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.