I took the train to Brighton for a performance of my retrospective on my adolescence, “The Headmaster’s Son” last Friday. The carriage was predictably packed and it was standing room only. Despite being hot and bothered and having chubby businessmen rubbing up against me, getting their frottaging kicks, I got my cheap thrills by observing my fellow commuters. It was faintly surprising to see the number of smartly dressed men who were cracking open tins of beer at just after 5pm on a Friday evening. I know they have been working hard in their offices, but you’d think they might be able to wait until they were back home or at least in the company of friends until they had to get the weekend of drinking started. Of course it’s not up to me to judge and I like a drink after work as much as anyone (as I would later prove), but the circumstances were already so unpleasant, that having to have a drink just seemed more desperate and tragic. But there were several men doing it, so maybe it’s just part of having a job.
A couple of schoolboys were standing a couple of feet away from me. They were in smart school uniform and clearly from the way they chatted and looked were the kind of slightly nerdy, swotty, well behaved youngsters that I had been at their age. One of them was short and ginger-haired and looked about twelve years old, but he may have been a couple of years older. His mate was a lot taller than him, an Asian boy with a bum fluff moustache. They were almost certainly the same age, but puberty was wreaking its horrible changes on them at different paces and they were both clearly aware of this. “I’m a foot taller than you now,” said bum fluff with barely concealed pride.
“I don’t care,” replied his short-arse friend, rather unconvincingly, trying to move the conversation to a different area. But a few minutes later the taller boy could not resist bringing the subject back up, not picking up on his friend’s self-consciousness. Or picking up on it and deciding to aggravate things further. As a short-arse myself I knew how wee ginge must be cursing nature for its unfeeling cruelty.
“Well,” said ginger trying to dent his pal’s pride at his towering stature, “it isn’t going to get you laid!”
Had I heard this right? These boys not only looked much too young, but too uncool to be thinking of such things. Were they really thinking they were in with a chance of any such thing? And was shorty really so naive as to believe that being tall was not going to be any kind of advantage in such a quest.
“It might!” replied bumfluff after a moment’s considerations, “I’ve got a few possibilities.
“You only know about ten girls” said ginger dismissively, who by my estimation based on his stature, hair colour, swottiness level and social standing was probably as much as a decade away from being relieved of his virginity (and I speak from bitter personal experience here – there may be some element of projection!)
They then went on to discuss their chances of “getting laid” with the total lack of realism that is the prerogative of the tweenager. Of course we’ve all been there as I should be more acutely aware than anyone, given the show I was about to perform.
But interesting to contrast the unrealistic hopefulness of the schoolboys with the resigned weariness of the beer drinking adults: men who knew they wouldn’t be getting laid any time soon and so might as well seek oblivion in the bottom of a tin.