Twenty five years ago I did a really bad thing. It was the end of 1982, my first year of primary school: Tron was in the cinemas, Peter Davison was fighting a giant rubber snake on Doctor Who, and I started spending time with a girl called Charlotte Hawkins. That wasn’t the bad thing, it was good. We sat next to each other in assembly, and a couple of times we even held hands. Her haircut wasn’t all that, but neither was mine, and frankly I didn’t care, because she had a nice smile. We hung around together for I’m not sure how long, but it was at least a week, which in kid years is a good six months - happy and carefree, not bothered by property prices or dental fees, and blissfully unaware that before the decade was out the recipe for beef Monster Munch would get badly dicked about with.
Then, one morning in the playground, a few of my peer group took me aside and explained the facts of life. It was no longer acceptable to be friends with a girl, unless she was a blood relative, and even then it would be frowned on. A year before, in infant school, it had been fine, but – seemingly overnight – a collective chemical explosion had gone off in everyone’s brains and it was suddenly apparent that boys and girls were as different as Big Traks and Lolo Balls, and we could never have anything to do with each other again for the rest of our lives.
Slow on the uptake as ever, I’d somehow missed this blinding revelation, but as soon as it was made clear to me that a continued association with Charlotte would turn me into a laughing stock, I resolved to take action. So the next day, when she came to sit next to me in assembly, I pulled a face, folded my arms, announced loudly that “I DON’T TALK TO YOUR KIND
ANY MORE” and shuffled closer to Andrew Winter and Jeremy Strickland, who were boys. Charlotte looked a bit upset, but mostly just confused, then quietly went to sit somewhere else. And I instantly felt wretched. In that split-second I learnt an important lesson:
Winnie Cooper and Paul were growing up and shipping out to Vietnam
peer groups are f*cking idiots. Already drifting apart
Anyway, I’ve been tidying up for the last week, and I found a poem written by Charlotte. It was titled ‘Sunset’. And it starts off pretty bleak:
The sky is yellow
It blinds my eyes
The yellow ball is frightening
I don’t dare look at it.
After that there’s some slightly lighter stuff about fluffy clouds, but then it finishes on another grim note:
Now I can see the black rooftops.
They look like frightening castles
Looming over me.
The only explanation for a seven year old coming out with that kind of thing is obvious: my terrible rejection had crushed her. Almost certainly it must have sent poor Charlotte spiralling into a life of drug abuse and depression. Now in her thirties, forlorn and still bizarrely terrified of the sun, she probably evolved into some kind of Gollum creature, selling bags of glue to the goth kids outside Chichester Cathedral.
Except it turns out this is not exactly
how things panned out. In fact, according to google, she actually evolved into a presenter for Sky News, which is either better or slightly worse than selling bags of glue to goth kids, depending on your point of view. Oh, and apparently her face evolved like this:
Who I will now refer to as 'my ex'
Now a lot of people would just say things like “it’s water under the bridge” or “you did what anybody would do in the situation, don’t beat yourself up about it” or “let bygones be bygones” or “she obviously forgot you and the entire incident by lunch-time” or “I stopped reading this three paragraphs ago”. But I’m a little deeper than most people, and as a result I still feel incredibly guilty about my behaviour. So I say this to all of you: I am now quite happy to be seen holding Charlotte’s hand in public, regardless of what any of you think. Sure, I know she’s a girl, and yes, I know it’s going to make me a pariah and a laughing stock, but I don’t care, because I’m no longer bound by your narrow views on what’s socially acceptable.