Sunday, 16 February 2014

Water under the bridge

During a food technology class in year 8, a guy called Mark asked me what I thought of Panayiota.

I should probably start with context - so I know what you're going to ask. Yes, food technology. My school didn't do what's commonly referred to as "home economics" (cooking); we took three technologies (resistant materials, textiles and food), up until year 9. For GCSEs we had to choose one of three, or design, as an alternative. I took food technology as a GCSE - but this happened in year 8, so we took all three.

Mark wasn't a friend, but he wasn't a nemesis either. He was a little guy, but kind of tough; he wasn't the sort of person I'd hang around with. But I had no ill will towards him, and I wouldn't think he towards me either. But it was the way that he approached me with a "you can trust me" that, with hindsight, predates David Cameron's similar rhetoric with about as much sincerity that put me on my guard. I was about 13 at this point, and was fixated on one specific girl.

Panayiota was a girl in my class who liked to be called "Yiota", with the T being pronounced as a D /jɒdə/, which inevitably led to her being called "Yoda" at points. The way some teachers handled pronunciation, you'd think that being called "Yoda" would be a better decision on her part. But I digress. I didn't know much about Yiota, beyond the way she looked and her last name (which I won't put here as, you know, anonymity). We had a few Panayiotas, being from a part of North London with a large Greek population, but I knew which one Mark was talking about.

I gave Mark a pithy response. I thought I knew what he was asking - did I fancy her? - but I didn't, and I wondered why he wasn't asking that, so I just fobbed him off by saying that I thought she was a girl, and that wasn't exactly a lie, she was a girl, so I technically didn't say anything wrong. Mark wasn't satisfied by my response.

Two years later, when I was in year 10 and still doing food technology, Mark bustled past me in a science lab and muttered something like, "hey, Yoita loves you," and then disappeared. I went to sit down at my desk, next to Yiota, who greeted me with her usual cheery, enthusiastic salutation. I returned it, blithely, before taking my seat and chatting to her for a bit before our teacher called the register. And, suddenly, it hit me like a ton of really hitty bricks which hit.

I wasn't supposed to fancy Yiota. She fancied me. 

That explained everything. Mark's initial question and his follow-up two years later, with occasional leading statements in between. Yiota's friendliness towards me even when we didn't often socialise and weren't really part of the same clique. She was friends with some of my bullies, actually, which made the whole situation odd. But we had good chemistry when we talked, and we made the whole class laugh during year 9 drama, in which we had to play a couple fanatically in love with each other. I did wonder why everyone laughed so much, even though it was a comedic scene and I was giving it my all.

But even if that was the case (and it all fits into place; my mind doesn't always do analysis, but when it does so, it does so well), it doesn't explain a few things. If Yiota was attracted to me - and no, I don't see how either, but never mind that - then why? We had absolutely nothing in common. We were in a few of the same classes, but had different interests. We took different GCSEs; we hung around with different people. We were in the same form for a while, but never sat together or talked together. Physically, I wasn't much to look at (although I didn't sit with my legs apart, which must have helped a bit). I just didn't see where the attraction was.

Thing is, I can't tell if I would have acted any differently if I had worked this out earlier - if, indeed, I am right in my assumptions. I liked Yiota, but as I say, I didn't know much about her. I wouldn't have had much to share with her because I had well-publicised attraction towards a whole host of girls who weren't her, and that would have been be a bastard move of the highest calibre. And as for Mark, well, his story went a different way eventually: a guy who looked like Dewey from Scream started dating a mutual friend of Mark's, Yiota's, and mine; he told me on MSN that he found hanging out with Yiota annoying; by year 13 I was in a relationship anyway, so nobody seemed to pay me any mind any more.

I wonder what happened to her. A quick Google search confirms that she's now rich.

Good for her, I suppose.


Sati said...

