How old were you when you had your first snog? With tongues and feelings and Significant Eye Contact?
I think I was rather sick as a child. Mine was aged 11. It only occurred to me recently that this was probably quite wrong.
In my final year at primary school we developed a game called hostages. Or rather, the boys in my class developed it. I’m not sure if this game had previously existed but if it had, my feeling is that it did not belong in a primary school.
Here’s how it worked:
1. Everyone starts off gathered in the little alcove formed by two converging walls in our playground. Someone yells “GO!” and all the girls sprint off across the playground.
2. The boys count to ten and then come running after us. Or maybe they count to five. Whatever, it’s an arbitrary number and rarely respected. The boys come after us whenever the hell they want to.
3. Screaming commences as the boys – better sprinters than the girls by far – close in on the girls.
4. If you are a boy and you fancy a particular girl, you will go after her. (Fancying? How can an 11 year-old fancy anyone? THIS IS NOT RIGHT.)
5. The girls get caught and dragged up to the alcove where they are lined up along the wall.
6. The boys form an orderly queue and basically snog the girls who have been caught. With tongues. There is giggling.
7. The game starts again.
I was caught every time by Tom. He was a good sprinter; I was a mal-coordinated knob whose running style was akin to that of an amputee dog.
Tom snogged me with great determination, using tongues and, after a while, putting his arms round my neck in a romantic fashion. (ROMANTIC?? WE WERE BARELY OUT OF NAPPIES! WRONG, WRONG, WRONG.) Gradually, I realised the other boys had stopped kissing me. I discovered that this was because Tom had put out a rumour that he was ready to go steady with me.
Tom and I started going steady.
It was not a close relationship. I spent a lot of time avoiding him because I was afraid he would want to snog me on my own when no-one else was looking. In front of a large audience I was fine; alone it felt like a very different proposition for which I had limited enthusiasm. I liked him well enough and I definitely liked having a ‘boyfriend’ but I had issues with his haircut and his build. He was slimmer than me. Even as an eleven year old I felt uneasy about this. Also he never once complimented my suede pixie boots or faux-denim playsuit. He said he liked me because we both had a gap between our front teeth. I was hoping for something more romantic than this and started pushing my front two teeth together because clearly this would solve the problem. I did not want to be part of a couple who were renowned for their gappy teeth.
However I was impressed by his keenness.
“Tommy!” his mum called as we lingered after school one day. “Tommy, we have to go and buy some meat! Come on!” But Tom refused, telling his poor mother that he was busy “chatting me up” and that he’d come only when he’d “sorted me out.” His mum pissed herself laughing and dragged him off. “Don’t be ridiculous,” she chuckled. “Get your backside into the car right now.” Quite right, Mrs Bates. The horror of it! Sorting me out? What did we have planned? Third base foreplay in the bloody playground?
I was not a good girlfriend to poor Tom. I told him my mother didn’t approve of us ‘going steady’ and instructed him never to call me at home lest we get found out. Tom took no heed and called me. My mum, just like his, pissed myself laughing when she realised that I was being telephoned by a suitor. “He’s going to be very good looking when he grows up,” she told me, barely able to keep a straight face.
But I was having none of it. By this time, I’d set my sights on Bill. He was a bit chubbier than me and slightly less keen. It was perfect.
I went on a real date with Bill. A double date, I have to admit, and his Mum was present for the whole thing but she did very obligingly turn her back on us for five minutes in the carpark so that we could snog. I snogged Bill, my friend snogged Phil. Both couples did proper romantic snogs involving moving heads and arms. (I know this because I had one eye open checking out what my friend was doing.)
Just before term finished the headmaster got wind of the sexual writhing going on in the corner of his playground. I remember clearly the sight of him sprinting out into the playground with a face of utter shock. “WHAT IS GOING ON??” He screamed. “BOYS! GET OUT ONTO THE SCHOOL FIELD! GIRLS! STAY HERE IN THE PLAYGROUND!” He chugged frantically on his tobacco pipe and looked like he might cry. “Mrs Waiton, do not let these children anywhere near each other,” he hissed. “Watch their every move!”
Mrs Waiton did her best but she was no match for my classmates and I. Within five minutes we had collectively devised a means of snogging each other that involved a bit of low-key wall climbing and some ingenious diversionary tactics. Nothing was going to stop us snogging, I tell you. Nothing! We wanted romance! And randiness!
Looking back on it all I can’t help but feel disturbed. TONGUES? And HEADS MOVING IN A ROMANTIC MANNER DURING SNOGGING?! I would vomit if I saw eleven year-olds doing this now! I mean, I was probably ten for some of it!
Is this normal? Did anyone else start that young?
I can’t help but think something went badly wrong with the class of ’91.