Tag Archives: growing up

On first kisses, worst kisses, transience, and being a hurricane in the form of a girl

My first kiss was also my worst kiss. I was at a school disco at the tender age of 14, dressed in a beige Pocahontas-style fringed top that my mother had decided was the height of fashion, when a slightly gossipy overly-enthusiastic friend approached me to ask if I would ‘pull her mate’. As a late bloomer, I was insecure about my flat-chested, awkward tiny frame, thick dirty blonde hair and rabbit teeth, so I jumped at the opportunity to experience my first kiss and become more like the super glamorous curvaceous teenage girls surrounding me, who smoked, said ‘shit’ and drank Bacardi Breezers on the weekend. One of them had asked me on that same night if I remained a ‘VL’. For anyone who didn’t grow up on the west coast of Scotland in the early 2000s, ‘VL’ was teenage slang for ‘Virgin Lips’, and was definitely a state with which one did not aspire to be associated.

I walked to the centre of the dancefloor where my acne-ridden bespectacled beau awaited me. We’d never exchanged two words but he was in the year above me at school so I believed this made him a mature choice for my first kiss. There was no physical attraction on my part, being an undeveloped 14 year old with confusing lesbian leanings, who was pretty convinced that Heath Ledger’s character in ’10 Things I Hate About You’ was the only male worth pursuing. Nonetheless, it was now or never, so I nervously approached the pale nerdy teenager standing before me. My confusion about not knowing what to do was quickly assuaged when he clamped his larger than average jaw around my mouth and proceeded to dart a cold wet tongue in and out of my mouth, disarming me completely. After thrusting his tongue repeatedly at me, the young man would pause and allow me to move my tongue nervously around his mouth. I’m not sure how long the kiss lasted for, but all eyes were upon me, and it felt like the longest moment of my life.

The next day, gossip followed me through the hallways – the quiet geeky girl had kissed a fourth year, and this was shocking news. Even my Maths teacher asked me about my encounter, and then commented in an amused tone that she didn’t know I had it in me. Despite my misgivings about all this attention, I definitely changed in the eyes of my peers that day. From then onwards, I was no longer simply the weird short skinny girl who spent suspicious amounts of time in the library – I had a name, I was a viable option for boys to admire, and this attention was amplified over the course of the following two years, as I developed larger than average breasts, dyed my hair blonde and started wearing pleated mini skirts to school.

Having found my first kiss to be somewhat of an anti-climax, I ignored boys for about a year after this encounter, until I met A. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, A was probably the most beautiful guy I’d ever seen up close in my short life. With high feminine cheekbones, striking eyes and a ponytail, he was just the right mix of masculine and feminine qualities that stirred up feelings in me I didn’t know I could feel. We went on our first date in town with his friend as a third wheel, before going back to A’s house. When he walked me to his close door, we paused inside the flat building and he kissed me deeply and passionately. It was everything I’d dreamed that my first kiss would be, except it wasn’t my first. It didn’t matter though – by all standards that mattered, A was my first love. We had a perfect four month long love affair and, looking back, I honestly believe that at only fifteen, he was one of the loveliest men I would ever date.

After A, there came many others, but none of them made my heart flutter as he once had, so I convinced myself that he was the one and I’d made a mistake ending our relationship. Over the coming years, I became addicted to chasing these beautiful transient moments with strangers, friends and partners, trying to replicate the magic of the first time.

As the years passed, so did many short-lived flings, one night stands, and messy long-term relationships. I was always searching for something. I kissed bad boys in dark corners, played with strangers in alleyways, and told boyfriends my deepest darkest desires as we smoked cigarettes in the middle of the night. I became obsessed with transience, convincing myself there was no greater joy than in a single moment, and that these moments must be constantly interspersed with reality to make it more bearable.

In every relationship I entered, I thought that we needed to tell each other everything that had come to pass in our lives. The words would come spewing out, and I would reveal too much too quickly. After a couple of months, the relationship would blow up in flames, because that intensity cannot be maintained long-term. If I didn’t feel an immediate connection with people, I dismissed them as not worth my time. Club nights became like gold to me, as I could interact with many people in a setting where alcohol was readily available, allowing us to talk frankly and honestly. I stopped caring about ‘real world’ issues like money, university and work, because I believed that the secret inner life of people was more compelling and relevant than paying bills on time.

