False modesty gets us nowhere and actually rather pisses me off. As long as you're prepared to acknowledge your weaknesses with a degree of honesty, then do the same with your strengths. I'm a pretty bright and perceptive person, relatively switched on. I 'get' things, am able to join up the dots in my head and understand how everything fits together without being shown...and re-shown...and re-shown what to do. Sometimes I've wondered if I might have been happier in life had I been possessed of a mind that was slightly dopier and duller, less inquisitive and incisive. I've found out things that I probably wish I hadn't, but then you have to live with the reality that you're confronted with once a comfortable lie is no longer an option.
One of the great delusions under which most of us operate is that we have a lot of friends. Many thanks to all of those who are reading via Facebook, but there is no way on earth that I would consider all 216 of you to be my friends in the true sense. Do I have 216 friends? Hell, no. Does anyone? What about the people you talk to at work? How many of them would help you out if you were really in the shit? That would appear to be where the line is for my money – can you talk to that person in confidence about something sensitive and potentially embarrassing? If you were penniless or destitute would he or she do what they could to help you?
The reason that day in the Autumn of 1996 remains etched in my brain is because it served as a painful Eureka moment on a number of levels. As a general rule, teenagers are brutal and insensitive creatures, happy to refer to you as a mate one minute and then shit all over you just for kicks the next. I had no idea what I'd done wrong, but there seemed to be some particularly nasty and unpleasant vibes towards me from a multitude of directions and it was only at this point that I became acutely aware of them. For whatever reason, I was faced with the cold, clear truth and it was not good, regardless of the angle from which you looked at it.
The brutality I referred to means that essentially none of us have many friends at that age, certainly not of the sort that we could talk to about anything that was troubling us and realistically expect it to go no further. You'll understand the theraputic feeling derived from simply saying to someone else “I have XYZ going on in my life and it's really concerning me because...”. I'm looking over my shoulder and seeing arrows everywhere. I hear a voice and it reminds me “there are people here who would just love to fucking destroy you and now you've got this problem, a stick of dynamite that they'll gladly stick right up your arse if they ever get hold of it. So, who can you trust? Nobody”.
As for Bob and Irene, well, let's just say that some people were allowed to have feelings in that house and others weren't. Understanding that somebody is in a fragile state and dealing with them in a way that is mature and non-judgemental was not their bag at all. Why on earth would either of them waste their time talking to their kids about 'precious feelings' if they weren't subsequently allowed to put the boot in themselves? After all, that ability to act as judge, jury and executioner all rolled into one was one of the few aspects of parenthood that really appealed to them. So, there would be nobody to talk to or confide in. I really was on my own here.
I'd already been on the downward curve for at least a year before all this started, but now everything had crystalised in front of my eyes. There's a hierarchy within any institution and some wacky rules that make no sense. Of course, the most important rules within any institution tend to be the unwritten ones and now it was absolutely clear where I stood in the grand scheme of things. The outlook was bleak – I really was the lowest of the low in this particular food chain (although exactly why escapes me), seriously fucking hardcore phyto-plankton surrounded by much bigger fish. Realising this, and that there was precisely nothing I could do about it, was heartbreaking.
Quite amazingly, there were opportunities to go out with other people, none of which I took. One of the defining features of limerence is that you genuinely do not want anyone else. This isn't like a crush or a bout of puppy love which someone might have for more than one person at a time. Your LO has (unwittingly) invaded your brain, done a Poland 1939 on it and stuck the fucking flag in there. Perhaps it's for the best I didn't inflict myself (or my parents, for that matter) on someone else anyway. I was evidently a fucking mess, and they were, well, they were just them. I wouldn't wish either of them (or worse still, the combination of both) on somebody I cared about.
To be honest, I've always thought of romantic interest from others as either a) clear evidence of insanity on the part of my admirer or b) part of some particularly nasty practical joke designed to leave me cut up and humiliated. To paraphrase the game show, Jeopardy, if Dazza is the answer then what is the fucking question? And the chances are that if she's got something to offer and she's actually serious, she can do so much better than you anyway, can't she Dazza? So, do the decent thing, don't get involved and, above all, find a way to sabotage yourself. I'm aware of just how serious a self-image problem this represents, but it's my autopilot response to a kind of situation.
I don't deserve it, so if it comes along, I find a way of fucking it up.
Another characteristic of limerence is that it's been known to inspire some borderline (and even outright) stalkerish behaviour. I've had three episodes and, while the back catalogue is littered with reckless endangerment and stupidity of other kinds, it would appear that, ironically, this crisis of self-image acted as a means of applying the brakes, killing stone dead the really bad ideas that come into the brain sometimes. Limerence is very similar to being on drugs as your dopamine and phenelethylamine (natural amphetamines) are through the fucking roof. Just as other 'intoxicated' persons get crazy impulses or ideas, and sometimes act on them, so can someone who's involuntarily infatuated.
