52% intelligent. 9% modest. More monkey than bear.

Monday, January 17, 2005

I never never want to go home

Ok. Enough talk about politics, music and which computer I'm going to buy.... let's get down to the good stuff.

I've mentioned before that I started attending a boarding school when I was 7 years old. Initially I was only a what's called a "weekly boarder". That meant that I got dropped off at school first thing on a Monday morning, at about 07:30, and stayed at school until after games on a Saturday, when I was picked up by my parents - usually about 16:00. My Saturday evening routine was pretty fixed: home & beefburgers for tea in front of the A-Team. Nice. I didn't get homesick, but I'm not sure that this separation from my parents was entirely a good thing. I've never told a living soul this before, but I went through a phase when I was 11 or 12 of hurting myself intentionally, or of pretending to be ill. I was thinking about this again fairly recently, and wondering why I did that, and I can only think that must have been a cry for some attention, a plea for a little affection.

Anyway, when I was 13, I moved to another school and began to board properly - which is to say that I was dropped off on a Sunday night at the beginning of term, stayed at school until half-term about five or six weeks later, stayed at home for a few days, and then went back to school for the rest of term. Apart from two weekends a term, called"exeats", when we were allowed to go home, that was it. The rest of the time I spent at school.

I'm not sure how familiar you are with British Public School life, so I'll try and explain some of it here, although as I left school in 1992, I may be a bit rusty on some of the details:

As you might expect, the routine at was pretty busy, and very regimented. We generally got woken up at about 07:15 for a roll-call at 07:45, Chapel was at 08:30 and lessons began at 9am. We had lessons from Monday until Saturday. On Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays we had no lessons after lunch, and the time was dedicated to sport, or some other worthy organised activity. On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays we had lessons all the way through to tea at 17:30 (and another roll call). After this roll call, the houses would be "locked down" and you would only be allowed out if you sought permission and signed yourself in and out. Our homework, or "prep", took place in our houses every night after tea, then we would have a final roll-call and then we would pretty much go to bed.

On Sundays we had a lot more time to ourselves, but we still had a routine. Breakfast was an hour later, so we had a lie-in for an hour, but then we usually had to get into our suits to go to chapel. It wasn't until after chapel that we were really free to lounge about and do what we wanted (obviously, we still had to obey the school rules and stay within the school bounds!)

I don't know how that sounds to you, but it actually isn't so bad. It probably doesn't suit everybody, but I got on okay with it. You tend to know exactly where you stand, and as you get older, you work out what you can and cannot get away with. You learn how to stay up as late as you want, where to sneak off to have a pint or a cigarette, and so on... all the little things that help to make the routine a little more bearable as you get older.

We used to eat enormous quantities of food. Here's a typical day when I was in the sixth form:
07:45 Breakfast - sausage, bacon, fried egg, fried bread, baked beans, mushrooms, toast
11:00 Break - a huge turkey and mayo baguette packed out with crisps (from school tuck shop)
12:30 Lunch - a meat pie with veg followed by a pudding with custard
15:30 Break - a piece of cake or coffee and jaffa cakes with Des in his study
18:00 Tea - egg and chips
22:00 Late night snack - a kebab with chips and a coke

Amazing, and yet we got away with it because we were walking several miles a day between lessons as well as taking vigorous exercise (rugby, hockey, cricket, cross-country running etc.) three or four times a week as well as spontaneous games of football on the back lawn after tea. I think you only really start to suffer from this kind of diet when you leave school, go to university, start drinking more beer and doing less exercise.... but I digress.....

