In the very early 80s, as a primary school kid, girls were weird and scary to me. Flash forward 10 years to the early 90s and girls were equally as weird and scary, possibly more so. Fortunately for me it was the time of grunge and metal, which meant that everyone felt even more insecure and depressed, hiding our personalities, bodies and desires under a flannel-clad barrier of impenetrable, indifferent “cool”.
During the times I was not otherwise engaged with school, part-time work or furious masturbation, I was down at the local shopping centre, skulking around in a Fear Factory shirt trying to look cool. Although nothing screamed “whatever, I don’t give a fuck!” more than my skinny frame, tight black jeans, black T-shirt, lank hair, pimply skin and buck teeth, I actually painfully longed for someone of the female persuasion to actually reach out to me on an emotional level. Either as a friend of even with a view to possible relationship and maybe even letting me do a sex at her.
Obviously, the totally wrong way to go about this in the early 90s was to actually approach a girl and acknowledge these feelings, as being interested in the opposite sex would have been viewed as TOTALLY GAY IN THE EXTREME. So I was doomed to wandering the shopping centre, caught between looking cool, longing for female company, desperately trying to pluck up the courage to talk to a cool looking girl (flannel, dark hair, black T-shirt, intelligent but insecure looking), and living in a state of constant terror that a girl might actually talk to me.
Flash forward 25 years to last week down at the local shopping centre. I have all the hallmarks of a successful man now — I own a car with an engine and everything! I had ducked in on my way home from work to get a taco kit to make dinner for my family. Walking out the door through the service area where they park all the trolleys and stuff I saw her — a woman of a similar age to myself, showing all the similar hallmarks of the drudgery of family life to me (she looked tired and was with her kids). But this woman was different to every other 40ish year old taking her kids to the shops after school, this woman was WEARING A FAITH NO MORE ANGEL DUST SHIRT!
Suddenly, it was like it was 1993 again. The familiar anxiety and fear dropped on me like a piano falling from the sky. I desperately wanted to pay this woman a compliment. I looked to the ground with a view to skulk past and thought, “no, I’m going to go for it!” I looked her right in the eye and said “Hey, cool shirt.” I had done it! It had taken me 25 years but I’d finally complemented a random woman who probably would have been my type when we were both awkward teens!
What really surprised me was what happened next – she stopped walking, turned to face me, smiled, put her hand on her chest and said something like “thank you, it’s one of my favourites. It was such a great album wasn’t it?” She had stopped walking and actually wanted to have a conversation with me. Maybe she had spent her years wandering around a similar shopping centre feeling similar awkward emotions to me, perhaps we had both snapped each other out of our crippling and chronic lack of confidence sewn by the seeds of listening to too much early 90s rap-metal. At any rate, this was all too much for me – my brain and body went into awkward teen nervous shutdown. I was instantly overwhelmed by it all, spun on my heel and mumbled something like “sdhfgjsghrybf” as I scurried away to the protection of my car. Within about 30 seconds I couldn’t remember what she looked like, what she’d said or even where it had happened, such was the trauma of randomly complimenting a woman and having the complement accepted. After a quarter of a century of trying to muster up the courage to do such a thing, the successful result was strangely much more traumatic than I had ever envisaged.
After such a heady cocktail of anxiety and arousal, there was only one course of action for me to follow – go home and wank myself silly in the shower.
Some things never change.