TO ALL THE GIRLS I’VE LOVED BEFORE
ON THIS MOST SCARY OF DATING MONTHS, NEIL HUMPHREYS REMINISCES ABOUT HIS LOVE LIFE THUS FAR.
On this most scary of dating months, Neil Humphreys reminisces about his love life thus far.
his column began with a domestic row. As usual, my wife and I were bickering over something ridiculously banal and puerile after I did something equally childish. Shoving my iPhone under her nose, I shouted: “You see that pretty woman there. She just started following me on Twitter. I don’t know who she is, but I bet she wouldn’t scream at me for not putting the margarine on the right shelf in the fridge.”
With a hollow laugh, my wife replied: “Be my guest. Ask her to sleep with you. I’m sure she dreams of sleeping with a malnourished OIive Oyl.” There was no need for the Olive Oyl reference. But the argument, my sarcastic wife, the mysterious brunette in the Twitter photo and my battered ego got me thinking about the women who’ve stepped in and out of my narrative; who influenced, seduced and dumped me (there was a lot more dumping than seducing).
I’m still captivated and cowed by women. Like a malleable mould of soft clay, I’ve been shaped almost entirely by female figures. Some nipped, tucked and pruned. Others hacked away at me with a parang. Some were benign. Some were ballsy. And some removed my balls with a blunt instrument.
I learned life lessons from them all – the first of which came from Miss Fluin. She had long, silky hair and always wore the tightest jeans. She was my first crush. She was also my nursery school teacher and I was only four years old, but I’ve always felt that age is just a number. She taught me how to read and write, and explained why it’s never appropriate behaviour to drop your underpants and show off your “dongle” in class. That life lesson is just as valuable today as it was when I was four.
Most of all, she instilled in me a deep, respectable appreciation for flowing hair blowing gently against skin- tight jeans. Such a simple sartorial look still turns my head. The long hair and the tight trousers recall the innocent beauty of my first teacher. They also make me think of Russell Brand. That part disturbs me.
So, to escape the vision of a Cockney comedian, I picture my first kiss from Kelly. Now, Kelly believed in feminism. She was not willing to be shaped by the archaic rules of social convention and outdated institutions imposed by selfserving patriarchs. She’d go her own way: She’d kiss as many boys as possible.
I know I wasn’t the first boy in class she kissed, but at least I wasn’t the last. She taught me how to kiss romantically – like Elisabeth Shue did with Ralph Macchio in the original KarateKid – it was all about breath control. By the end of our brief liaison, she had given me the selfbelief to kiss other girls while she developed the ability to scuba dive without an oxygen tank. But she gave me selfconfidence for which I’ll be eternally grateful.
First loves do that. Kelly certainly did… for nine whole seconds. I floated for an entire week, until I learned that Larry had kissed Kelly for an oxygen- defying 17 seconds. Some 25 years have since elapsed. I’m still not over it.
As I got older, I went through the usual phases, genres and cliches with the opposite sex. As a young man stricken with the mind-bending effects of puberty, I grappled with the naive, hopeful and alwayslustful expectations of what I thought my girlfriends could and should be.
Lost in a hormonal whirlpool of horny teenage hell, I believed every woman should resemble my pneumatically endowed French teacher. She spoke in French. Her chest wobbled a lot when she spoke. Teenage dreams are made of nothing else.
For a while, she made me fixate on the superficial – all right, I became utterly obsessed with cleavage – and it was not helpful. I became shamefully shallow, interested only in women from the neck down. And when I did meet women who shared similar interests – such as the importance of cleavage and fake suntans – we ended up having little else in common. It turned out I really was interested in women from the neck up.
That’s when I moved into my early adult phase of rabble-rousing militant politics, an unshaven appearance, long black coats and the most belligerent of Dr Martens boots.
That wasn’t me; those were the women I hung around with in university. We were going to start a revolution in our beds. We quoted Marx. We protested against grubby multinational corporations. We stayed up all night listening to Nirvana. We didn’t bath very much.
We shared our idealistic hopes for a political utopia. We shared our manifestos. We shared our deodorants. And I loved and learned from them all.
And then I met a combination of the two. She had long hair and was beautiful. But she also shared a deep compassion for the less fortunate and had an opinion on everything.
Recently, I asked her why one of my recent books hadn’t sold as many copies as an earlier title. “Because it’s crap,” she said.
Her life lessons are always grounded in reality. She still teaches me how to be myself. But if she thinks I’m putting the margarine on a different fridge shelf, she’s got another thing coming.
“AND WHEN I DID MEET WOMEN WHO SHARED SIMILAR INTERESTS SUCH AS THE IMPORTANCE OF CLEAVAGE AND FAKE SUNTANS, WE ENDED UP HAVING LITTLE ELSE IN COMMON.”
“I’M STILL CAPTIVATED BY WOMEN. LIKE A MOULD OF SOFT CLAY, I’ VE BEEN SHAPED ALMOST ENTIRELY BY FEMALE FIGURES.“