UPDATE March 2016: if you enjoyed this extract check out my new book – How A Bad Girl Fell In Love.
I’m clearly not that good at marketing. Someone recently told me that they’d read my book and were surprised that it wasn’t just a collection of blog entries.
“You know what you should do?” they said, like someone who knew far more about promotion than I did, “You should tell people that it’s an actual full-on story rather than just some bits and pieces you’ve cobbled together from your blog.”
So that is what I’m doing: there’s an extract from my book below, and although there are some bits in the book that have previously appeared on the blog, it is an ‘actual full-on story’. If you like it, please do buy it. If you’ve read it, I’d be super-grateful if you could review it on Amazon (US link).
Friendship, love and number eight
Why are we expected to place friendship over love? Don’t get me wrong, friendship is awesome. Having people who are willing to stand by you through thick and thin, stop you making mistakes, and hold your hair back while you’re vomiting up the mistakes you have made, is utterly crucial.
I’d no more tell my friends to fuck off than I’d cut off one of my arms, but all the same, no friend will ever take precedence over a lover. Why do we ever expect them to?
Say what you like: ‘friends come first’, ‘men come and go but your friends will be there forever’ or even – if you’re an unforgivable cunt – ‘bros before hos’. But ultimately if you fall in love with someone the chances of you sacking them off because one of your mates doesn’t think they’re good enough for you are low indeed.
It’s not your fault – no matter how much you love your friends your body is hard wired to seek out certain things: food, shelter, comfort, and sweaty wriggling with someone who makes you hurt with joy. People do the oddest things in the name of love: they give up dream jobs, ditch families, move halfway across the world. You rarely see people leaping over barriers at airports to prevent loved-ones leaving these days, but that’s not because we’re lacking in passion, we’re just more cautious about terrorists. Love is still one of the greatest motivators, and makes us act like one of the stupidest breeds of monkey.
No one should feel bad for putting love, or even sex, above friendship – I certainly don’t. Don’t beat yourself up about the times you’ve blown off trips to the pub with your mates in favour of staying at home cementing your shiny new relationship with lots of delicious getting-to-know-you shagging. As the saying goes: your friends will be there no matter what. You might only have one chance to grab the guy or girl of your dreams, and if it all goes pear-shaped your friends will be there to pick up the pieces, pass you the tissues, and repeatedly call you a dickhead until you feel much better about the whole thing.
This is all by way of explaining that when I met boy number eight everything else fell away. I’d made some tentative friendships during Fresher’s Week, by getting lots of rounds in and pretending to be interested in other people’s degree subjects. But most of these friendships faded into the background as soon as he appeared. My roommate and I were still close, on account of the fact that we shared a room so we’d bloody well better be. My second flatmate Rena – for the first two terms at least – was still an excellent person to get into trouble with every now and then. But when number eight was with me, all my friends became neatly irrelevant.
Pub trips, club nights, lunches in the Union – these things were only interesting to me if they included him. If he wasn’t there I’d make polite small talk, craning my neck to look over other people’s shoulders and see if he was about to walk into the room. In lectures I’d seek him out and in seminars I’d disagree with him. Not always because I thought he was wrong, although I frequently did, but because I just loved hearing him debate me. I’d steer my flatmates towards the clubs that he’d be at and invite him to anything that could even vaguely be described as a social event. It’s lucky he was on a philosophy course and not something more hands-on – if he was a chemist or an engineer I’d have followed him into the lab in a mooning, lovesick daze and ended up setting fire to half the university.
But this would be a pretty shit love story if everything ended there – me lusting helplessly after a boy I couldn’t have, and wanking myself into a froth every evening while imagining him taking me roughly up against a bookcase in the Ethics section of the library.
Long story short: he liked me too. I say ‘liked’ rather than ‘loved’, because it took him a while to decide he actually loved me. He’s long been forgiven for that – if everyone were as decisive (no, not impulsive – decisive) as I am then we’d never get any interesting emotional build-up. Love stories would last for three pages:
Page 1: Girl meets boy
Page 2: Girl sucks boy’s dick
Page 3: Girl meets a new boy, and the whole charade begins again.
But number eight liked me.
He liked me enough to seek me out and sit next to me on the first day. By week two he liked me enough to meet me before each lecture, and invite me for drinks afterwards. We started sharing ideas before seminars, notes during classes, and giggles together in the back row. Eventually we graduated to sharing stories, jokes, and hugs that lasted ever-so-slightly too long.
In the evenings we’d get drunk then collapse beside each other – not quite touching. He had a girlfriend at a university in another city who he was determined to make a show of being faithful to. Consequently the very first touches I remember were tentative. He’d brush my arm, or I’d lean on his shoulder. We’d lie next to each other, barely breathing, just waiting for the other one to reach out and give the first shivering touch.
In public we were friends, but in private we were driving each other insane. Sleeping fell to the bottom of my priority list – the nights I spent with number eight were the only time we could really be close, and I’d lie awake feeling him next to me, going slowly mad himself.
Our flirting got less playful and more desperate. My vague attempts at seduction (‘How about a fuck?’) were rejected with awkward laughs or trembling sighs. While his – oh, God. His occasional drunken declarations of lust gave me pangs of longing that squeezed my chest and made me hurt for him.
“You know, when you were wearing those tight trousers I looked at your arse and wanted to bite it.”
“I saw your knickers when you bent over in the pub. I want to put my fucking face in them.”
I’ll leave it there, because I suspect it’s good marketing to leave you hanging and wondering whether he did actually put his fucking face in them. Find out by buying my book, or just asking me when I’m two gins into an evening.