Ahh, teen chemistry. I doubt anyone will ever be able to explain it. I usually tell people I didn't really get interested in guys until I was about 18 - and I thought that was the truth. But the other day I found a scrapbook full of cartoon drawings of me and this guy Craig from school. And I suddenly remembered what I'd forgotten over the last 15 years: I had a huge crush on him, and every Sunday night when my homework was done, I'd sit on my bed and watch Early Edition followed by New Adventures of Superman followed by X-Files - and during Superman, which I didn't really like, I'd draw Craig and me on all sorts of romantic dates. Often accompanied by song lyrics.

I totally forgot that I fancied him. Probably because nobody got it. He was tall and skinny and had floppy dark hair and enormous eyes, and looked like a tall Frodo who badly needed a good meal. Everyone else fancied Adam Wallace (who had muscles in Year 7 and looked like a Calvin Klein model) or Jack Bush (who was short and freckled but very loud and funny) or Edward Garrod (who looked like an uber-cute anime kid, and this sort of dreamy air about him, and did things like kiss girls' hands and pull out chairs with no self-consciousness whatsoever; it just seemed natural to him). And there was me liking Frodo, and the only explanation I could give was, "he's interesting".

That was Year 8, and by year 10 I'd moved onto fancying Daniel Richmond, the sullen, hostile new kid, who got into fights and smashed up teachers' cars and told everyone I'd been in a psychiatric hospital. Schoolfriends understood that crush even less.

Teenagers haven't changed much. The ones I work with daily like to think that they're grown-up and past such juvenile 90s behaviour, but now and then someone will come and sit with me with a look of confusion, and I know that this is going to be a conversation about "why do I find Mike's glasses and braces so adorable / why does Hannah's buttoned-up shirt and below-the-knee skirt make me so interested in undoing her buttons / why is Ollie only ever mean to me and nobody else, and why is it that when he calls me names I just want to hug him and stroke his hair instead of kicking him in the shins...

There are never answers for these questions, of course. Because you know what, ILB? I don't think there's any rhyme or reason to it. I think that those first flushes of teenage infatuation are little miniature miracles, and that if they have any reason behind them it's to open our eyes to the incredible range and breadth of humanity that's out there.

I wrote a love letter the other day - something I rarely do - that started:

If I could have one wish

It would be that you could see yourself
Through my eyes.

Even just for a moment.

To see what a wonder you are;
How you shine.

My guess, dearest ILB, is that Yiota saw something in you that you don't see in yourself. Perhaps if you asked her, she'd have no memory of this - or perhaps she'd remember it like it were yesterday. Sometimes in my more romantic moments, I feel like meeting and loving someone - even if just for a moment - irrevocably changes us; it gives us just a tiny glimpse of how layered and complex humanity is, and because of that glimpse our lives will be a little richer and more vibrant every time we feel for someone.

(I'm going to shush now; while I can't read my reply on the iPhone app, I'm getting the feeling that whatever I wrote jumped the shark about three paragraphs ago. Although I stand by what I said about her seeing something in you that you can't see.)

Ah, to see ourselves through the eyes of someone who loves us. What a trip that would be, aye?

Innocent Loverboy said...

That would indeed be a trip.

I've often caught myself while looking at someone I love, having it work the other way around - realising that sometimes I'm taking what (who?) I have for granted, and that I need to remind myself that there's a lot of love there, and taking a further look to remind myself of why I love them.

I've often also been told that I have self-confidence issues. I agree; I've never been particularly confident in myself, and the moments where I do show it, either it's a façade, or I've been in a situation for a while and I now feel comfortable. While I've been told multiple times by all four girlfriends to date reasons why they find me attractive, unless they're laid out, I find it difficult to believe sometimes.

I suppose everyone has similar experiences...

I'm not sure it's just the teen psyche that goes through infatuation with very little rhyme or reason, though - there are adults who go through the same thing, and when asked why they like a certain person, "I don't know" is sometimes the most valid answer!

Sometimes you just can't justify love. So it may be best not to try.