As you probably know if you’re reading this blog, I write YA fiction (currently, not exclusively) and the protagonist of my debut novel “Gifted” is a 17 year old girl. Now, as a 38 year old wife and mother, trying to write realistically from a 17 year old’s perspective has meant a fair amount of wading around in my memories of when I was a teenager (yeah, I know, it was a bloody long time ago, but fortunately dimentia hasn’t set in just yet). All this dwelling on my own teenage years set me to thinking about things I know now that I wish I’d known then. In fairness, I think my own long-suffering Mum probably DID try to tell me some of this stuff, but I don’t think I ever removed my Walkman earphones for long enough to listen.
So, 99% for fun and 1% because someone out there somewhere trying to doggy paddle their way through the roaring tide of their teenage years might actually find something useful in it, here is the first part of what will be a 7 part post of things that, if I had a hot tub time machine, I’d travel back and tell my 17 year old self.
The topic of this first installment is the potential minefield that is BOYS.
So, lets begin with a few things that it’s worth bearing in mind if you’ve been dumped / rejected / ignored (or all 3) by a boy.
Oh, I remember it well. That feeling that your world is going to end, that your heart is being torn from your chest, that no sad song can even come close to describing the depths of your misery because the object of your affections either a. doesn’t know you exist, b. realised you exist but made it blatantly clear that your existence ranks somewhere next to athlete’s foot in things he finds appealing or c. (and this is the worst) returned your affections for a while, only to then decide that you were not the peanut butter to his jelly after all and dumped you. He might have done this diplomatically (it’s not you it’s me/ I have too many football / homework / computer game commitments to be able to invest the time in this relationship that you deserve) or it could have been done tactlessly (I fancy your friend more than I fancy you).
Either way, the outcome is the same. And it sucks. But when you’re hiding in your room, sobbing into your pillow, clutching the photo of Mr “I’ll Never Feel This Way About Any Girl But You” in your sweaty palm and doing your best Bella Swan impression, try to bear these things in mind:
- You may think you will never feel the way you felt about him about anyone else ever, but guess what? You will. And, if you’ve learnt the valuable lesson of not allowing yourself to be treated like crap, chances are he won’t be a socially inept, emotionally stunted, testosterone loaded lurch who prefers his X-Box / football / your friends to you.
- Take the rose tinted glasses off and take a good hard look at the object of your desire. Is he reallythat great? Sure, he might have eyes you can drown in and a rippling six pack. But if you look closer, he’s probably also got spots on the back of his neck, a foot odour problem and ears like the handles on a baby’s sippy cup. It’s time you shoved him off the pedestal you put him on.
- Any boy (or man come to that – they don’t all grow out of being dicks) who makes you feel that bad was never good enough for you in the first place.
- Excessive use of styling products in the teenage years is a definite precursor for baldness in later life. Now I’m sure the scientific community would argue the toss about this with me and granted, I have no solid evidence – but in a small island you tend to run into your old school mates quite a bit and I can tell you – I’ve spotted a direct corrolation between the guys who slapped on the gel 20 years ago and the ones who have lost it up top now. So just remember, that thatch of hair you loved to run your fingers through will be gone one day. Instead you’ll be waxing his chrome dome. Not quite so appealing, is it? But baldness isn’t really the point – who knows? A shiny scalp might totally float your boat. What I’m saying is, no matter how totally gorgeous you think the cause of your heartache is now, he’s not always going to be that way.
Let me tell you a story to show you what I mean. When I was 17, me and my friends used to frequent this disco for under 18’s (sad, I know – but hey, I live on a small island. You have to get your kicks where you can.) One of the doormen at this nightclub was an 18 year old demi-god working the summer before college with broad shoulders, sparkling green eyes and a thatch of hair that Edward Cullen would have been proud of (ha – don’t forget my non-scientific theory though!). That summer, we all lusted after him in a BIG way. Now, I was in no way gorgeous, glamorous or particularly exciting, so imagine my amazement when he asked ME out. WOW. He was older, he was totally hot, he was a bouncer (I was easily impressed by such shallow things in those days). Unfortunately, he was also an arrogant, self-obsessed shit.
