When I was a teenager I was locked in a state of perma-crush. From the moment I turned 13 I was ensnared in my own bittersweet psychodrama of unfocused love, lust and longing. The girl from the school trip; the girl who was going out with my mate; the girl who was mates with the girl who was going out with my mate. Everywhere I looked there was someone new not just to admire but to become pathetically, gormlessly, hopelessly fixated upon. Every stolen glance in the playground carried explosive meaning; every song on Top of the Pops prompted beautiful pain and crushing ecstasy.
It was tough being that romantic. And it was exhausting hiding it all behind the yobbish persona of a heartless teenage dickhead. There was this one girl who sat next to me in English. She was so smart and funny it almost made me puke and she had the coolest eye makeup I’d ever seen. Most of my crushes rejected me but this girl did something much worse: she became my friend. Which was fine but by the time our teens were almost over I knew I’d probably never kiss her and that, whatever else happened in my life, I’d never get over it. First love sucks.
I don’t really enjoy watching or reading stuff about teenage love affairs any more. Not just because I am 44 with kids of my own and it feels a bit creepy. I just don’t want to remember those feelings.
The third series of Stranger Things saw the cute little bastards from seasons one and two become hormonal adolescents who, when they weren’t running away from monsters, were getting off with each other. It was sweet and funny, I guess. I also read Sweet Sorrow by David Nicholls, a book about a 16-year-old boy falling in love for the first time against the backdrop of his parents’ messy divorce.
Jesus, that book broke my heart. It dragged back all the memories I’d rather have left buried or at least blurry. All the mind-bending crushes of my own teenage years; those clumsy seductions on crazy golf courses; the taste of cheap lager and Malboro Lights in a girl’s mouth on a warm summer’s evening; the joy and the nausea of falling in love with someone while pissed on the top deck of a number 33 bus. All the humiliation and the ecstasy.
I don’t want to think about that stuff any more, it makes me feel old and sentimental and pathetic. Sweet Sorrow is a great book but I will try never to read it or think about it again. What good do memories do any of us? Not that all those teenage love stories end in misery. I ended up marrying that girl from my English class. We’ve got two kids now. After we put them to bed at night we sit and watch Stranger Things together. If I get too sentimental or nostalgic she elbows me in the ribs and turns up the volume.