A final new start?

…ultimately the three years I spent at boarding school did help me in the end; seeing and experiencing how nasty kids could be to each other, without recourse to parents on a regular basis, and developing a little bit of “immunity” to it all…

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Sixth Form
Sixth form at high school…

Going into my third and final high school, from 16 to 18 years old to study my A-Levels, I was getting better and crying much less frequently. The “new start” at this new school was considerably more successful than the previous one and I actually liked this new place and wasn’t terrified to go there every day. Not crying on my first day helped as well. The other students weren’t too embarrassed to be around me, which was a step up. I still wasn’t very confident and found it hard speaking much to people, and certainly impossible to really speak with girls (well to be honest, I wasn’t really confident speaking with anybody I didn’t really know, let alone just the girls).

I think I was kind of seen as a strange, quiet nerdy type of person, but I still got on with people in general. I think that ultimately the three years I spent at boarding school did help me in the end; seeing and experiencing how nasty kids could be to each other, without recourse to parents on a regular basis, and developing a little bit of “immunity” to it all I suppose. I guess it was also just me growing a bit more mature with time, or maybe just learning self-control to just ignore what people said, or go with what they said… ie, if somebody said something that I might have previously hurt me, I would laugh and joke at myself with them (something I learned more to do at boarding school as well), so the effect of their joke was kind of lost. A little self-deprecating maybe, but it seemed to work.

I might have been a bit eager to make friends at the start, though. In the first few weeks there was a guy who was also new at the school and we seemed to get on very well. He lived near me and he came back via my place once after school. I confided in him about the lies that I told at my previous school, trusting that he would keep to himself. Of course he didn’t, and I found out pretty quickly that he had told other people. I think he was almost as insecure as I was about making friends and he used that to try and make himself the talking point and get attention. A learning point about being silly and naive, but I was pretty hurt by it.

 

A world of lies

…How to get people to believe me? I would have to know all the details and be consistent in everything I said. I would have to act strange at the start and get people to ask me what’s wrong, rather than just blurting out the lie; I’d have to get the timings right…

Matlock
Matlock in the Midlands… a holiday that would have profound effects…

To try and be more popular at my second high school (or less unpopular, to put it more accurately), I had a daft/desperate idea; at least to get some more attention that wasn’t bullying. The idea originated from a holiday I had with a family in the midlands. Towards the end, at some sort of park, I met a girl—let’s call her Becky. We got on very well with each other and for the first time in my life, a girl actually liked me. This was in the pre-internet day, so nobody had email, and mobile phones were not so common—I certainly didn’t have one at least, and neither did Becky. We didn’t kiss or anything, but we traded addresses and home numbers, and would start writing to each other. I would call her from a payphone in the school (remember, it was a boarding school) every weekend or so. We did this for about year, until my family went back on holiday to the same area… we tried to arrange to meet but it didn’t work out, which left me a bit sad.

In that summer when it all “ended”, I thought a lot about her and about school, so much so that it almost became an obsession. And then, the idea crossed my mind. If people at school thought I’d slept with her, they would think I was cooler… or even more… say that I got her pregnant. The idea was a bit crazy (okay, very crazy), but it grew on me, and I started to think about the details. How to get people to believe me? I would have to know all the details and be consistent in everything I said. I would have to act strange at the start and get people to ask me what’s wrong, rather than just blurting out the lie; I’d have to get the timings right. I would rely on saying “don’t tell anyone, please!” to ensure that the one or two people I told it to at the start would tell other people. If there was something I could be absolutely sure about it was the capacity of the others not to keep secrets. I basically created an entire lie and story, and in knowing it so well, it sort of became my world and I was in danger of starting to believe it all myself—and that was actually a little scary.

It certainly did get me more attention, especially with the lads, not sure if I got more “respect” from them because of it, but it did mean more people talked to me. I would never talk about it unless actively questioned – definitely not something to be boastful about, in order to maintain the fantasy. It was tiring though, especially when the “baby was born” – to keep the lie going throughout the entire school year. Thankfully that was my last year at that school, and I went to school closer to home for my last pre-university years, so I could just forget about it.

One day, a couple of years later, I met a guy who was in my year at the boarding school. I asked him how many people believed it all, and admitted it was an entire fabrication. I wasn’t afraid of admitting, though he was surprised. He asked me why? When I told him, he was surprised and said that people did like me at the school and I wasn’t that unpopular. How memories and perspectives change from person to person.

talented mr ripleyAs I say, looking back and it’s a little scary. Have you ever seen the film The Talented Mr Ripley? The guy gets lost in his lies. People get lost in their sort of fantasy world, so much so that it becomes real. What’s the tagline from the film? “It’s better to be a fake somebody than a real nobody”… and, “How far would you go to become someone else.” I’m just glad I was able to leave it behind, though it has echoed a lot through the years. Anybody else had such experience?

