“You should have married Hugh.” If Polly said it once, she said it a thousand times. “He was such a lovely boy, was Hugh...” And because Hugh is going to pop up a few times in this ongoing narrative, I’d better introduce him properly.
Not that there was anything proper about my own introduction to Hugh. We met just weeks after the incident with Kevin of ill-repute. I’d gone with some of my workmates to an open air rock concert and I was pissed as a newt. (I took up whiskey, you may recall, in the aftermath of the Kevin incident.) I was busy throwing up in the middle of a field and getting it everywhere, when Hugh appeared out of nowhere, took off his shirt and gave it to me to wear. Not quite Sir Walter Raleigh laying down his cloak in a puddle so Elizabeth wouldn’t get her feet wet, but close, really close.
No-one has given me the very shirt off their back since, so perhaps Polly was right. Perhaps I should have married Hugh after all, especially as he’s now a very successful divorce lawyer. “I cast asunder that which God hath put together,” is how he described it when last we spoke. It’s an occupation that bothers his Catholic conscience, although not enough to stop doing it.
Everybody loved Hugh – not just Polly. Aside from being gallant, he was charming, good-natured, funny, and if that wasn’t enough, he was good-looking too. I was to discover, however, that the fact that everyone loved Hugh was not quite the advantage it might sound. A bit like the Beatles, he attracted great crowds, and wherever we went, we were surrounded by Hugh-fans, all jostling to get a bit closer to his radiant presence.
Those intimate dinners for two would degenerate into noisy, overflowing parties with Hugh’s followers turning up in numbers (“No of course I didn’t invite them...I’ve no idea how they found out where we were going...”). Once when we went on a romantic getaway, and I thought we were going to escape them all at last, the trip somehow turned into a five car convoy.
But it wasn’t Hugh’s popularity that killed our romance. What killed it was a fatal character flaw: he lied like a fish. Not dirty great black lies, but lies of a more insidiously harmful nature, little white lies motivated by the noble desire not to hurt anyone. The trouble with lies, whatever their colour and however noble their motivation, is that they do end up hurting people, and they destroy trust in the process. And once trust is gone, well you might as well pack up and go home. Which is what I did. Thus I come full circle to the conclusion that I was right not to marry Hugh after all. As the great Edith Piaf put it: Je regrette rien.
So what about you? How did your first experiences of Love and Romance unfold?
I fear that my early attempts at romance will make me seem even more pitiful and whiny than the recollections of my parents. But you have asked, and I can't resist a good sob story, so here I go... anyway...
There was a song on the radio by the Little River Band called 'The Lonesome Loser' while I was going through that difficult but magical time when boys start noticing curves and puffy lips. "Have you heard about the lonesome loser?" it taunted, "Beaten by the queen of hearts every time. Have you heard about the lonesome loser? He's a loser but still keeps on tryin'." It wasn't a great song, and certainly not very memorable, but those lyrics are seared into my brain because I swear that stupid band was describing my love life.
My first real crush was a cowgirl by the name of 'Betty Joe'. (I never experienced anything beyond a crush until my mid-twenties, but I have so many sob stories before then that I have to share at least one!) Betty Joe was a horse riding goddess with blonde hair and blue eyes. She wore cowboy boots, a cowboy hat, and had a butt inside those tight denim jeans that would make any boy entering puberty turn to mush. I met her the same year my brother introduced me to pot. We bought our 'farm' from her father. The first time I met her was when she and her father were taking my father and I on a horse-back tour of the 90 acres where I would soon grow the best homegrown marijuana in the area.
The two parents rode horses. Betty Joe took her favorite barrel racing pony, which was nearly the size of a horse, while I got stuck riding 'Sandy'. Sandy was a short, fat brown pony that was "unusually small for her breed." When I sat on this sausage of a pony, my legs stuck straight out and the stirrups flopped around, much like my head, as Sandy bounced along. Think a thirteen-year-old Sancho Panza and you get the picture.
The land we explored was old strip-mining land, full of steep hills, and scrub trees. After about an hour of traversing through dense underbrush, we started down a very steep hill. Suddenly, my saddle began moving faster than Sandy. It slid up her neck, while I continued on over her head and into the butt of Betty Joe's father's horse. The offended mare promptly bucked him off, while I landed safely in a patch of briers.
Mr. Horse-goddess stood up and dusted himself off, while my father and the girl of my dreams nearly wet themselves with laughter. I looked up and saw that Sandy was now wearing her saddle across her round chest like a Victoria's Secret leather bustier. For the next ten minutes, they all had a good time chuckling and cracking jokes, while I sat and dug all of the briers out of my hair and clothes. They said that it was because of Sandy's girth and her gate, (the saddle had come loose on it's own) but I've often wondered if I had been set-up for a fall. It was Betty Joe who had saddled my steed.
I didn't let a little thing like mortifying embarrassment stop me. I continued to pursue those jeans for at least another year. I even wormed my way into a friendship with the horse-goddess (it helped that we bought all but one of their horses). But, a girl like Betty Joe could have her choice of any of the farm-fed teen-age boys in the area, and a skinny little city-boy like me never stood a chance. I ended up sitting for hours at a time, while I listened on the phone to her complain about how all of her boyfriends only wanted to get in her pants. I suppose I should have been a better friend, and helped her through those times, but I was as hormone driven as the guys she was dating, which made me start to regret ever offering up my ear. She went on to drop out of school to have a baby at sixteen and I went on to have my heart ripped out by several other girls. But I will never forget the horse-goddess and how a fat little pony gave me a lesson in humiliation.
You will have to wait until next week to find out how what not to do if your child gets busted for drugs at school. I've used up all my words for the week and need to sign-off.