When I was 16 I asked out the most gorgeous girl in the superstore. She was behind the deli counter in a little paper-boat hat, blonde plaited hair twirling out from each side and down past her shoulders. I felt too young and too stupid, but I said one time as I passed with a cart loaded with tampons, “Do you want to go out for a drink sometime?” and miraculously she said “Yes,” and smiled coyly, and looked at me with the unimaginably innocent eyes of a bush creature peering out of the dark.
I was so buzzed, lit-up with hormonal electricity, but I thought about it and thought about it and look, I wasn’t ready, and I never did take her out. I had no idea where to go. I would have found it tough to get served alcohol since I looked twelve. I only asked her the drink question because I thought that’s what people asked. Maybe I heard it from one of my mum’s men?
Instead I beat myself up in my room for not being older. She had been way into it, into me, a dumb, skinny boy with hair sliding sideways over my left eye like a landslip, but I hadn’t let that minor detail get in the way of my insecurities. I had avoided her, turned it into a rejection, because that’s what I wanted from that episode, because that’s what I thought being a teenager was about. Lord knows with hindsight I would have realised JUST WAIT, the rejection will come, and it’ll come big and hard.
Speaking of big and hard, I saw her out in a club a year after, and there were vast, older, muscular guys circling her like a security team, and I convinced myself I had done the right thing leaving her to them. She looked so fragile in among them it made me wince. “I must protect her!” my inner voice screamed, but luckily the thumping bass drowned it out, and I could bite my lip and retreat to the dark corners, and shortly afterwards, the exit.
Now that I’m 45, I’ve learned from others, and from errors, and from opportunities missed, and I finally get that confidence comes to people at different times in their lives. I have it now alright.
The store I worked at with her as a kid? I manage it. And these days I never turn down the advances of a 16-year-old. I know where to take them, I’m not intimidated, and I can get them whatever they want.
Simon Pinkerton is currently trying to get all agented-up for the sale of his first novel. He lives in London, England with many diesel-fume-based air-pollutants and his wife and two boys (fragile), and writes for a whole slew of great magazines. Please find him @simonpinkerton and thank you for reading.
Image: Alexandru Tugui