When asked why he swam the Hellespont, one of the world’s most dangerous waterways, the great English Romantic poet Lord Byron answer thus:
“I’d finished my ode to Napoleon, was bored with boxing, and the biscuits had all gone.”
I’m not making that up. That’s the kind of people that people were, back in the day. It’s the kind of man I wish I was, but it’s too late. I was never heroic, and at 41 it’s too late to change.
Forty-one. Crikey. I can’t work out how that happened. Last time I checked I was 33, and before that I think I must have been 25.
I know 41 isn’t old, but it does mean that some important things happened a surprisingly long time ago.
Here’s an example: I left school 25 years ago. Twenty five years! That’s a quarter of a century. It’s probably longer than some of you people have lived. If I make it to a normal life expectancy, one third of my total span has expired since I last used a logarithm or conjugated a French verb. How’s that, education fans?
In fact, most of the crap I learned in high school has faded from my mind completely. A recent Twitter trend was #lettertomy14yearoldself, but I don’t even know who my 14-year-old self was. He’s a total stranger to me. He probably was by the time I reached 18, but to be honest, these days even my 18-year-old self is very hazy in my mind.
But one thing sticks in my memory as though it happened yesterday, even though it was 27 long years ago: the day I lost my virginity.
Isn’t it always the way with sex? You may forget the individual grunts and humps, but the really big stuff never goes away. First time with that special person. First kiss. First bub-squeeze. First time a girl grabbed your little fella… whether she meant to give pleasure or meant to give pain, you’re gonna remember that! First time a girl let you do something lubricated yet terrible and to her back-end, or put you between her breasts, or consented to let you spaff all over her.
Incidentally, what’s all that about? I’m not pleading innocence in this matter – far from it – but I can’t understand why it’s so damn sexy to finish on your body, rather than in it.
(But I digress. And probably disgust too.)
You even remember that day when you suddenly realised that most girls like sex just as much as most men do, and want to do all that dirty stuff you have floating around in your brain. You just need to ask. All these things stay with you, but above all else you remember the day you lost your virginity. You never forget that, not even if you have your mind erased with giant brain rubbers.
For me, it was Diane Barrett. She was lovely.
I met her in, of all things, a roller disco. Hey, don’t blame me, it was 1984! My friends and I used to hang around in precincts and wander around the streets looking for mischief most evenings, but on Sunday afternoons we went to Wheels! (complete with exclamation mark), which played the latest hip disks by Nik Kershaw while you skated in circles in rented roller-boots. It was dreary and gauche and awful, but so were we, and it kind of suited us.
And above all else, there were girls, and I liked looking at them. I hoped that one day I’d be able to touch one.
In early 1984 my friends were away in Spain or Greece with their parents, and I was bored, so I went to Wheels! on my own. It cost about £1.24 for the whole afternoon, and it beat the hell out of watching Ski Sunday, which seemed to be the only alternative. There were girls on Ski Sunday too, of course, but I couldn’t make out their norks under all that warm clothing, and that’s as good a reason to reject skiing holidays as I’ve even heard.
So I went to Wheels!, rented my boots, and skated in circles pretending that I wasn’t using 28% of my brain to stay upright, and the other 72% to stare at breasts.
Diane was there with some friends, and I’d looked at her about 100 times as I skated past. I won’t lie to you, I was a total coward and would never have had the nerve to skate up to her and talk. I couldn’t even walk up to a girl and talk, so gliding up on skates seemed even less likely to succeed.
But for some reason, she came to talk to me. I needed a break from skating in circles like a sexually frustrated goldfish, so I’d pulled over to have a drink of coke when she just popped up right in front of me and started saying words. Real words. To me! I didn’t know what to do, and was pretty sure it was all a joke – I assumed she’d been put up to it by her friends, and at any moment they’d all gather round to point and laugh.
But they didn’t, and by the time the mocking friends should have arrived Diane had her tongue in my mouth. Board daylight, brightly lit roller-disco in the middle of a Sunday afternoon, and she took my hand, placed it on her tit, and let me squeeze and play with it as we kissed for literally 2 hours solid. I’d died and gone to heaven, although I should have gone to hell for the thoughts she introduced into my head.
I don’t think she told me her name until after we left Wheels! Kids, eh?
We dated for 4 months, if “dated” is the right word. We barely spoke at all. Her dad was a taxi driver and her parents went to bed at around 8pm so he could get up at 4am to work. So I’d eat my dinner at home, catch a bus to her house, and say a brief, polite hello to her mum and dad before they went upstairs. And then I’d glue my face to the front of Diane’s, and we’d snog and grope until 10:45 when I had to leave to catch the last bus. Sometimes I’d feel her up. Sometimes we’d dry hump on the kitchen floor. I even got to finger her once (finger her what?). But I don’t remember speaking to her very much, except to ask if I was doing it right.
I was 14 and horny, and thought I was the luckiest boy alive.