As I've said before, there were very few girls at this school, and none in my year until I got to the sixth form. Even then, they were still hugely outnumbered by the boys. It's a weird and extremely artificial environment, and I think it inevitably shapes the way that you interact with women. In fact I would go as far as to say that it damages you. I think it damaged me, anyway. I was really confused when I was about 16. I knew I wasn't gay, I knew I wanted a girlfriend, but I had absolutely no idea how to talk to a woman, nevermind do anything else. As far as I was concerned, they might as well have come from the moon. I suppose it's hardly surprising really. Between the ages of 7 and 17 I had almost no interaction with any girls of my own age. Is it any wonder that when I began to see girls appearing in my A-Level classes, I was at something of a loss about how to talk to them? I'm not a complete moron. I did manage to speak to a few of them, but I don't think I could ever say that in all that time I really befriended any girl whilst I was at school. I just had no idea.

Ridicuously, I prided myself on being "normal" in my approach to the girls - normal in the sense that I felt that I tried to treat them as though they were human beings. The vast majority of my male colleagues seemed to treat them like shit: they existed either to be insulted, ignored, or treated as a sex object (or all three). I hated that, and tried to be different. With hindsight I was probably just occupying the opposite extreme. I still saw women as something "other", but instead of howling abuse at them or complete blanking them at the dinner table, I put them on a pedestal and got all tongue tied when I tried to talk to them. I think I blushed a lot. At least I wasn't being rude (well, not all the time), but they must have thought I was an idiot.

This was tremendously frustrating. I was your average 17 year old guy - which is to say that I was a mass of raging hormones, and I was desperate to get some, um, practical experience as quickly as possible (we talked of not much else, and there were always a couple of guys who came back from their holidays full of boasts about how far they had got with various girls). I just had no experience with girls at all. I think my last girlfriend had been when I was about 6 and had lasted for less than a day. Maybe I'd never got over her....

So. In summary: I was desperate to get a girlfriend and had absolutely no idea how to get one.

This lasted until I was 21 years old and in my final year at university. I have had a couple of long-term relationships since then, including the one I am lucky enough to be in now. I have never once in my whole life worked out how to make a move on a woman. Every relationship I have ever been in has been down to dumb luck or (in the case of C.) persistence in the face of my complete failure to notice her interest. Some of my schoolfriends have not had my luck - at least, not yet.

And I'm still pretty rubbish at talking to girls too.

Or maybe it's got nothing to do with my schooling at all, and women ARE just weird.


  • At 8:53 am, Blogger Jabs said…

    It's not about school and, though women are generally weird, it's probably just 'cos you're a man.

    Out of the hundreds of men I've met in my life, probably 2 of them were confident enough to just blah blah wiggedy blah. The rest were bumbling idiots, most of the time.

  • At 9:29 am, Blogger Aravis said…

    I like the bumblers best. I find them to be endearing. The overly-confident ones who think they have all of the answers, usually don't. *G*

  • At 10:35 am, Blogger Crucifer said…

    I'm in pretty much the same boat myself.

    I went to an all boys school, so I didn't get to meet any women until I left for University at which point I had no idea how to talk to them as well - I do wonder how many of us poor souls are out there...

    I can get on with most women intellectually but I might as well forget about anything to do with romance - although the missus does tell me I'm beginning to get better at it (painful slow steps I might add).

    Last year's Valentines Day for example. The previous year she begged me to send her some flowers even when she explicitly said in the previous conversation of that day that she didn't want any flowers at all.

    "No red roses, they're just a waste of money", she said

    Which to me, sounded like...

    "No red roses, they're just a waste of money"

    but with hindsight now sounds like...

    "I know it's a waste of money but please please please be romantic just for one day of the year and buy me some flowers"

    She didn't say anything about the lack of flowers but...

    Anyway, last year I bought her some red carnations (which I know she likes). I didn't tell I was buying them so it was a very nice and romantic surprise.

    Of course, now she has stepped up her campaign by saying

    "You know last year how you got me some flowers even though I said I didn't want flowers? Well, this year I really don't want you to get me any flowers. Honest to God, they're honestly just a waste of money. They're not romantic at all."

  • At 11:40 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I hear you SwissToni...

