Growing Up – Teenage Dating

Trying to fill in the gaps… trying to understand the process that has shaped my personality as an adult. Excuse me if I ramble a little, I’m not quite sure where I’m going yet.

The first guy I really dated was 18, six years older than me. When I met him I liked his sweetness, despite his outward appearance. He was tall, with long blonde hair (shaved at the sides), and he had tattoos and piercings. My mother would tell you that the attraction was ‘shock value’ when I took him home, but she is wrong. He may have shocked, yes, but I saw something in him that was much deeper than face value; I saw his ability to love. And love me he did.

After a couple of years, I realised there was no future; he wanted too much of me, and I wanted to be a teenager. But I hated being alone. I dated several people for short amounts of time, but never seemed to find what I was looking for, probably because I didn’t really know what that was. Looking back, I think I wanted affection and stability, along with the acceptance to do as I pleased. Too much for any teenager to find, I would imagine, but I was searching hard for something that only my parents could have given me. I needed to be loved, and I needed to matter.

During my teenage years, there were people who did me a lot of good. While I could list names of people I dated, there are few I could mention who really stick in my mind as having influenced my life.

There was a lad, only a year older than me, who I met at a school disco. He was quiet and shy, and I imagine he wondered what was going on when I approached him and started chatting. I can’t have scared him too much though; we met up again a few days later and it wasn’t long before we were together. He was a calming influence on me a lot of the time. He was the first person I dated that I felt able to talk to about the serious stuff. He listened, and he cared. He showed me that relationships weren’t just about the physical things, and that was a turning point for me. He still listens now, on occasion. I don’t talk to him often enough, but I’m glad we stay in touch.

The first girl I kissed… a revelation for me. I wasn’t just attracted to boys; in fact, I was much more attracted to intelligence and personality than anything else. She was a thinker, like me, and we talked about everything; there were no secrets. She was a stunningly beautiful girl, inside and out.

When I was 15 I met a guy who was older than me. It was a different kind of dating experience, spending time with a guy who knew a little more about the world. I spent time with his family, as well as time with him. We travelled together; I have great memories of coastlines in a car, driving to another town every day, during the summer I finished my GCSEs. He wrote me poetry, he quoted Shakespeare and he made me feel like a princess. More than anything, he made me feel secure, and I was heartbroken when it ended.

That takes me to the year I met the father of my daughter; the most important relationship of my teenage years, in some respects, but also the most damaging. He blinded me with words, he held on to me with stories and he abused me by making me feel not good enough. Once I was pregnant, I decided I needed to be with him full time and we moved into a little flat of our own. The year I lived there with him took away every ounce of confidence I ever had. He beat me, he cheated on me and he lied to me. The day he hurt my daughter was the day I found the strength to leave.

Did I learn from him? Yes. I learned that words are the least important thing in the world. People can say anything but, without the actions to back it up, it means nothing. He took a lot away from me, but I took one thing more valuable than anything I’ve ever known. I took that child. I walked away with the knowledge that she was safe and loved, and that she needed nothing but me. It took a while for me to have the faith to believe I could raise her alone, but raise her I did.

I raised another too… After another abusive relationship, I found myself with two children to look after. I found my strength and did what I needed, and you know what? I did ok. I took the best of what I knew, and learned from the worst, and I did ok.

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Growing Up – School

Trying to fill in the gaps… trying to understand the process that has shaped my personality as an adult. Excuse me if I ramble a little, I’m not quite sure where I’m going yet.

school

I don’t remember much of primary school; there are only a few random memories that have managed to survive the passing of time.

My first day, a teacher trying to get me to sit next to another girl… I shook my head and went to sit alone. She followed me later, this girl, and became the best friend I had during my younger years, but I still remember little about her.

My teacher during second year of Junior school telling me, as I helped her take down display work one lunchtime, that time passes faster the older you get. I didn’t believe her, but have remembered that moment many times over the years, as I see my life fly by.

I remember taking my ’11 plus’ exam, and the memories are stronger after that. I passed, and found myself schooled in this wonderful old building with a hall that spanned two stories and huge stone staircases, with a variety of teachers that went from the old fashioned and mundane to the rather eccentric and exciting.

Within a few weeks I had found myself friends; it didn’t take long to realise that I had befriended people who would be some of the most popular girls in school. I didn’t really feel like I fit, but experience tells me now that most of us feel like that during teenage years. With these girls I experienced for the first time the kind of friendship where you share everything; we lived in a world with no secrets, except, of course, the ups and downs of my mother. That was always something which stayed behind closed doors… I wonder how many of them had closed doors too.

