Lenten reflections 2020-31: What’s love got to do with it?

I will not be discussing details of my love life; somethings need to stay private. However, emotional entanglements are another topic.

I was talking to my teenager yesterday about a girl on whom I had a crush in my early teens. I’d met her at a folk club during my days of agitprop–who wasn’t a Marxist in their youth in the 1960s? She was a fan of the Incredible String Band

and Fairport Convention–it was the great age of UK folk music, when electrification was coming fast to the genre. She was stunningly pretty and had long black hair, wore a long black overcoat, and a shoulder bag; she was white.

We were into the psycadelic era of the late-1960s/early-1970s. Some were into bright fashion, others were in more dour-looking wear; long hair was growing (literally) more popular.

Anyway, the story I told was how all my chatting up of this girl (who was a few years older) during many Underground rides to and sometimes from school ended with her going out with my best friend at school, who was also there each morning but got on and off with her one stop away from where I joined or left and walked her home🤔 I felt betrayed and took a long while to be on good terms with that boy. I reconciled myself to the girl because I had only talked, and when I saw her some time later with an older guy it was clear how the thing was.

When you go to an all-boys secondary school the options for meeting and getting to know girls are fewer. Our sister school. Greycoat had some nice-looking girls and the few I knew were really nice people, too. But, we were not supposed to fraternize.

My sport offered some opportunities as many girls were at my athletics club and youth runners like me. We often shared journeys together for meets and those were good for socializing. But, you were not going to get into a relationship with a teammate. The best was to meet girls who ran for other clubs and were friends of boys you knew on those teams. Sometimes, you knew each other as friends who just performed for different clubs, and you’d socialize as a group. That’s how I ended up having an interesting relationship with a girl from a Jehovah’s Witness family. As Witnesses are not usually allowed to have friends outside the faith, it was strange that I was invited to her home and we could sit and talk away from her parents. But, we did. She was not an athlete; far from it, but we liked each other, and the company of another girl athlete who’d introduced us. Both of their parents were West Indian (I’d like to say Jamaican, though the non-Witness had a white mother), and the Witness family we’re always welcoming. Strange, but true.

When I went to university, life got back to normal in that it was a co-ed setting, and as I was approaching adulthood, time was for relationships to step up a few gears. Suffice to say that I married one girl I met at university and remain good friends with two whom I met in the first week and we became part of a solid gang of eight, who passed a lot of university years together and ended up being godparents to at least one set of the others’ children.

One of my strangest encounters was one Saturday in Ealing Broadway while I was browsing a record store. A young woman came up to me and asked if she could hear what I was listening to; it was American Blues (Leadbelly, or that era). I was taken aback, but taken in by her looks, and we shared the headphones. She bought the album and asked if I’d like to go back to her house to listen to it. Sure. When we arrived, her young sister was there to greet us…I knew her sister, as a girl from Greycoat. OK! We laughed a lot and got on with listening to the music and some tea–this was England, after all. So, began several years of friendships. The older sister was at university in Liverpool, and would come back home occasionally; I’d notice her sister often as we had the same Underground ride to and from school. We partied and spent long hours arguing over all sorts, usually fueled by some mead and laced with some herb, which I did not inhale or try (my status as an athlete saved me on many occasions).

This was one in a long line of platonic relationships I had as a teenager–and I have had and still have many.

A friend reminded me, when we met again a dozen years ago, of girls I used to ‘like’ at primary school; two came straight to mind, and I remember regretting how leaving primary school stopped the opportunities to see them almost daily. One was really pretty, the other was really smart, but funny. Where are they now? I also remembered yesterday a girl with buck teeth who pursued me mercilessly at primary school: she was Indo-Guyanese, if my memory is right.

Somewhere, along the line, there were teenage girls met at parties, and the one who gave my my first hickey 🙂 But, again, I was saved from more and more of that, by the fact that my pals and I were runners, I was their designated driver, and it was time go, fellas 🙂

Life got back to normal when I went to university and a co-ed education. Suffice to say, I married a girl I met in my first week, another economics student; became great friends with two other girls whom we met in our first week, and eventually became godparents to each others’ children along the way. We were a group of about 6-8 who shared an apartment in our second year, went on holidays, but never swapped partners. I saw a couple of them when I was in London several weeks ago.

Good friend are better than pocket money.

Author: Dennis G Jones (aka 'The Grasshopper')

Retired International Monetary Fund economist. My blog is for organizing my ideas and thoughts about a range of topics. I was born in Jamaica, but spent 30 years being educated, living, and working in the UK. I lived in the USA for two decades, and worked and travelled abroad, extensively, throughout my careers and for pleasure. My views have a wide international perspective. Father of 3 girls. Also, married to an economist. :)