends. One of H’s friends was T, who always had a glint in his eye for me.  He was going out with a posh girl, called something like ‘Saffy’.

H and I had a few drinks and dances, then went over to T and ‘Saffy’. We were all tipsy at this point, but T seemed particularly squiffy and had ‘Saffy’ perched on his lap as he leaned back in his chair. H chatted to him while I stood patiently. But then I felt something going up my dress. I was wearing a cocktail-type number, with a plain black bodice and a full net skirt, with layer of black and white net flowers on it, so access up there was rather easy.

I shuddered a little, then realised it was T’s hand which was travelling further and further towards my pants. So, I was standing next to my boyfriend who had his arm around me, while T sat with his girlfriend on his knee, shoving his index finger into my cunt. I was drunk and confused, but strangely aroused – H had never attempted this territory, let alone stuck his finger in.

Because we were all stood quite close together and my dress was a mass of black and white meringue net, no one noticed. T realised this and was smiling smugly, lecherously, while I was too shocked, bewildered and trembling with excitement to move or slap his hand away. It was in fact the first time anyone had stuck their finger (or anything else for that matter) inside me. But it did cast a black cloud over the rest of the night and my relationship with H eventually fizzled out, my virginity still intact. I sometimes wonder why I didn’t just give T a kick in the shins and expose him as a fingery cheat.

Then, less excitingly were the two or three boys I fancied like mad – the kind of teenage infatuations that leave you crying into your pillow, asking “why oh why doesn’t he like me?” Each one of them would happily snog me in the aforementioned nightclub, maybe even grope a boob and I would get to smell their cheap aftershave and the slightly more seductive leather of their jackets. And each one on different occasions said they were happy to “go with” me (which, where I come from in the late 80s/early 90s meant make out with), but couldn’t possibly go out with me. The usual reason was that they were in love with someone else (and I was just someone to practice on). In reality they were probably just terrified of the desperate or grateful look in my eyes.

So my teenage years were largely spent being ridiculous.  Even down to the clothes I wore – a friend finds great amusement in reminding me of the time I showed up in a tutu skirt and baseball boots. I would also spend a good deal of time copying song lyrics from Cure albumns on to large sheets of paper, and smoking out of my bedroom window, thinking my parents wouldn’t notice, even when the wind was blowing against me.

If I knew then what I know now, I would have had an absolute whale of a time, keeping those boys dangling, kicking T in the shins and enjoying being young and looking ten times better than I do now. Youth is truly wasted on the young.



Teenage dream?

“No, I don’t want it there,” I wailed, standing up in the bath and looking down at myself. “I want it to go away!”

I was about 12-years-old and my mum and popped into the room while I was having a bath and helpfully pointed out that I had started growing my first few strands of pubic hair. I was absolutely devastated – it looked disgusting and ugly, or so I thought at the time. I was quite happy with things as they were – just some hair on my head, some downy bits on my arms and legs – that would do me fine. Why did I have to get a horribly beardy bit on my privates?

But I was a 12-year-old of the 1980s, had no older sister to look up to or try to imitate and still enjoyed playing with my Barbies. Puberty and sex never entered my mind. My mum never did the ‘talk’ so I was pretty clueless, apart from seeing some couples kissing and rolling around in cheesy American soaps like ‘Dynasty’ and ‘Knots Landing’. I had just assumed this was a different version of cuddling.

The idea of growing boobs was just as alien. I remember my mum getting me some rather odd coffee-coloured training bra before I had anything to really put in it. She insisted this was the right time to start wearing it, despite the thing being very itchy and chafing my armpits. They did grow quite a bit between about 12 and 15, but in the early days, I was just baffled and confused as to why any of these changes were happening to me, when I was pretty happy with my straightforward, uncomplicated girl body.

The story now is a whole new ball game. I have an eight-year-old who is practically on one giant countdown to becoming a teenager. She checks the growth of her chest on a daily basis, despite there being nothing to report. She wears lip gloss whenever she can get away with it, such as when we are in a rush to go out somewhere and I’m too busy to notice. She already has posters of boy bands on her bedroom wall, while I was 13 or 14 before I swapped my pictures of cute kittens and fairies for A-ha and Duran Duran. She even slams her door shut and listens to music when she wants to be alone – something I only started to do in my teenage strops.

So how does a reluctant teenager guide her teenage wannabe through puberty? I don’t want to put her on a downer by warning that it’s not all lipstick, push-up bras and prom dresses. She will have to be prepared for mood swings, spots, emotional roller-coasters, boys being senseless gits and period pains.

The trouble is that her ‘teenage dream’ comes from all the American TV shows she watches, where teens have an endless wardrobe of trendy clothes, perfect white teeth, hang out at milkshake bars and always have witty one-liners. Funnily enough none of them have spots or stomp off to their bedrooms, slam the door and put Slipknot on at full blast. And the boys all look really clean – they probably don’t have bedrooms that smell of sweaty jock straps and stale socks, as I recall my brother did in that era.

Maybe the answer is to find a teenager and get them to explain what it’s like, how it has its ups and downs. The trouble is getting one to willingly articulate that…