When the schools broke for holidays Diane and I had even more time to wear each other’s faces out. But by this time I think she was getting bored with it, and wanted to branch out, at least geographically. So we made out in a park. We made out at bus stops. We made out in a cinema. Once, foolishly, her parents invited me to stay in their caravan in North Wales for a weekend, and we made out on the beach. In fact we did it so frantically that I managed to leave a huge wet patch on the crotch of her fashionably mid-grey boiler suit, and her parents went slightly mad at us both while we pretended we’d had an accident with a Mr Whippy. We promised we were being chaste and innocent; but the following week she spent every afternoon at my house, and we made out and rutted and humped and fondled in my bedroom with its black ceiling and Ultravox posters.
Who the hell wants to re-live the 80s?
We’d been there for a few hours one day, doing innocent teenaged necking, when I got up to make us both a cup of tea. I was gone for about 2 minutes. When I came back she was naked.
I said, “I know a good tailor if you need one”. Twenty-seven years later, and I’m still proud of that one.
She ignored the words I said, because she always ignored the words I said. That’s the relationship we had. Instead – and I remember this so clearly that I can even see the dust motes in the sunlight as she did it – she crawled across the bed towards where I was standing, reached out, unzipped me, and put her hand into my underwear. I didn’t try to stop her. Even if I’d wanted to I was holding two scalding cups of tea. She had me in the palm of her hand, in more ways than one.
She looked up at me as she did it, and I was so horny I couldn’t move except for those small nervy muscle spasms you sometimes get when you’ve been tense for a very long time. I very nearly did a sex-wee the instant she put me in her mouth, but instead I said “euuaouugh”, and pulled back in the nick of time. Less witty than my earlier statement, but it was very expressive.
I told her we shouldn’t. I told her we were too young, and that sex was a bad idea, and full of risks, and that she should get dressed. It may have been the most words I’d said to her in a single day. I tried for about 30 minutes to make her stop being female and available, even though that was all I really wanted out of life.
But no matter how hard I tried, she wouldn’t stop being female and available, and the more I thought about it the more I realised that she was completely naked, and I hadn’t even had to struggle with her bra. If there had been a soda-stream there too, it would have been heaven.
Suddenly she had a condom. Where did she get a condom from? I wasn’t even sure condoms were legal. You can just go into a shop and buy one!? Nobody told me!
So instead of asking her to get dressed and be responsible, I said what the fuck, why not?
We tried to put it on me, but we were all fingers, thumbs, and massive doses of hormones. We tore or mangled the first two we tried, and were down to our last condom before we got one to go on. It’s surprisingly difficult, and in those days sex education consisted of a overhead projector showing slides of dragonflies laying eggs.
I tried to put myself into her without using my hands. I don’t know why: maybe I assumed she’d think I was masturbating if I grabbed my penis. It seemed to take ages to locate the right spot, but then I was in.
People, I was magnificent. I fucked her like a jackhammer for 2 solid hours, we wrote a whole new chapter in the Kama Sutra, and she came so loudly I had to re-plaster the walls.
Oh, hold on, no, that was my dreams. The reality is that I blew my load in about 9 seconds and had only just pulled out of her when I thought I heard something.
Then I heard something else. I jumped up, and so did she. It was a female voice from downstairs. Mum was meant to be at work, why the hell was she at home at lunch? Shit, shit, shit. Now her footsteps are on the stairs SHIT, SHIT, SHIT. I’m getting dressed as fast as I can, but I’ve only got my pants on when mum reaches the top of the stairs and is saying “Hello” and asking if Diane was here – she’d seen Diane’s handbag in the living room.
I ran out of the bedroom, topless, trying to look nonchalant and pull the wool over mum’s eyes. Mum was having none of it, looked firmly at me, pushed past me into the bedroom, did a quick precis of the situation, and then walked straight out and downstairs without a word.
I peeked into the bedroom. Diane was on the bed, barely in her underwear, and crying.
By the time we’d dressed and got downstairs mum was already getting ready to leave. She’d just come home to clean her teeth before a dental appointment, and now she was going to go. I was due a serious bollocking, so the fact that she was leaving without delivering one was an unexpected reprieve.
It didn’t last though. Ten seconds later my dad, who worked only 100 yards from home, walked in and glared at me. Mum had phoned him, and he came home to do the dirty work.
I was guilty. No question. I’d boiked Diane in my bed, and we were both 14, and we were totally busted. My main concern was keeping the news from Diane’s parents who would literally murder me. Literally. Her dad was a murderer, I have no doubt, I could see it in his eyes. But thankfully my dad had no intention of getting his son slaughtered and his mutilated corpse hung from a lamppost in Stockport, and he immediately agreed to keep it quiet.
But once I’d realised I wasn’t going to die, I started feeling hard done by. My dad kept telling Diane that if I asked her to do anything like this in future she should tell me no. But I hadn’t asked her. She’d made all the running. I even spent 30 minutes trying to talk her out of it. In fact, if I’d just jumped on when she wanted me to, I could have had my wicked, inept way with her 12 times in that half hour (I was 14) and still be showered, dressed, and serving tea in the lounge when my mum arrived home.
But here was I, being given a massive dose of crap about it all. And not only that, in my panic I’d forgotten to take my condom off and it was now cold, wet and dribbly in my underpants.
There’s an important lesson for us all here: never ever say no to sex. Never. If it’s offered, accept and begin screwing immediately. Any delay or refusal can have a deleterious effect on your wellbeing.
Now that’s a lesson I’d give to my 14-year-old self!