I got an email from my past. A woman I knew called Maria when I was 14 years old got in contact. We knew each other through a friend of mine, but we didn’t attend the same school as she was a Catholic and because I am bereft of a religion so therefore assumed as a protestant (this is normal in east end Glasgow) – we never really moved in the same circles.
Anyway she emailed me to say hi and that she enjoyed my comedy set when she saw me at Tron Theatre back in March.
Anyway it got me remembering about her. I was always in awe of Maria as she wore thick black kohl pencil eyeliner and bright blue eye shadow. We were the same age but she had a curvy possibly plump demeanour with big ‘woman’ type boobs, which always made me stare at her. I had two very less -than -perky nipples that sat completely flat against my teenage ribcage with breasts that threatened to defy my sexuality and make me possibly the famous man/girl of Glasgow.
She had bigger back boobs than me and always had an ‘adult woman’ BO scent about her, it was a smell that reminded me of my mum’s drunken pals. It was a dirty smell that always disturbed me and she wasn’t a dirty unkempt person (like I was!). She was always immaculately dressed and came from a lovely home. I had been in her bedroom and it was lovely, pink and didn’t have a dog that ate its own fleas or a mum who crushed cigarette ends on the floor, like mine.
I can’t quite explain that smell, but it was definitely something disturbing and I recalled it immediately when I read her email. It can’t be a good sign that when you remember someone from over 30 years ago, you get instant recall on their body smell.
She always had steady boyfriends at a time when I was still thinking about Donny Osmond and dreaming about kissing a Bay City Roller. I remember one day I spotted her as she crossed the road near my home in her school uniform and an older man was waiting for her with a giant teddy bear. I thought it was her dad, but he swept her up and sang ‘Happy Birthday’ then kissed her full on the mouth, a big proper kissing. It was her latest boyfriend and he had a moustache -I decided there and then to get to know her more. She fascinated me, how did she manage to be a woman at the same age as me and grow big boobs and have boyfriends with facial hair and a car?
She was an only child and her mum and dad let her boyfriends come to their home and sit in her room with her. This astonished me beyond belief, who would have a boyfriend that came to your house? That was exotic.
One day my mum was chatting to her mum Chrissie. When Chrissie mentioned she was getting some steak for Maria’s boyfriends dinner. My mum asked her why her daughter had a boyfriend at that age and why the fuck was Chrissie feeding him.
The woman explained she’d rather have her daughter’s boyfriend in the house and get to know him. “She’s only fourteen Chrissie, too fucking young for boyfriends at that age, especially ones that eat steak” My mum said. As far as my mum was concerned steak was an adult’s meal and children didn’t eat good meat that was for ‘men’.
The woman shrugged her shoulders and walked off.
My mum couldn’t believe this woman was buying steak for a boyfriend of her fourteen year old daughter. I told mum her boyfriend wasn’t a boy he had a moustache and a car and wore a jacket with elbow patches on.
“That’s fucking Catholics for you” my crazy mum spat. My mum liked finding things wrong with Catholics, it reinforced her sectarian attitude.
She looked at me and said, “Don’t even think about wanting some fucking boyfriend that eats steak”
So I made it my business to get to know Maria more. It was hard work; she was always busy with her boyfriend. Occasionally I would turn up at her door and her mum would let me in. I would go through to Maria’s bedroom and sit there staring at all her makeup and high heel platform shoes.
“What age is your boyfriend?” I asked her innocently.
“He works on the buses, he is 24 years old” she spoke as she painted her toenails. That smell wafting towards me when she lifted her leg.
Maria would let me try on her fashionable shoes and new coat. She would dress me up and put her thick make up on my face and let me stare into her mirror as she played Rubettes on her tape deck. Then she told me I had to go as her boyfriend was coming up. I was leaving her flat with clogged black eye lashes and pink lipstick on my mouth.
Our friendship never really took off, as she got pregnant at 15 and became an old woman overnight. Literally she looked worn out with greasy hair, fat calves and pushing a big Silver Cross navy pram when I was reaching fourth year at secondary school.
I went from being fascinated by her exotic highly fashionable lifestyle to being horrified that she was a mother when I was trying to grapple the rudiments of French verbs for an exam. No more Rubettes, no more Bay City Rollers for her, it was all leaking breasts, screaming babies and stretch marks.
The last time I saw her was when I was 17 years old. She was going to the bingo with her mum and they were wearing the same coats, American tan tights and worn down smiles, clutching handbags, buying fags and heading to St. Barnabus club for the Sunday night social.
So back to present day, she told me in her email that she got married on her 16th birthday to a man in his late 20s they consequently had four kids and they got divorced after her beat her so badly her youngest child was born disabled. Turns out he was a bad lot.
She is now a great-granny herself as her own daughter who was born when she was 15 had a baby boy herself at 16 years old and that boy fathered a child when he was 17 years old. She managed to go back into the education system and became a nursery teacher.
I wished her well and sat here tonight thinking about her, and I thought it was worth sharing._