young loveDo You Remember The First Time?

Do you remember the first time? The time when you looked across a crowded classroom or playground and wham, that annoying lad who used to borrow your rubber and never return it had morphed into Mr Incredibly Gorgeous that you must have at all costs. Annoyingly enough, along with this realisation usually comes a complete inability to string two words together when MIG talks to you and an awful tendency to flush scarlet if he so much as glances in your direction. And if you were anything like me we’re not talking a delicate attractive blush here but angry red splodges all over your face and neck. Teenage love …it’s so unfair.

Since writing My Desperate Love Diary a story about a fifteen year old Glasgow school girl’s love life, or more accurately attempt to get a love life, I’ve often been asked why I wrote about a teenage girl and was the heroine, Kelly Ann, actually based on me?

I have a confession to make here and must tell you that I started getting romantic notions about boys much earlier than Kelly Ann. In fact my first love was, well we’ll call him Danny, a charming cad who sat beside me in primary six. He told me I had nice eyes and that compliment earned him the privilege of copying all my school work for the entire term. Alas our love was not to be as the suspicious teacher eventually moved him to a spot where he could no longer copy my work and his interest in me seemed mysteriously to vanish.

Worse was to follow and I was later transferred to an all girls school where the only members of the opposite sex I came into contact with were two male teachers who were probably especially recruited for their complete lack of looks and charm. Nevertheless like almost every other girl in the school I had an awful crush on them for years. Business people call it supply and demand. In this case the supply was very low and demand very, very high.

Imagine the excitement then when one day a group of muscular construction workers arrived to work on repairs to the school building. We pestered them constantly, climbing up on the scaffolding to get at them, stealing their hammers and chisels to make them chase after us. The poor guys must have been terrified. Our behaviour brought a rebuke from the headmistress who came over the Tannoy to tell us to stay away from the workmen and stop interfering with their ‘tools’. Yes she actually said that.

Despite my sad experience with Danny and the drawback of attending a single sex school, I eventually navigated my way, more or less successfully, through the turbulent waters of adolescence to the relative calm of adulthood. That’s when I became a secondary school teacher and was plunged once more into the world of teenage angst, this time at the receiving end of adolescent moods, tempers and sulks.

So the studious, neatly uniformed girl I used to get on with so well in first year turns up one day wearing eyebrow studs, tatooes and attitude. The happy go lucky third year lad I’d always liked storms out my class swearing because his girlfriend has fallen out with him. Worse, my straight A student is all set to fail her Highers because her boyfriend chucked her two weeks before the exams. Brilliant.

However the good thing about all my professional experience with teenagers was that when my daughter reached that stage I would be able to sail through this period, which other parents have found so difficult, at all times maintaining a fabulously close and trouble free relationship. Yeah right. It’s pathetic I know but for a short time I actually believed that would happen. And they say teenagers are naïve!

Dealing with teenagers is hard but of course it’s not all one way and adults have the ability to exact revenge by make their children cringe. One way to do this is to dance. Any kind of dancing (other than a stately waltz perhaps) will do but Uncle Jack’s John Travolata disco stuff or Mum’s Britney impression are particularly good.

Another sure fire way to embarrass any teenager is to talk about your sex life or the sex life of their middle aged relatives. Casually mention that Aunt Mary is looking marvellous these days now that Uncle George is on Viagra and watch them grab for the sick bag. Or can you imagine how Tony Blair’s sons must feel after he told reporters about his five times a night with Cherie? Poor lads.

Oh yes, as my niece once told me, ‘old people’ shouldn’t dance or have sex. Old people, in case you’re wondering, is anyone thirty or over.

Aspiring authors are often told to write about what they know. So I did. My Desperate Love Diary is a novel about teenage crushes, embarrassments and disasters. It’s also about the antics of teenagers’ teachers and parents because, after all, adults make eejits of themselves as well sometimes.

Whilst the book is primarily aimed at teenagers, females of any age will enjoy it. Remember the times when you lied about your age by pretending to be older (honestly I’m eighteen and I’ll have a vodka and coke thanks) when you examined your face for spots instead of wrinkles and worried about affording the latest must have fashion item rather than how you are going to pay the council tax and it’s bloody well gone up again? Whether these memories were the best, worst, or more than likely, the best and worst of your life you can recapture them with this book.

So do you remember the first time? Could you ever forget?

P.S. – For American readers, “rubber” = “eraser” in the UK, so it’s not what you think!

Do You Remember The First Time? Written by Liz Rettig. A version of this article was published in the Daily Record newspaper on 2nd July 2005.