And there is the day-in, day-out loneliness at the end of the day: the dark flat, the silent rooms. When I was 17, there were families my parents knew, with children my age, and they all held parties where they danced and snogged and eventually got engaged and then married.
You may have plenty of people to do something with, but nobody to do nothing with. I used to spend those parties sitting gloomily on the stairs, far too plump and unsophisticated to compete with other, prettier, 17-year-olds.
You just haven’t had the strength to carry on alone, so you’re putting up with second best.” It’s unworthy of me, I know. It’s hard to laugh out loud at a television comedy when there is no one on the sofa beside you.
And maybe it’s inspired by my own jealousy, seeing them bloom again, while I stay stuck. It’s not comfortable to stretch out in an empty bed when you are used to arms around you. You need to have very good friends indeed to share the driving, or the cruising, or the rock-climbing. I have timidly explored that option, but it really is not easy, meeting a new person to fall in love with.
There was the controlling one who so mistrusted my driving that he seized my steering wheel (I am an Advanced Motorist). (These things perhaps shouldn’t matter, but they do.) And there is one friend who, my heart tells me, is promising; charming, and kind, and gifted, but to whom I dare not admit my feelings. I’m as scared of rejection now as I was when I was a teenager. I should be confident, but in my case age only means that now I am all too aware of my disadvantages.
For example, I know that my mind carries a load of baggage, some of it lovely, like my children and my grandson; some of it odd, like my affection for house plants and my dislike of cats.
I smile to see their pleasure, but in my mind I’m remonstrating: “Come on now, girl.
The TV life coaches changed my make-up and my hairstyle. But all it proved was that I wouldn’t like to meet or, in any case, didn’t like the men I actually met. There was the ardent gentleman who insisted on kissing me on the lips when I had turned my cheek to him.
Even at 17, when you are smooth-skinned and bright eyed, is your heart as bouncy as your step, so that you rebound from one romance to the next without any bruises or broken bones? Even in my teens, when I had an unrequited crush on a talented young stage director, although I never plucked up the courage to tell him how I felt and I knew he eventually found a girlfriend, my heart stubbornly refused to move on. It is now more than 13 years since my husband Desmond died, and I still think of him every day.
The memories no longer have the power to lacerate as they once did.
One of the very few winters that we actually had snow.
Marty, although she is no longer with us, but still has a place in my heart, was my most intelligent bear.