I’d always thought of my intensity and passion as being endearing traits. I thought of myself as ‘not like other girls’; more compelling, more honest and mysterious. The men I slept with told me they’d never met anyone like me, someone who felt everything so deeply and threw themselves into everything full force. Around the time before I started dating my now husband, I fell for a guy who told me I was too intense and he couldn’t handle it. This hurt my feelings, and I spent some time reflecting on whether there was truth in what he’d said. It seemed to me that I was caught between two extremes. Men would either become obsessed with me, begging me never to leave, gripping me in the night in fiery passion, or they’d run away frightened. It was the same with my friends – I’d make what I thought were deep, intense connections with people, and then they’d tell me they couldn’t handle my force of personality, and cut me out of their lives. I began to beat myself up, believing that I was messy, intense and unlovable in the long-term. I told myself I was the type of woman who people loved in the short-term, but not worthy of any long-term commitment.

In around 2010, I found some new friends, who took me seriously and listened to me when I spoke. They were interested in the things I had to say, not just my physical actions, and this completely revolutionised the way I thought about myself. My passion, my intensity, my sexuality, these were all factors of who I am, but they didn’t define me. I wasn’t a one dimensional character in a quirky rom-com who the main character ditches for someone more stable but less interesting. I was a complex being with thoughts, and I was fluid and changeable.

When I had my first kiss with my now husband in 2010, I knew for sure that this was love, true love, and not the superficial transient love I had relentlessly pursued for years. The kiss was simple and magical; as we stood at my flat door, full of red wine and optimism, I politely asked him, ‘Will you kiss me please?’ and nervously glanced at the floor. Gently, he placed his fingers under my chin, tilted my head towards his, and gave me the tiniest, sweetest kiss of my life. I knew in that moment that love didn’t need to be rushed, and it didn’t need to be destructive or painful to feel good. Over the time in which we dated, I kept expecting the relationship to become codependent and destructive. I kept expecting him to turn me into his ideal pixie dream girl, and was repeatedly surprised when he treated me like an actual human being. If I made a mistake, he didn’t lose all faith in me or fall out of love with me, because he wasn’t under any illusions that I was anything but a human being.

I still love the thrill of the chase, in all aspects of my life, and I really do believe there is magic in human connection. I still enjoy the odd moment when life seems to have paused and, to paraphrase that wonderful young adult novel, ‘The Perks of Being a Wallflower’, in that moment, you feel infinite. I still have days with my husband where everything feels perfect and magical, and like we are falling in love for the first time, and I have moments with friends where we bond so deeply, or laugh so hard we cry, that I realise we are all connected on this planet. When humans are young, we tend to think the world revolves around us alone, but I think it is extremely important, as a human being, as a vegan, as an environmentalist, and a humanist, that I, and those around me, respect our space on this earth, and those beings around us who occupy their own space. The world is not ours; we’re just living in it.

laurencows

x L x

P.S. I’m collecting first kiss stories! I’d love to hear yours!

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Tis the season of guilt and shame

I’m a big believer in second chances. Having made a lot of silly drunken mistakes in my teens and early twenties, I understand what it’s like to cause destruction and hurt in your quest for self-discovery, so I always like to give people the benefit of the doubt when they act like assholes. This extends to giving friends and family second, third, fourth and fifth chances even when they have hurt me beyond repair. Over the last few years, I believe my friends have come to rely on my high levels of patience and tolerance, to the point where people occasionally take advantage of my kind nature. It was in around 2009, when the long-term bully I had called my best friend for eighteen years sent me endless text messages of outright abuse in a disproportionate reaction to some journal entries I had posted that mentioned her name, and I came to the realisation that I had to develop thicker skin.

In the months following my fall-out with my toxic ex best friend, I was an utter mess, crying constantly and torturing myself with an endless cycle of guilt and shame, going over and over every mistake I’d ever made during the years of our friendship, telling myself that I was the cause of her inappropriate behaviour. This all happened five years ago, and at nearly twenty-nine, I am older and wiser now, still tolerant and patient, but less willing to stand for abuse and bullying of my friends or myself. I told myself that I had moved on from my self-loathing guilt spiral, and that I could take anything the universe threw at me. I was wrong.

