Friday, October 12, 2012

1984: I ain't missing you at all

It's more than halfway through the autumn term, 1984, and it's all going swimmingly well at university. I was now in the process of ditching most of the friends I'd made in the early days and moving onto a new group who were much more fun. It wasn't proving to be too tricky as everyone was doing it, but there was one sticking point: that girlfriend 'back home'.

To be honest I was never that into her. She was a friend of my old boarding school room mate from his home town, about 18 months younger than me. She was cute, amusing and we were both really into music. But I didn't actually consider her a romantic prospect. We'd kind of been thrown together in the early summer during our disco days, when I was staying with a friend in London pre-Bahrain, and she was coming up a lot and we were going out in the West End and having a lot of fun. We fell into each other and kind of carried it on, despite me being off the scene for a few months. Was there something in this after all? No.

I'd started the term off going back there every weekend, ostensibly to see her but in reality much more looking forward to meeting up with my old school friends and other hangers on at this room mate's mum's place, a sprawling farm in the Sussex countryside. We'd use it as a base and take it from there. With girlfriend being around she was more often than not an irritation. She wasn't childlike as such, but she seemed unworldy, rather prudish and frankly a bit square. I realised I had no real feelings for her at all. I'm ashamed to say I didn't think twice about cheating on her when I got to university. I felt no pangs of guilt whatsoever.

She wrote me letter after letter, we spoke at least twice a week if not more and I saw her most weekends. We went to her friends' parties, and one engagement party (I know, at that age) we attended Missing You was the song of the night. I sang the 'I ain't missing you at all' line to her face. Unfortunately I wasn't joking. She laughed it off. But it said it all.

October saw her 18th birthday arrive and she was having a black tie dinner party - at 18! I had no idea this meant tuxedos. I thought it just meant you had to wear a black tie. The look on her face when I turned up in a check shirt and black tie was a picture. Who was this oik? I'd also not bought her a present. It hadn't even occurred to me to do so. What sort of boyfriend was I? A bad one, that's what sort.

As the term went on and those weekends became one in two then about one a month, things were changing. I wanted my life and my weekends with my student mates, not spending dull days and nights with a schoolgirl in a ski jumper and pearls. But I didn't have the heart to dump her. I found anything like that far too heavy and laced with huge amounts of guilt, so to save myself I usually ended up being the one who was dumped. It was far less painful. So on it dragged.

The night before I was flying out to Bahrain for Christmas we stayed at a friends house in London. I had to be up at the crack of dawn to catch my plane. As I crept out in the still dark morning to get into my taxi I saw her vintage (or second-hand, as we called it back then) tweedy old man's overcoat hanging on the end of the banister. I took of my jacket and swapped it with hers. I left for hot climes wearing something that was not only completely inappropriate, but not mine.

A week or so later a letter arrived, furious. How could I have done such a thing? What did I need an overcoat for in the Middle East, etc., etc. We needed to talk.

On my return we met up for this talk, and to my relief, she dumped me. Saved me a job. I never saw her again.

I know now that I was incredibly emotionally immature and selfish, toying with a young girl's heart like that. It was kind of cruel. I should have had the courage to not let things spiral just because I couldn't face confrontation. But that was me back then. Lessons have been learned.

I don't miss that at all.


  1. What a piece, I can relate in so many ways. I know I always ask - but, have you Googled or had a Facebook peep for her?

  2. Oh, what a tale. I love the 'black tie' and the coat-swapping especially...
    I didn't go to Uni so I never had that experience but heard of some similar ones from those I knew who did. (Have you ever read Andrew Collins' 'Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now' by the way? - His descriptions of the transition from home to uni life and all the girlfriend dilemmas are great too.)

  3. Ah teenage relationships, so carelessly flung on and off again like, well, an overcoat. All that emotional lability is a sure-fire recipe for highs that can never be equalled, and lows that can never be comfortably remembered.

    Maybe she'll come across this post, read it, smile ruefully and forgive you. Or maybe it'll reignite all the pain and rage and she'll slash your car tyres while you sleep.