Looking through that lens, I re-remembered something recently when my kid brother and I were discussing this chapter of our lives. A lad I grew up with got 'into' this girl in quite a serious, intense way and, unlike myself, he wasn't backward about shouting up. This was completely out of character in itself as he was normally pretty quiet and reserved. It also became clear from fairly early on that he was, frankly, wasting his time and heading up something of a dead end but he became a bit demented about the whole thing and managed, somehow to get her phone number (the monumental dickhead responsible wants setting on fire as a point of principle).
After the disaster that was 'the Telephone Call' did he pack it in and move onto somebody else? Not quite – there was an unfortunate incident involving a table in McDonald's and him displaying to the world exactly how he intended to get his cathartic release (yes, pun intended). I should clarify that his clothes stayed on, but news of this 'simulation' got back amongst the pack of bloodthirsty hounds and he took quite a long time to recover from it. Of course, being a twat who was totally lacking self-awareness, I joined in the jokes about him masturbating to the MFI catalogue and being banned from Ikea, but there's no doubt on reflection that the guy was unwell, probably in a very similar way to the way I was.
He was always a top lad and I hope he's happy now, wherever he is and whatever he's doing.
And – thanks for the tip-off mate. Mental note to self – girls DO NOT like it when you hump the furniture and pretend it's them.
Anyone familiar with my alleged music career (now retired by popular demand) will know that I just didn't do love songs, at least not of the soppy, sickly sweet variety. Part of it was probably an image thing – I mean, it's hardly the stuff of your flawed anti-hero is it? Of course, the fact that I've never really been in love, merely unwell a few times, will have quite a bit to do with it. There's also that combination of intensity and melancholia that stops me putting such feelings on public display, at least at the time. A lot of people don't have that problem and find no issue whatsoever with writing songs, love poems, whatever else. Whatever floats your boat and good luck to you, just be very fucking careful who you show it to!!
“Oh god how I miss my dearest Dana, cruelly robbed of me by that car crash/tropical disease/got eaten by a shark/ok, I'll admit to not remembering that bit. With her hair and her eyes and her nose and the sound of her breath when she slept next to me. How it breaks my heart that I'll never see, feel or hear any of this again. I want to die just so I can be with her. Wah. Wah. WAHHHHH!!”. It went something like that anyway, only let's just say the description of, er, Dana, was ever so slightly too vivid. You knew exactly who she was, right down to the fucking eyelashes!! And he's written this monologue about her (as a valid piece of English coursework, I should add) that's got most of us laughing our bollocks off.
Stop showing everyone, for fuck's sake!! In all seriousness, Dana (we'll keep it that way to protect the innocent) was absolutely lovely and you can't blame him for liking her - there was a lot to like.
Mental note to self – don't write any poems/songs/monologues/Adrian Mole-esque diary entries or anything else. And if you feel the overwhelming urge to break this rule, do so up in the hills somewhere, completely removed from civilisation. Stick whatever you've written under a stone or in a cave so nobody else can read it.
We've imported a lot of crap from America into this country – McDonald's and other Yankie junk food would be right at the top of the list, along with...High School Proms. I think I would happily shove them into Room 101 given the opportunity, and, contrary to what I was told at the time, take immense pride in having told mine to fuck off. In fact, our family's record at attending these things is mightily impressive – we were 0 for 3 on that score. Deano actually managed to get himself banned from his (I'm dying of jealousy) as a result of an unfortunate escapade involving a curtain cord and an asthmatic kid. Rob was told by Bob and Irene that he couldn't attend, despite expressing a clear wish to and there being no obvious reason why he shouldn't be able to go.
Me? I was mentally exhausted, broken and done in. I had no fondness for the place whatsoever and really needed a change of scene like nothing else. I can't regret this in the true sense as I didn't make the decision, but when I look back I wish I'd gone to college somewhere else instead of what was essentially the sixth form of my high school. A new environment, free from all of the negativity, shit and reminders of previous disasters would have been revitalising. As it was, by the time I actually left formal education at eighteen I was completely gone. Incredibly, going out and getting a job felt like going on holiday, a feeling that wouldn't last for too long but was very real at the time.
People getting dolled up, wearing outfits that looked utterly ridiculous and turning up in limousines just ain't my thing. Absolutely no fucking way, particularly when you factor in the absurd no drinking rule that was adhered to by a surprising number. The following day was my last before the exams, one I could and should have not bothered with. I didn't want to know about their phoney American bollocks beforehand or on the day and I found 'the video' the following day to be a combination of the tedious, the unfunny and the utterly fucking nauseating. I remember being told at the time that I was “making a big mistake that I would regret for the rest of my life”, to which I can only respond “no I wasn't and no I don't”.
Thanks for reading and I'll catch you soon.