At the moment I don’t have a proper girlfriend, just a few girls I write to who are friends. I have built up such an attitude towards love in myself that I think unless I meet a girl who ‘meets’ me as such first I will never fall in love. I hope a girl would fall in love with me before I love her otherwise I find myself going crazy with emotions over someone who doesn’t like me. I think that is probably why I try to keep myself respected and manly and tidy so that I meet someone. I always find that a girl makes me try much harder in everything. I hope to meet a girl soon and then I will be able to show you, whoever you are, how I fell in love.
Age 13 year 7 months
I wrote this in my diary in March 1975. I wrote a diary for the best part of 14 years: up to the point when I sat with someone I’d not known that long and in the most convoluted of ways we become engaged.
The diary is a source of many things. It is surprising, in squeezed up micro-entries how much is revealed and what I can remember. My first diary was one of those ‘Five Year Diaries’ with a few lines per day to complete. I completed many years without missing a day.
My interest currently, as I step in the shoes of a teenager, is the mindset of someone age 13-16 on his ‘quest for love.’ What amazes me on reading this back, is how much I have wiped from my memory, that age 16 during frenetic weeks away from boarding school, between the two homes of divorced parents, my circle of female friends stretched from the Channel Islands (Summer Holiday Romance), to Scotland (contacts from a school trip made three years previously), to girls met through school (down the road in the girls school, in town at the girls school, at a national swimming gala) and of course at home through clubs, associations with male friends and the daughters of my mother’s friends.
For a period it was if all sixteen year olds had green skin: we could spot each other anywhere and immediately start a conversation. I met a girl on the Cross Channel Ferry, at tennis and badminton, at rugby club discos, barn dances and drinks parties. I met a girl on the set of ‘King Arthur and the Spaceman.’ I met girls who came over to see what I was drawing.
My default position with all of them once we’d exchanged addresses was the handwritten letter. I could sit down each evening and write letters to eight different girls in an hour or so: that was my homework. I have a substantial collection of bundles of their responses ages 12 upwards. I read them now and wonder if I read them at all at the time: did I collect letters like badges? At boarding school it mattered to me to feel there was someone thinking about me beyond the walls and fells that contained us.
Kissing was practice, was scratching an itch, was fun like bouncing on a trampoline. We ‘did it’ with whomsoever would go along with it.
Hearts were broken one day and mended the following week. Parents could get in the way, or assist. Friends could be supportive, or an immediate challenge. An older brother could steal your latest girlfriend’s heart.
I’m a fool to think there is one story in all of this: there are dozens. Often the only story that can be told is how one person met and fell in love with another. The complexity of teen relationships are too muddled and fast moving to lend themselves to explanation.