But, love is blind, as the saying goes. It didn’t matter that he was clearly more in love with his own reflection than he was ever going to be with me. I could even overlook that he had a slight body odour problem and that he cleaned between his toes with his socks when he took his shoes off. I could excuse these things because, out of all of the thinner, prettier, less spotty girls that he could have had, he had chosen me. And that made me feel pretty special.
He went off to college at the end of the summer and I promised that I would wait for him, write to him every day, forsake all others and wait devotedly for his return. And so I did. However, while I was doing a Rapunzel (although with considerably shorter, slightly knotted purple hair) waiting in my turret, gazing mistily into space and waiting for the return of my Prince Charming, he was busy making every other girl in his freshman college year feel special too.
And so, blissfully unaware of his infidelities, when he came home for the holidays I waited for his promised call like an eager puppy dog. It never came. Finally, one of his friends had the decency to tell me that he’d found someone else. Well, actually about 50 someone elses. I was bereft. I was broken. My heart was trampled in the dirt. A couple of weeks later, I walked past him in the street. He didn’t even say hello.
BUT. Here comes the fun part. Fast forward 14 years. I’m standing in a bar in St Helier (Jersey’s capital – if you can call it that on an island this small) on a Saturday night. I have (oh joy!) managed to squeeze myself into my size 10 jeans. I’m having a good hair day and my skin is, for once, behaving itself. I have made it through the whole of the evening so far in killer heels without falling over once.
I’m standing at the bar when a man sidles up next to me. I wrinkle my nose. He doesn’t smell so great. He is smiling at me, looking at me like he knows me, waiting for my returned recognition. And then it hits me. It’s him. But I have to do a double take before I realise. The thatch of lustrous, carefully sculpted hair is gone. Instead, he is sporting a bald spot the size of a side plate slap bang on the top of his head. And what’s missing from his head now seems to be sprouting from his nostrils.What once was a six pack is now a big round keg. And the smell? My now mature and discerning sense of smell can no longer excuse it as his natural horny pheromones. It’s just plain old B.O.
He asks me if I remember him. With all the nonchalance I can muster, I tell him that I do. He asks me how I’m doing. I tell him that I’m good. Happy. I aks him the same thing. He’s not so good. His wife is divorcing him. Apparently, even after 14 years, he still hasn’t learnt to keep it in his pants. My drinks arrive and as I turn to go, he tells me (with an eloquent vodka slur) that he’s sorry about what happened when we were younger. I tell him that it really doesn’t matter. Forget it. I have. And you know what? Despite how earth-shatteringly bad I felt at the time, I mean it.
Do I allow myself a smug little smile as I walk back to the man I’ve been married to for seven good years (at the time – thirteen now), who is a brilliant dad to our beautiful son and who never made me cry myself to sleep and feel like I was garbage? Hell yeah.
Karma. You gotta love it.
Now, there are a few important caveats to this post so far.
- Not all boys are shits. In fact, some of them are lovely, genuine, faithful people. Keep your love for them.
- Boys are people, just the same as girls, with all the same insecurities, doubts and fears. Maybe more. At least for girls there’s no shame in saying how they feel.
- Heartbreak works both ways. If you wouldn’t like it if a boy did it to you, then don’t do it to them either.
- Look beneath the surface.Give the skinny / nerdy / spotty guy a chance if he’s got a good personality and he can make you smile. Looks don’t last forever, but a boy who wants you for who you are and keeps you laughing – those are qualities that endure. Hang on to them if you find them.
So, as you’re nursing your broken heart, just remember that one day this:
could look like this:
and think about what a lucky escape you’ve had.
And one final thought. If, like me, you should one day become the mother of one of the next generation of heartbreakers (and biased though I may be, my nine year old is a proper cutie – I’m dreading the day when he wakes up and stops believing that all girls smell of wee and are to be reviled) just remember that the words of advice that he gets from you on how to behave towards his female counterparts could save another teenage girl, just like you, a broken heart one day.
(NB. I am in no way implying Taylor Lautner will bear any resemblance whatsoever to the other guy in years to come. Please don’t sue me.)
So, that’s it. End of rambling. Part 2 coming soon on the thorny subject of FRENEMIES.