In primary school, I considered myself the class clown. I often tried to convince my teacher that I was gay, and go-go danced on a chair at the front of the room to cheer everyone up at the end of our final year. Before any of us knew what it was, I’d beckon my friends over to marvel at my erections underneath the table (perhaps giving a little too much credence to my assertions of homosexuality). I always thought that is how I would grow up; outgoing, extroverted, the sort of idiotic loudmouth that most people hate but it doesn’t matter because you’re too loud to notice.
This confidence lasted for much of secondary school, even after my weight ballooned and I learned that erections in school should really be kept to one’s self. My best friend’s earliest memory of me is with my tie fashioned into a bandanna, headbanging topless on a bench in the gym changing room. Before I moved to university my sister said to me: “You’re the kind of person everyone wants to be friends with.”
I was basically the Fonze.
So it’s something of a shock when I look in the mirror today and see my confidence eroded to nothing. I have a dog-eared back catalogue of excuses for this. In fact, this blog exists as narcissistic testament to exactly that. But the reasons don’t really matter. What matters now is that the only strong emotion I can summon is a fierce self-loathing.
Whereas in childhood I tackled life with enthusiasm, today I feel merely indifferent. If I have something fun coming up, I don’t feel excitement. If I have something important coming up, I don’t feel nervous. The best I can manage is an antagonistic shrug.
There's no way I can write this without sounding like an angsty teenager.
At university I would fall head over heels in love after a few hours in a girl’s company; now I haven’t had even the slightest crush in years. When I have been with a girl, there’s the vague awareness that I should be swollen with testosterone, ignoring everything she says in favour of calculating when best to remove her bra. I don’t feel passion or desire. When this means they get bored of me, I don’t feel upset like I used to. Little by little, my edges have been smoothed down, and now I’m entirely flat.
There are a number of things I could try to rectify this. I could go out on what I believe, in the industry, is called ‘the lash’ in an attempt to fornicate drunkenly and hastily with women in an environment where it’s too loud for them to realise how dull I am until it’s too late. I could take up some kind of painfully affected hipster hobby, like wearing a scarf in August, listening to 1940s gospel music on London Fields, or making collages of Polaroids depicting used condoms discarded in the high street gutter on Saturday morning. I could develop a crack habit.
By all accounts these should make me a more interesting person, an extrovert rippling with defiant confidence, the kind of person you worry about making a scene at your wedding.
Remember that time I made you look at my erection?
It’s an age-old question: what would the childhood you say to the adult you? Mine wouldn’t say a word. There’d be a short awkward silence before he moved off to talk to someone more interesting. And all I would do about it is shrug.