At 16 I had friends, mainly girls, and that was not the same as a girlfriend. I longed to know what it was like to have a close companion whose smile brightened up my day and whose hand I could take while walking in the park. Instead life was one embarrassing day after another as I staggered through my 16th year. I was lucky that I could escape into music by going to rock concerts and spending what was left of my meagre salary on buying albums and going to speedway meetings.
At 17 I was no more prepared for the opposite sex than I was the previous year. I still had close friends who were girls but I was reluctant to make the leap and risk losing them altogether. Some of them I adored. I felt like a teenage tightrope walker who refused to take his first step even though the line was just two feet off the ground. Girls were not alien – I could talk to them, perhaps even having an affinity with them. This closeness got in the way. Music and speedway ruled more than ever.
At 18 I had less girls who were friends as most had drifted away to start their own relationships and I became just the guy they knew from school. Behind me were two years of awkwardness and, though I did not know it at the time, a burgeoning of self-awareness. I had a more clearly defined idea of the person that I was looking for. Not love, not sex, not too much of everything. A companion whose hand I could take as we discovered what this world was all about.
Today is our 27th wedding anniversary. In my head I am all of those ages still. Older and yet no wiser.