Many thanks again for reading – if any of you have a question regarding Teenage Kickings, the writing of it or some of the wider subjects discussed in the book, drop us a line on Facebook or to the generic e-mail address here. I'll collect them and put together a one-stop response to all of the (sensible) questions on here as soon as I can.
I've been limerent three times in my life. One of the determining factors in exactly when the timeframe for this book ended was a sincere wish not to upset someone. Someone who was the unwilling and blameless subject of my condition some six and a half years ago, someone I still have dealings with and enormous personal regard for. You know who you are and I'm aware that while I was shaking and spluttering, generally being an emotional car crash and behaving somewhat strangely every time you came onto my radar, you were genuinely concerned and asking after my well-being. That means a lot. I also know that I was never supposed to find that out for reasons known only to other people who I'm glad I have nothing to do with these days. It's a blessed relief we sorted it and that things have worked out so well for you since. I've never gone in for happiness being some sort of inalienable right, but in your case it's utterly merited and thoroughly deserved.
Kudos mate. Kudos.
For those of you who aren't used to me talking about someone like that, I'll wrap some context and a bit of countering negativity around it before you reach for the bucket. Nicola, my Limerent Object in 2002-03 (although if you asked her and one or two of her, er, associates then they'd probably tell you I was still utterly bonkers about her now) is easily the one of the three I have the least fond memory of and would have the least time for if we ran into each other tomorrow morning. I'm not sure if I actually dislike her or not, although it's an interesting notion that I would feel any genuine warmth towards someone who knew the nature of the power she had over me and found it utterly fucking hilarious, told me to my face that she hoped she “haunted me forever” (why Nic, why?), told repeated lies about me and seemed to be on some sort of personal mission to prang as many raw nerves as she could while maintaining that manipulative, butter-wouldn't-melt “who, me?” look to the outside world.
Rob actually spent two weeks working there putting a catalogue together and was horrified by three things. One was how little work most of the people who turned up there actually tended to do, another was the appalling level of gossip, often malicious and unfounded, that people would circulate about their team-mates. Usually it was of the 'who's shagging who' or 'who wants to shag who' variety and to be on the receiving end was infuriating. The difficulty came in differentiating the true (very occasionally useful to know) stories from the total fiction and stuff peddled for wholly malicious reasons. Frighteningly, nothing was ever done about it as management themselves saw the office motormouths as a a useful mine of misinformation. I mean, who cares if it's actually true or not, as long as a few sickos get the cheap laugh they crave?
The third thing that horrified him was Nicola, although I discovered the feeling was mutual when she told me he was “even uglier than you are”, a classless and pathetic attempt to twist the knife if I've ever heard one. Rob couldn't believe this was the girl I'd been telling him about – he knew she was 'special' to me in some way, and so he started looking at previous winners of the Cheltenham Gold Cup to see which year she won (his own words although he would only reveal this to me after I'd snapped out of it for fear of sparking a row – I think that's a pretty harsh assessment anyway). He also observed (not incorrectly) that she wasn't exactly the sharpest knife in the drawer and that, well Daz, you might be somewhat limited in terms of common ground and interesting stuff to discuss. Others who noted something similar made the quite hilarious recommendation that I should 'come down to earth' (ie dumb down) in order to bridge that gap.
Why doesn't she read a few books instead?
That's the problem with an irrational and involuntary state of infatuation – it's total pot luck who comes out of the hat and the extent of the shit you have to deal with. Once I got plastered and coughed about this to someone (although I didn't remember doing so and only learned of my 'confession' several months later having blacked out) then I was basically fucking toast in career terms. This was also, let us not forget, the daughter of the Managing Director, who was using the place to find her a long-termer who could be controlled but would have anyone caught having 'a dabble' with his Little Princess taken outside and shot, make no mistake. Rationally, having anything to do with her would make no sense whatsoever unless you wanted to be her Dad's bitch for the rest of your life or alternatively, fancied being doused in petrol and then set on fire.
But then I wasn't thinking rationally...
I get talking to a girl one night after meeting up briefly with a couple of pals. We're travelling in the same direction so agree to share a cab. She's absolutely lovely, clearly in possession of a functioning brain and seems to have quite a few interesting thoughts she's not shy about sharing. But I'm not remotely attracted to her in any way despite her complimenting my hairdo and remarking that “I mean, my next boyfriend could be some random bloke I meet...like you”. This must qualify as the least subtle hint of the decade, and a bankable top tenner in the all-time stakes. Tragically, I tell her that, nice as she is, I have 'feelings' for someone else, a someone else who has something of a claim on me as a result and that she shouldn't waste another second thinking of me in that way. Lovely Lisa lived less than five minutes' walk from me, yet we never saw each other again. I hope she's totally happy, whatever she's doing, and that she took my advice never to give me another moment's thought. I really wasn't worth it.