We discovered music, and parties, and gigs, and boys. We spent our saturdays window shopping or drinking coffee, or just hanging around the city centre. Yes, I was one of those teenagers most often found sitting on a gravestone in ‘pigeon park’, in my docs and combats. There was a downside to hanging with this crowd; I had to fit in as well as I could. I wouldn’t have gone to ‘cake decorating club’ because I’d have been ridiculed forever; After my second year there I wouldn’t compete in the yearly ‘chess tournament’, because it was not cool.

Aside from the social part of school, I did well. Academically, I found so many things that interested me and I was lucky to be in a place where the teaching was of a good standard.I loved languages and literature and, although I didn’t feel the same kind of passion for science and maths, I found that I could do it just as well as the rest. I’m a logical thinker, and that helped me progress even if I lacked the desire for knowledge.

My teachers had a varied influence in my life. Art was a class I’d never forget, because the teacher taught me something about my sexuality. As inappropriate as that seems now, it helped me to accept that my interest in girls wasn’t as out of the ordinary as I’d thought.

My languages teachers were vibrant and dramatic, and very real. They are the closest teachers I had to the kind of teacher I have become; they always had time, they always cared, and they always said what they thought. I still speak to one of them now, though nowadays she has lost some of her passion for teaching… I hope I don’t find myself there at some point in the future.

‘Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school,’ said Albert Einstein, and I can see what he means. When I think of my school days, I remember little of the content of those lessons. But what I do remember is people; I remember friends, and the need to be accepted. I remember teachers and the way those teachers treated us. While those early lessons in Geography and Latin and Technology may be worth very little to me as an adult, the relationships I formed will stay with me forever.

Growing Up – My Dad

Trying to fill in the gaps… trying to understand the process that has shaped my personality as an adult. Excuse me if I ramble a little, I’m not quite sure where I’m going yet.

I try to remember the father I grew up with, but I find it difficult. I have so few memories of him from my childhood years that I think he must have not been around very often.

I remember a birthday party, I must have been about 8 or 9… he slept on the sofa in a pair of tatty shorts, snoring loudly. I was embarrassed by him, and I spent the hours of my party trying to keep my friends in the kitchen.

I remember arguments he had with my Mum, while my sisters and I sat at the top of the stairs in silence, wishing they would stop. I don’t remember what they argued about, just that our life felt so uncertain and we had no idea how it would end.

They had divorced by the time I was 13. We used to visit him on a regular basis, but my memories of that involve my sisters and I playing together at one game or another; it didn’t ever seem that he made the most of having us there. Once I got older I made the decision not to visit him so often.

Nowadays I talk to him more. He’s not good with advice, but he is always a willing ear. He chooses to spend time with his grandchildren in a way I don’t remember him doing with us and for that, I am grateful. I had a conversation with him recently about what life was like for us when they divorced, and I realised he knew nothing about Mum and her ups and downs. I guess he wouldn’t, because we would never have told him.

Growing Up – My Mum

A new category – Growing Up

Trying to fill in the gaps… trying to understand the process that has shaped my personality as an adult. Excuse me if I ramble a little, I’m not quite sure where I’m going yet.
I grew up with a mother who suffers with severe depression. I didn’t know the name of the condition then, or even that she suffered from a condition, I just knew she was hard work.

There were the days when she was so high, doing ridiculous things and having us in hysterics, and the days she was so low that she would cut herself and wish herself dead. I would have done anything on those days to make her smile, anything at all. There was no magic answer, of course, and it was just a case of sitting out the bad times, listening to the sobs and muffled screams of frustration and pain that came from her room, and waiting for the good.

My sisters were younger than me, and I used to try to absorb as much as I could so that they didn’t have to deal with it. I would make sure I was the one who knocked her door and spoke to her so that, on the days she wanted to rant, it would be me she ranted at. I listened to her stories of an awful childhood, and horrible men and the terrible world we lived in, and I tried to comfort her the best I knew how. I tried to be an adult before my time, and I tried to make her proud so that I would never again have to hear her say the words, “There is NOTHING in my life that is worth living for…”

At 17 I found myself pregnant and it wasn’t long before I moved out of home, into a relationship that was even more damaging. I saw Mum infrequently then, but she seemed calmer and was much easier to be around. My relationship with my sisters suffered though, and it wasn’t until much later that I realised this was partly to do with Mum. She wasn’t really better, she just focused her attentions somewhere else. My youngest sister confessed last year that she hated me for leaving.

It seems wrong that I didn’t realise what had happened. I was stunned to find out that they had spent the next 18 months listening to the things that I had listened to, saying nothing to anyone else about it. Is it that people often see only what they want to see?