The winter season in Scotland, and around the world, is a difficult time for many people. I suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and find the long dark nights utterly torturous, as I’m starved for just a slither of sunlight to bring me out of my dark moods. I invested in a SAD lamp a few years ago, and while it hasn’t entirely cured my seasonal depression, it does offer a little boost on the darker days. That said, Christmas brings additional stress that I always forget to account for when November hits, and I’m only ever reminded when I’m sitting crying on my husband after my family’s annual festive argument. It’s easy for me to get distracted by the shiny lights and cheery music, forgetting that Christmas is always a difficult time for families and friends.

Just when I thought I had it all figured out this year, the universe threw me a curve ball, and I reverted to my old cycle of guilt and shame. A friend of twelve years behaved inappropriately at a social event at my house, and was asked to leave, to which she reacted by sending me a barrage of personal messages that drew attention to all of my past errors in judgment, and essentially told me that my other ex friend had it right about me – that I was a cold and uncaring person who would never maintain a long-term friendship.

I slipped back into my old habits, reiterating the toxic thoughts that had haunted me constantly five years ago – ‘I’m a toxic and damaging person, undeserving of love’; ‘Sooner or later everyone will see my inadequacies and leave me for good’. Of course, this meant that when my family’s annual festive argument occurred, my defences were down, and the cruel words hurled around the room cut me deeply, leaving me believing that I couldn’t trust anyone.

A week later, I came home from work to a Christmas card and a cat calendar that my fearfully strong grandparents had posted through my front door. I’d been beating myself up for a week, worried that my family had all turned against each other, and that I would be left spending the entire festive season with my husband and cat, but my family had all but forgotten the drunken bickering, and was ready to move on.

We cannot choose our families, but we can choose who we allow into our hearts, who we forgive and who we move past in life. For so long, I’ve been desperate to please everybody in my life, and never once did I consider if they were a worthy source of my worry. The Dalai Lama tells us to, ‘Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible’, and he is absolutely correct in this assertion, but it’s important to note that kindness does not equal weakness, and that sometimes relationships fall apart despite our best efforts.

We are constantly evolving beings, and the people who remain in our lives long-term are often those who respect our evolution, willing to move on from our past misdemeanours as they realise we have learned and grown from these experiences. Too often, the people who have been in our lives for the longest want to keep us in little labelled boxes, and they fixate on who we were five, ten or twenty years ago, rather than the people we’ve become. Families are particularly talented at this unwillingness to see our self-growth, but it can also happen with long-term friends and partners.

This Christmas, I recommend that everybody tries to avoid making assumptions of their loved ones’ behaviour and reactions. We are all learning and growing every single day that we are on this incredible planet, and it’s okay for people to grow out of certain behaviours and friendships. You have an opportunity to be kind and forgiving this festive season – don’t let it go to waste.

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The Drunk Girl in the Short Skirt

I learned early on in life that I didn’t fit into a specific clique or group. From childhood, I was a loner, spending my afternoons hiding in my bedroom with Judy Blume books and imagining friends. My parents never had cause to worry, laughing my shyness off because I was clever and hardworking.

When I reached adolescence, I felt myself wanting a sense of belonging. I was part of a big group of goths, nerds and misfits, yet still I felt like the spare part. My girlfriends were tall, well-built, dark and aggressive. I was little and skinny, with dirty blonde hair, and I found myself quite without a sense of identity. I dressed in dark colours and covered my eyes in kohl eyeliner pencil as a defence mechanism; my attempt at a ‘fuck you’ to the more popular skinny blonde girls who seemed to be naturally in possession of an effervescent temperament and presentable appearance.

When I was sixteen, I dumped my goth boyfriend for an older, cooler guy from my Drama club. For months after, the popular girls were gossiping about me. I felt like a celebrity, strutting down the hallway, in my knee length purple PVC trenchcoat and matching Dr. Martens. Before long, I had scored a leading role in the school play, and found some new friends in the Drama kids. For the first time in my life, other students were talking to me, and looking up to me as a talented and fashionable individual. I developed a strong eye for colour, dyed my hair pillarbox red, and wore brightly coloured eccentric outfits.

Again, I found myself trapped between two social groups. I suddenly gained more friends, much to the envy of my group of misfits, yet I didn’t feel trendy enough to hang out with the drama crowd. The atmosphere with my old group of friends had become tense, with them simultaneously resenting me for my new-found popularity, and choosing not to forgive me for breaking the heart of the cute goth boy everyone fancied.

