I could talk to Nick himself. Seriously, I can practically hold a conversation with myself although some people might think that’s not a good thing. This morning I was discussing this very fact with a colleague in work and he said that if a goat walked up to me, I could have a conversation with him. He’s not wrong.
Talking is an assumed trait of the Irish. We have the gift of the Gab as they say. But of course like most stereotypes, this is far from the truth. Most people I know are fearful of new situations, meeting new people, and in particular of speaking in public. The Irish however, when stuck in one room together, have an affliction whereby silence must be filled – hence the reputation.
I started life as a little show-off and gradually imploded with adult insecurities like the rest of us. When I was a tiny little waif, you couldn’t shut me up. I discovered early on that I could make people laugh by doing impressions. So, there I was, a skinny-arsed, little blonde tadpole, doing impressions of James Mason and Peter Lorre for anyone who might listen. I’m sure I was absolutely brutal. No doubt their laughter was a result of my precociousness, but I didn’t care. I suspect my adult verbosity has its roots in the little twinkle that I once was. Sometimes I miss my littler self.
Of course I eventually became a teenager and more than my voice dropped. I became self-aware in a different, altogether more negative way as many teenagers do. It knocked some of the wind from my sails at least temporarily, and the challenge of discovering a new perspective on girls was a shock to the system.
There was a big chunk of my life, at that stage pretty much all of it, where girls pinched or punched you and annoyed the living Bejebus out of you most of the time. That’s just the way they were and I never suspected for one minute that this might change. They held little of interest for me. Girls played games that were boring, didn’t like to play cowboys for the most part, were generally crap at the type of ‘intellectual’ activities us boys engaged in, and they quite often and seemingly deliberately, disrupted our play for no apparent reason.
At some point they sucked us in to play games like spin the bottle. We were dared to kiss them when the bottle eventually pointed in our direction. Worse still they played kiss-chasing. Nah! I thought that was the way the world was until I started to see things differently. Things are always the same until they are different as they say.
We didn’t have any sex education in school until we were about thirteen and that was doled out in the austere setting of the Christian Brothers dining room in the monastery. I came away from that lesson, less informed than I went in. They were different times, so you picked up your sex education by osmosis from what you heard around you. I can’t say we were well informed.
As far as parents and teachers were concerned, the key points were that you didn’t have sex before marriage, with the conflicting message of don’t get a girl pregnant. I say conflicting because if people didn’t have sex before marriage, then how did you get a girl pregnant? There was an implied message in there somewhere, that some people clearly did have sex prior to their wedding. I was taught to be respectful of girls and that any girl who didn’t respect herself should be avoided like the plague, for fear of that auld pregnancy malarkey. I hadn’t a clue, except that I was starting to develop a new fondness for girls and it was all mighty confusing.
I guess for the most part I was a ‘good’ boy and I was generally attracted to similarly ‘good’ girls. I suspect this was due to the highly effective brainwashing techniques used by my mother. She frequently pointed out the sort of girl I had better not ever bring home to her house and what consequences might befall me if I ever did. Not that I should be thinking about bringing any girl back to her house in the first place. She was pretty convincing in an over my dead body sort of way.
The lads? Well they were no feckin’ help. I knew at least a half a dozen methods of getting a girl pregnant, none of which were true and at least two of which were physical impossibilities. We had limited access back then, to any evidence relating to the correct anatomical make up of women except the occasional contraband copy of National Geographic. They showed photos of bare-breasted African tribeswomen, carrying babies or making bread. Of course the Brother’s had taught us that these were heathen folk who had not yet been thought the Christian value of modesty, so that explained their apparent disregard for their shamelessness.
We were ravenously curious. That which was kept from us was only more interesting, so we lived in hope and anticipation that we might somehow know more. Sometimes, some scut might bring in something torn from the centre pages of a racy magazine and there would be a crush in the schoolyard to get a peek through the crowd. It was theoretical pornography. It meant nothing to most of us other than raising more questions that it answered. We weren’t lascivious little letches, rather befuddled boys who needed explanations. To be honest what little I saw back then,only made me more afraid of girls.
By the time I got to go on my first teenage date,I was terrified to kiss the girl, because while I sort of knew that kissing couldn’t get a girl pregnant, there were those rumours that French kissing could. I wasn’t one hundred percent sure what French kissing was anyway, so you can imagine my confusion and trepidation. My desire had awakened but my knowledge bank was in the red when it came to girls. I remember blushing for the first time when a girl I fancied spoke to me. I had been taught shame very effectively through years of Christian Brother’s education. Although my parents brought me up well, they came from an even more repressed generation and were more of a hindrance than a help when it came to my adolescent flowering.
My very first teenage girlfriend survived our half a dozen dates without having to suffer the trauma of my inexperienced lips, such was my angst. When I eventually did get to kiss a girl, it was such a bizarre event, marked by miscommunication, lack of understanding and experience, that we essentially mimicked two blind puffer fish, accidently colliding in the dark. It was not what I had expected and to be fair, I doubt it is one of those moments that the poor girl will hold high in her list of romantic memories. It seems my mirror-practice was not the ideal preparation after all. Although in fairness, she may have never kissed a boy again after that disaster in which case, I’m top of her best kiss list ever! Yeah…I’ll go with that one I think.
In all honesty, it seems like overnight, I went from a self confident little boy who knew the world loved him, to a helpless, self-conscious twat, who tried to impress girls through the clever conceptual art form known as acting like an idiot. For some reason we all seem to go through a phase were our version of what appeals to girls is the complete opposite of what actually impresses them. I suspect some ‘boys’ never get past this phase.
Looking back on my innocence, the deeply instilled sense of guilt and shame for even considering the thoughts that had begun to enter my young man’s head, my dearth of knowledge and my burgeoning sexuality, it is amazing that I ever managed to leave the house. But that was the way of the world back then. I’m not sure it has ever been any different regardless of time, religion, education or place. If not my schooling or my generation, there would be something else impacting on me through those confusing early years of my adolescence.
It is a time of confusion for everyone. But like the rest of the world, I survived even the most embarrassing of moments. Most I daren’t share, for even now I might blush thinking back, but survive I did. My few years of regression passed and I grew back into my voice. Much like when I was a fledgling, all big-eyed and filled with a smile for every day, you can’t shut me up. I am growing into an old(er) gentleman and the older I get, the more I talk. I cannot deny it – I talk too much. There is a lot more I could tell you, especially if you could persuade me to join you in a little tipple, but wait…let me warn you.. stick a few drinks into me and I never shut up…
Haven’t read a Max Power book yet? I think it’s time to pick one up.
Max Power’s books include, Darkly Wood, Darkly Wood II The woman who never wore shoes, Larry Flynn, Bad Blood and Little Big Boy
You can find more details about Max Power’s books here : –