    As a fairly shy bloke who went to public school, my first proper interaction with the fairer sex came at University up North, where, to be honest, the more 'outgoing' nature of girls up in that part of the world scared the crap out of me!

    I currently find myself still single and getting more and more worried that the older I get, the less of a clue I seem to have and the less likely it is that i'm going to meet someone. I also find myself haunted by the fact that I've blown the chances of happiness with two girls in particular over the last 7-8 years, and even more haunted that I may have hurt these girls in the process, by virtue of me being a completely clueless and hopeless emotional f**kwit. So, in the meantime, I just continue to be the nicest and greatest person I can to eveyone I meet and hope that a girl will jump on me sometime....how sad is that?

    All this after I have so fortunately have had such huge money spent on my education. It's just not right to be so inept in something that is pretty much the most important part of your life. As a result, public schooling is something that I would never put my children through, if kids were ever to come into the equation...

  • At 12:06 pm, Blogger SwissToni said…

    Anon - hang in there. It happened to me, and I'm sure it can happen for you too.

  • At 12:40 pm, Blogger Lord Bargain said…

    I am categorically useless also but went to a comprehensive school so whilst I agree that your upbringing clearly didnt help, I dont think you can pin it all on that fact.

    the problem with being nice to girls at any age up until about 25 is that they just think you're "nice". It never enters their head that they might actually want to go out with you, you're just "nice". It's like being funny, all women say they look for a sense of humour but all teenage girls couldnt give a rats ass how funny you might be.

  • At 4:32 pm, Blogger Mark said…

    Time changes us. A certain wellknown man once said "belligerent ghouls run manchester schools".

    within ten years it was "the teachers are afraid of the pupils"

    To be finished would be a relief.

  • At 7:49 pm, Blogger B1RDIE Num Num said…

    Hmm. Looking at all of that it suddenly makes sense why you'd pick up the football and run with it. All that angst and frustration builds up and BANG - handball is legal and actually its a new game wot we made up. Bah.

    Seems you got some nice nosh there, and I'll be very honest, I REALLY loved great teachers, and I can't help but think a school like yours is full of them. Right now I am beginning to worry about the future of schooling. I saw an article about the fact that some schools are now allowed to continue interview selection (churchy schools). I quite like that - since almost every other social interaction we embark on is based on some vetting anyway - jobs, clubs, renting a room in a house full of tenants, money lending etc.

    As for your dealings with the lady folk - chill Mr T. No need to worry about a thing.

  • At 1:17 am, Blogger Jay said…

    Just in general, I think men have no idea. Men who have spent their entire lives around women still can't properly behave with them. Most of them somehow are able to attain girlfriends at some point anyway, and that's a testament to the angelic patience of women.

  • At 5:23 am, Blogger Jenni said…

    Not to get joy from your suffering, but it's kind of nice to know that we women are not the only one's who often ponder what the proper interaction is with the opposite sex. I, for one, always fall into the "friend" trap, and I'm not quite sure how to avoid that.

    And, ST, you may be right...women might just be weird (with the many wonderful women reading this right now as the exception, of course) ;)

  • At 5:48 am, Blogger Aravis said…

    Oh, don't rob me of my weirdness Jenni. I rather like it! *G*

  • At 8:55 am, Blogger Damo said…

    Women aren't weird. Women rule. It's people as a collective that can be nuts!

  • At 11:02 am, Blogger YokoSpungeon said…

    Hey Anonymous.

    Your tactic of being nice and waiting for them to jump on you might just prove surprisingly effectual, if you combine it with a meaningful eyebrow raise from time to time.

    Women are weird, well at least I am. Probably best to prepare for being around us in the same way you would to board a Ghost Train.

    I think if you are having trouble, you can do worse that take the Hugh Grant approach. Tell the woman exactly how clueless and vulnerable you feel around her, while looking at her through a soppy fringe. Never fails.

    Anyway, I have already told you too much. The Lady Police are breaking down the door...


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