If my 17-year-old self thought he was playing a complex game of 3-dimensional chess when it came to girls, the reality was more like wearing a blindfold to play table skittles with a shortened string. I really coudn’t have done worse; would have, in fact, done better by doing nothing.
As requested by Freeloading Georgia, I got Interesting Sarah from the shoe shop a ticket to one of our sixth form parties. And instead of realising that I might stand a chance with Sarah, I wasted energy resenting freeloading and less interesting Georgia, who had secured her own free ticket by acting as a go-between. When I thought about Sarah at all, it was only to think about optics, appearances, and the effect she might have on someone else. And really: the buffoon in the blindfold about to swing and miss at the table skittles thought he was going to be working the room, and using Interesting Sarah to bait and switch several different girls. Bait and switch is probably the wrong term, but I certainly thought I was conning someone, who turned out to be myself.
The venue for the party was a community centre in Dunstable, a bookable hall somewhere behind what had once been the town’s cinema. The music was loud, the lights were low; I don’t remember much else. I was hoping Interesting Sarah would turn the heads of both Helen and Linda, possibly Fiona, Paula, hey why not. Sarah was dynamite.
Linda was a good friend of mine for whom I harboured Feelings, as did, turns out, my best friend John. While I was busy playing the room, John and Linda were busy outside.
My primary interest that night was in what Helen was doing: who was she with, what were they talking about, did she look happy? I was watching her, wanting her to notice me, to see me there. I was a brittle mechanoid, going through the dating ritual hoping all the time that Sarah would draw some attention. She certainly deserved it, and wasn’t getting it from me. Here was a good looking blonde with whom I might be seen. Oblivious to all else, I didn’t notice that maybe, just maybe, Sarah was really, after all, quite interested in me. And there was nothing wrong with her and everything right: she had a hinterland, she really did, though I couldn’t see it at the time. I’ll give her this: we danced: I have never, before or since, danced with a woman. I definitely trod on her toes. She probably didn’t care. We may even, at the close of the song, have kissed. I remember nothing after that moment, except this:
John came in from outside the venue, grinning from ear to ear, and exclaiming with the joy that she had said yes. Who was she?
Linda. John had asked her out, our best friend.
Sarah was forgotten, although that wasn’t quite the end of her story.
Jealousy was my overriding emotion. Jealousy and bitterness, and a sense of disappointment in myself that I hadn’t seen John-and-Linda coming, nor thought of it myself. The truth was, although I’d known her for years, I’d not made much of an effort to get to know her. I was too busy setting up my chess pieces on my imaginary 3-dimensional board, a fifth rate and much less logical Spock.
I knew her first, he knew her better. I remember the surprise I felt when they announced they’d been to see Star Trek: The Motion Picture at the cinema one weekend. Linda liked the Star Trek, it turned out. Meanwhile I’m silently swallowing the big lumpy whine: but I like the Star Trek. The inescapable thought that I might, had I the gumption and the luck, have had a girlfriend who shared at least some of my interests ate away at me. She liked Elvis and 50s rock ’n’ roll, she was beautiful and interesting and hilarious, and I was too busy playing games.
Ask me about my Pick Up Artist seminars. Competitive rates.