That thing that’s bubbling towards the surface, well I think it’s surfacing.
It’s something to do with trust and innocence.
As a young child I had a relationship with my dad that wasn’t just about hated family walks. He used to take me to work on a Saturday which was something that didn’t happen with my sisters and he used to come and tell me stories at bedtime. He never read me one out of a book but talked about his life, his childhood, his National Service or his really bad jokes that gave him so much pleasure. Then we left London and it all stopped. I felt that I lost him then and that we never got back to that intimacy.
I put my trust in my mother to be my friend and to look after me in a way my father couldn’t. I realised at some point that her describing my dad as the “big bad wolf” was not right and in some ways she betrayed him at that point.
She took me into a world of grown-ups which I thought at the time saved my sanity as both home and school were so miserable. But that plunged me into a world I wasn’t equipped for in spite my willingness to pretend that I was.
The first man who said he loved me was three times my age, if not more. I remember the moment. He said he knew it wasn’t going to go anywhere. I felt both flattered and disturbed simultaneously. That’s not how the first declaration should make you feel.
I did kiss a few boys in my age range but the a we moved back to London and whatever hopes I had of a normal childhood which were just beginning to emerge vanished and I don’t think I ever spoke to a boy again.
My first “proper” boyfriend was 20 years older than me which gave me status at school (amongst teachers as well as students) but my overriding memory is of crying in the pub with him. Don’t ask why. I can’t remember and probably don’t want to. It took me a year to split up with him as he threatened suicide.
I could have had a relationship with a teacher but I didn’t. Maybe if he’d been slightly more attractive I would have done but I did have sex with a barman at a tender age which is not something I particularly wish to remember. I’d like to get to the point that I can think about such things without wanting to hide behind the sofa in embarrassment.
These are all relationships with people who were in a position of power over me. I ended up marrying a teacher from college.
My dad betrayed my mum by having an affair; he betrayed me by letting me go live with the woman at the same time and actually he betrayed us all by thinking we wouldn’t find out.
Although there’s a theme here it still doesn’t answer the basic question of what is it about some types of film or TV that trigger this particular reaction. I used to think that it was jealously at a perceived (and fictional) teenage life portrayed as a succession of friends, relationships, highs and lows and small dramas that you got over with. A friend described going out with peers, with someone taking it in turns to be the sensible sober one, and having someone to hold your hair while you throw up if necessary. I’m jealous of not having been part of that sort of crowd, of having missed out on a ‘normal’ teenagehood with my peers. I am jealous of all the things my peers did that I couldn’t (or wouldn’t) do that I now look back and wish I had.
That’s still not it though. There’s more.
The teenage angsty / coming of age and some soppy films trigger something more. I think it’s to do with a lost innocence. Fictional people (and yes I do know it’s fiction) bounce back from bad things happening. They split up with a boyfriend or husband and half an hour later they are in love with someone else. They forgot about what has happened and are able to put it aside. There is an innocence in that, an ability to shake things off that isn’t about treating life superficially. Maybe it’s about being a self-centred teenager and not worrying about your impact on other people. Maybe it’s about not feeling burdened by your past and weighed down by today’s decisions.
It’s a trust or expectation that life will all work out alright in the end. Is that it? A belief that life can and will be easy at some point, that it won’t always be a hard slog. Maybe I feel betrayed by life because I feel I deserve my happy ending (see Once Upon a Time) and I no longer think I’ll ever get one.
P.S. The perfect song for this post is Happy Endings, by Liza Minelli as sung in New York New York. At the time it was the longest Hollywood number ever, clearly too long for youtube. So you get a lovely extract from Jonathan Livingston Seagull instead. Both are favourite films.