There’s a woman in my mind. I know her really well. I’ve known her for years and yet I’ve never met her. She’s the me I always thought I would be by now, but she has yet to appear. I’ll tell you about her. She reads The Guardian or The Observer every day and she also has novels on the go; novels that she manages more than 2 pages of before realising she left the sodding central heating switched on and she’ll have to go downstairs to the boiler to sort it because the cost of that would be frightening.
She has a farmhouse kitchen table with a jug of cottagey flowers on. Her children sit here to do their homework, cordially and they remind each other. She has friends over for dinner – she can cook things. She lives with a man who is her equal. He has curly hair and they laugh a lot. He pops to the market at the weekend before they go on a stroll to an antiques fair and walk the dog at the beach. She is respected at work as one of the ‘older but fun’ members of staff and she is paid well enough to buy the scarves from Plumo that she adores. She drives an old Mini, but as a style choice – not out of necessity.
Where is she? I have been expecting her.
Instead, I’ve still got me. I’m 43 – but I’m not. I can’t be. I’m still a total dick.
The situation I’ve been in recently has made me realise that despite the conviction that we are grown ups, it’s pretty obvious that there is a ‘setting’ moment around about the age of 15 and we retain an awful amount of that frozen emotion and carry it through into our adulthood. Along with the music. We also carry the skeletal freeze of that music which will remain the most poignant forevermore.
I have found myself both buoyed by the bliss of the first few dates in London (do you remember the pre-Christmas post about my sister’s single dad mate?) and utterly thrown by the inevitable return to my village, wherein facing the sudden ‘Road to Damascus, I Want You Back’ experience of the Ex (who broke my heart into a thousand splinters) is making me doubt all that I had understood about Life, Love and the Universe.
I am calling friends. I am seeking counsel. I am thrown. I am covering myself in bronzer for a party in Brixton with the fantastic date, and 24 hrs later – weeping over the damage I could do by telling the newly emotional Ex that I have chosen to continue seeing the New Date. I am 15 again. I feel the same things. It is still raw. There is no farmhouse table to comfort me. No Guardian to hide behind. Instead I drink too much wine and listen to torturous heart-wrench on Spotify.
No matter how sophisticated we think we have become, given a recovery from relationship disaster, you too will find yourself defaulting to your teenage days and the prickles, power and pissed-offness of those formative years. You too will baulk at meeting the slimmer, more excitingly-accented ex at the party and accepting that the New Date will still ask her to book the Uber to get you back to his flat. You too will hope that you don’t have to hear about the Ex’s New too soon; because even if you’re happy, that will still be a stab that you will want to avoid.
It all takes you back to the 5th Form. The time when these feelings first crept in and nestled into the deep quilts and thin silks of your heart. These feelings will wrap themselves there and only resurface if you’re unlucky enough to go through the Heartbreak Mill again in your truly adult years – or, if you buy yourself a ticket to go and hear the music of your teenage years…that will do the same thing to your fakely adult soul.
These feelings are forged early on. Our teenage us-es are actually our real us-es.