New starts…

…One day when I was alone in my dormitory, in the spur of the moment I decided to write “i love Kate” on a paper aeroplane and fly it out the window… nobody would know it was me… Though of course, stupid me put my head out the window…

Being the “cry-baby” at school has a very negative affect on your street-cred with the other pupils. Definitely not very cool. So I never really had many friends—maybe three or four at each of the various schools I attended, two of whom I stay in touch with today. Getting a girlfriend was nigh on impossible, though I didn’t make life easy for myself at the same time.

For my second high school, from when I was 14 until 16, I went to a boarding school that was a couple of hours or so away from my new home town. The other schools in my town were not particularly appetising options, and also I really did want a completely new start. Of course, I went and cried on my first day, which made this “new start” pretty much redundant straight away. By the time I was in my final year though I was getting better, but as you can imagine, boarding school can be a pretty harsh environment for a sensitive kid. I remember one time, in the showers, a couple of the other kids took my clothes and towel and made fun of me for some time as I was crying away. That whole episode helped make me want to avoid showers for sometime so I wasn’t deemed the most hygienic of students–which meant more teasing. But I think overall the whole place did, eventually at least, help me grow up and grow that “thick skin” the primary school teachers had talked about.

I  remember having a crush on a few girls at the school. The first of whom… Kate… One day when I was alone in my dormitory, in the spur of the moment I decided to write “I love Kate” on a paper aeroplane and fly it out the window (the dorm was on the fourth floor)… nobody would know it was me… Though of course, stupid me put my head out the window to see where it landed and a guy who picked it up was swift to spot me and make the conclusion. Talk about making life hard for yourself, and I guess I kind of warranted the inevitable backlash and teasing from that. I never did get a girlfriend, nor kissed a girl, while I was there.

School years – the start of it all

By the time I was 13, I was pretty much on the verge of some sort of breakdown: another kid just needed to look at me for me to burst into tears, and they knew it. One of the worst moments came when I was 12 and pissed myself in class as I was too afraid to ask to go to the toilet.

After growing up on sparsely populated islands, moving to the larger city of Lancaster in the north of England when I was around eight years old was quite traumatic for me. School suddenly became much less friendly and I struggled to adapt. I would cry a lot then kids would make fun of me… it was like a vicious circle…

I remember well when it all started: I was at primary school when I was eight, and two of my older sisters who were at the same school suddenly weren’t there on a particular day—they were on a school trip. In the playground I started looking for them and couldn’t find them, and I remember starting to cry because of it. This caused some amusement with the other kids who laughed at me, and that in turn caused me to cry more… I remember teachers telling others in the class about people with “thinner skins” who were more sensitive than others… that didn’t work, for sure.

I swiftly became known as a “cry baby” as I literally was crying at school at least once a day and more often than not, two or three times. This was something that continually inspired others to make me the brunt of their jokes. Other things like an accent that was completely different from that of Lancaster didn’t help: I was seen as the posh kid, which helped to further put a target on my head. Understandably I guess as kids can be cruel to an easy target.

This would continue for years. By the time I was 13, I was pretty much on the verge of some sort of breakdown: another kid just needed to look at me for me to burst into tears, and they knew it. One of the worst moments came when I was 12 and pissed myself in class as I was too afraid to ask to go to the toilet. The teachers understandably became tired of it and rather exasperated by it all, and I don’t think anyone in my family really knew what to do. The only solution that was came up was changing school. And indeed, two primary schools and three high schools later, by the time I was 17, I was only just starting to get that mystical “thick skin”. Still seen as strange and alone, with zero confidence to really speak with people… but… at least I wasn’t crying all the time.

In the midst of all of this, I remember when I was ten not being interested in girls, though that swiftly changed when I turned 11 and went to my first high school. In spite of being deeply unpopular and certainly not cool in way whatsoever, I became infatuated with a girl two years older than myself… so much so that I saved up my pocket money to buy a £10 ring for her at a jewellery store. We all got on the same school bus and she lived quite close to me. One day after we got back, I went to my place via hers to knock on her door and give it to her. Needless to say, my affections were not returned, though at least the ring was given back a few days later.