Limerence does different things to different people, but I've always hated feelings of which I am not in control. Your freedom to choose and understand for yourself how you relate to others, along with the ability to make rational judgements about anything relating to that person, are the first two things that go down the toilet. The drive and desire to perceive this deeply flawed human being as a near-goddess completely aced anything negative that I might have heard or had been told previously. When I did hear someone say something along the lines of “she's a dizzy slapper” or “stuck up cow”, it hurt me deeply and personally, incredible as that sounds. But then, not wanting my 'feelings' to be exposed to the world and run the risk of personal armageddon, I chose not to speak up in her defence. This in itself felt like some sort of betrayal, like I was taking the coward's way out and personally letting her down.
Utterly insane when I look back on it, but then this condition is...
Nobody is worth that sort of devotion, but some are more unworthy of it than others.
Makes me quite appreciative of you-know-who and you-know-who on reflection.
This was also the episode where there was the clearest sense of resolution at the time. I gave her my phone number (the initial conversation was through a mutual friend but I did speak to her in person to make sure she had it). I suggested that if she felt there was something worth exploring or talking about then she should call me safe in the knowledge that there was a pair of loving arms waiting for her. If a week or so went by and I heard nothing then I'd leave it and she would never hear from me on this subject again. Everyone crystal clear regarding where they stand and no need for awkward confrontation. That night, I quite literally sat by the telephone for hours (waiting for someone to pull me through, when the nozzle didn't ring I knew it wasn't you). At about 9pm it rang and I took a deep breath, then proceeded to put on the sexiest, warmest, most alluring voice I could.
“Helloooooo!!” I answer in a tone that must have sounded faintly ridiculous.
“Hi I'm from British Gas – we want to know why you haven't paid your bill?”.
Way to make a complete twat of yourself, Dazza...
Of course she didn't ring, and this seemed to do the trick. A couple of weeks after that, I snapped out of it. My rational head was back working again and this in itself was liberating, despite the professional and personal chaos that was going on around me at the time. I didn't really care much about the job I had by then and pretending that spare parts for boilers or the career aspirations of a Manc gobshite with a small penis was some sort of passion of mine had become an increasingly difficult act to sustain. All that mattered right now was that I was free from these ghastly, awful feelings that I'd never chosen, for this idiot I would have next to zero in common with and would never make a conscious choice to get involved with for all sorts of reasons. When attempts were made to re-write history (and aren't there always attempts to do this?) I never lost sight of the fact that I HAD given her my number and put my feelings out there.
That this had been met with a rejection of sorts is precisely why the episode had ended so swiftly.
I said I would forget about her and move on, which is exactly what I actually did, although certain people were only interested in believing what they wanted to believe.
In reality, there was no way on earth I would ever re-visit this regardless of the pressures or strains I would be put under to do so. It had been too difficult to deal with at the time, incredibly painful to talk about with anyone at all and Dazza just wasn't for giving up the lifeline he'd been offered by this storm cloud lifting.
If that meant I had no professional future there then so be it.
If that (hypothetically, we hope) meant being snatched off the street, stuffed in the boot of a car, driven somewhere quiet and invited to dig your own grave, then I'll come back to you but my gut reaction is to say “make sure the gun's loaded”. To paraphrase Morrissey, if the choice is between Death and Limerence then I must say “neither one particularly appeals to me”. Becoming limerent again remains my biggest fear, an indeterminate sentence in a private hell from which there's no obvious escape.
At least when you're dead, well, you're fucking dead aren't you?
How you approach someone who you used to have these intense feelings for but no longer do is an interesting conundrum. Uppermost in my thoughts was to make damn sure I didn't say or do anything that might be construed as 'bitter and twisted' and wrongly attributed to the factoid or conventional wisdom that 'she didn't want you and you can't handle it'. I was conscious that certain 'helpful' people would attempt to build up this rather false picture and so I did what nobody should ever do in their dealings with anyone. Instead of being myself I devised a strategy and set of rules in terms of how I'd interact with Nicola as and when the situation arose. Always be polite, but never over-friendly. Don't ask questions about her personal life or go into too much detail about yours. Never, ever lose your cool with her or raise your voice.
Hand on heart, I was really quite grateful that she hadn't thought me worth bothering with.
No bitterness or angst on that score at all.
But when people start saying (almost literally) that “I don't want you but nobody else can have you either” and the force of a large organisation comes down on you to back that up, wrecking a career you were working hard to build, it's not unreasonable and totally human to get more than a little bit pissed off with all involved.
I wanted to move on, but for reasons unknown I didn't have permission.
And nobody was telling me why...
To be continued some other time – I'll leave you with a bit of EBTG and take it easy.