Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Strange meeting

Last night I went for dinner and drinks with my friend Emma. We must have looked an odd couple in the cool Soho bar, both equally out of place among the stilettoed and quiffed posers. I had come straight from work - minimal make up, hair in a ponytail, quiet air of exhaustion; she had come up from Kent, where she works as a piercer, and was sporting a different kind of uniform - dreadlocks, denim skirt and footless tights, tasteful niobium piercings in her cheeks, nose and lip.

We must have looked like complete opposites, me City-smart and her Hoxton-trendy. The only clues that we were once the same were the ears - we both have stretched earlobes, mine an almost-unnoticeable centimetre, hers a more extravagant couple of inches.
We first met aged 17, in Worcester, a place which demonstrates amply Morrissey’s small-town lament: every day was like Sunday, every day was silent and grey. It is alleged that in the four or so years since I left, Worcester has improved immeasurably. I find this very hard to believe.

We were both looking for a way out - I was counting the days until university, when I could shed my Convent school friends, with their alice bands and narrowmindedness. We ended up meeting through friends who ran a tattoo and piercing shop (now sadly defunct).

I loved that place, loved the people - loved particularly the fact that they were different, they didn’t care. I met my first real boyfriend there, a 21-year-old who had at least ten jobs in the course of our nine-month relationship, who lived with a paedophile, had a child-killer for an uncle, and proposed to me to end an argument he couldn’t win. We broke up two weeks before I left for Oxford.

Emma met someone too, an American piercer. And when I left for university, she escaped too - by moving to America and marrying him. By the time I graduated, having shed the piercings, the pink hair and, it must be said, the world-owes-me-a-living attitude I’d adopted with them, she was back in Britain, a divorcee at 21.

I expected that meeting her would make me feel sad and boring, having given up my attempt at non-conformity pretty easily in the face of financial and career blandishments. But as we sat together reminiscing, I realised that I hadn’t changed that much. That angry 17-year-old might now be buried until several coats of adult veneer, but she’s still there, but tamed now. More than that, I realised that the only things which have really moulded me have been my mistakes - the wrong man, the wrong job, the wrong thing to have said or done.

That cheered me up. The only thing worse than having to be a grown-up would be having to be that teenager again, with all those hard lessons left to learn.


Anonymous Claire said...

A ponytail?? Have you grown your locks? I can't imagine you with long hair. Also I forgot you were from Worcester, I accidentally know hordes of people from that part of the world.

Anyway, am likely to be in London the next three weekends if you want to squeeze in a drink?

11/30/2005 10:26 pm  
Blogger galatea said...

ah yes. i am now sporting shoulder-length brown hair, in the racy "Rachel"-style so popular in the late 90s.

drink awesome - this weekend?

and the more people from worcester you put me in contact with, the less time i have to spend with my family at christmas. gold.

11/30/2005 11:34 pm  
Blogger Ramification said...

I had a similar experience when I went back to Toronto this year. Seeing old friends made me realize how much I didn't want to be that young again !

12/01/2005 2:23 pm  
Anonymous zeno said...

Agreed, I quite like peering out on the world from my middle-aged tower and relishing the fact that I made it this far.

Feeling like the supercharged but brainless 17 year old that I was, but acknowledging that I wouldn't make exactly the same mistakes in exactly the same way.

No, my forty odd years have given me much more creative ways of screwing up and without the excuse of youthful bluster.

NB "Blandishments"? I think I love you!

12/02/2005 1:51 pm  
Blogger galatea said...

well, everyone loves a blandishment. better than an incentive by miles!

12/02/2005 4:08 pm  

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