Not long after, my boyfriend dumped me in a Burger King booth, in full view of our Drama club friends. Guilty and confused, I turned to vodka, and became a walking cliché. I would go to parties with my friends from school, all dolled up in 50s style skirts and heels, then end the night on the floor crying over the boy who didn’t love me. When my friends tired of my drunken antics, I began partying with some of the more trendy kids from school. I found a pink cord miniskirt on sale in a high street store and made it my signature clubbing piece, which I would wear with tiny pink boob tubes and chunky heels. I snuck into an over 18s nightclub that didn’t care about letting in under-agers, and danced with boys I didn’t know. I’d make out with random guys on the dancefloor without bothering to learn their names, and never see them again. Despite being a virgin at 17, I quickly gained the reputation of school slut, with the school captain drunkenly mumbling to me in a nightclub, ‘I heard you put out a lot.’

For the first time in my life, I had an identity. People talked about my behind my back. Boys would come to me if they were lonely, and I’d make out with them for a while then never call them. My old goth friends from school encouraged me; if one had a friend who fancied me, I’d be bullied into fooling around with them. Afterwards, these friends would call me a slut behind my back and tell me I’d embarrassed myself.

And so it was that a large proportion of my life was spent being the drunk girl in the short skirt. When I went to University, I allowed my reputation to follow me. The truth was that I was frightened of losing my identity and needing to start afresh, so I went on a spree, cheating on boyfriends with anyone who was available, then dumping them because I didn’t want to be chained down. I was addicted to thrills. I drank excessively, most nights, and took drugs every weekend. I surrounded myself with self-destructive people who encouraged my hedonism. Every night was a new adventure, and anything could happen. Over time, my self-indulgence took its toll, and I became worn out and depressed, feeling that nothing in my life was real; everything was transient; the magical moments I spent with people ended, and they went back to their real lives, while I continued to play the party girl.

In 2008, I moved away to Manchester to work, and lived in a small village with my father, where I was constantly isolated. Partying wasn’t an option most of the time, so I was forced to face up to my insecurity and loneliness. I like to think of my time spent in Manchester as my year in rehab.

Upon returning to Glasgow the following year, I was invited to the party of an old acquaintance who I had always wanted to get to know better, so I decided to go along to try and make some new friends. I wore a black steel-boned corset, frilly red skirt with black lace, knee-high stripy socks and biker boots. Used to being the centre of attention, I was self-conscious amongst this new group of friends, and spent a lot of the night in the corner with those I knew best, drinking wine. I spotted the guy who had invited me from the other side of the room, and fell in love there and then. I had the urge to get closer to him, but he was surrounded by friends, and without my old friends vodka and ecstasy, I was shy and disarmed.

As I hadn’t drunk for most of the previous year, I got tipsy quickly. Pretty soon I got talking to a guy I knew, who had allowed me to pass out on him at parties in the past. It was apparent I was quite drunk, and he was encouraging me to keep drinking. He lifted up my little red tutu and put his hands all over my ass with no invitation to do so. Suddenly, the guy who’d invited me was there, blocking this creep from touching me, offering me a non-alcoholic beverage, and chatting to me like we’d been real friends forever. When we left the party, I told him I fancied him, but rather than jumping into bed with me, as so many had done in the past, he gave me a fiver, bundled me into a taxi and told me to get home safe. That man is now my husband.

After that night, everything changed. I found a group of friends who saw through my masquerade, realising that I was intelligent, capable and in possession of skills that extended to more than drinking and shagging. As I moved into my late twenties, I found a sense of calm that had always been missing, and for the first time in my life, felt content with my life.

I look back on my teens and early twenties as a hazy blur, fuelled by a strong desire for experimentation and a search for an identity that was never lost. I occasionally catch up with old friends from that time period, only to find that they are still seeking the party girl, and haven’t realised she has evolved. They joke that they cannot believe I am in a committed, monogamous marriage, or look surprised when I order a Diet Coke.

Some days I think I have lived a thousand lives, and other days are a fresh start. I now surround myself with people who bring out my best, rather than my worst, and I finally feel like my life has meaning. When the weight of my history begins to get me down, I try to remind myself that my experiences do not define who I am today, or who I will be tomorrow.

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