1969-1990 - For a boy to be able to say he had a girlfriend was hugely important. It meant you were cool. Having a girlfriend was a badge of honour. It saved you from those awkward moments when you are asked amongst a crowd, “are you going with anybody at the moment?” To be able to say “yes” and give the name of one of the more attractive girls from our area gave great kudos and nods of approval from everyone.
As a boy I spent 50% of my time playing football, 25% chasing the wee girls and the remaining 25% in quiet nooks snogging, fumbling and giggling with them. These were the days when a kiss would last forever. It wasn’t so much kissing rather it was two people sucking each other’s face amidst a torrent of slobber.
There are laws a boy has when finding the girl of his dreams. These laws exist like memes from ancient carnal man. They involve an intricate assessment or vetting procedure of the potential girl, by the boy. There are five criteria or rules;
#1: She must kiss using her tongue.
#2: She must allow you to put your hand up her jumper.
#3: She must allow you to put your hand down her jeans.
#4: She must put her hand up your jumper.
#5: She must put her hand down your jeans.
If the girl does not immediately apply rule #1, the relationship will end after two dates (give the girl a second chance). Rules # 2.3.and 4 had to be applied else the affair was off.
Crucially, the whole relationship hinged on rule #5 being applied - this was paramount. Only when this rule was brought into action could the boy consider himself to be ‘in love’. In the 1970s these were the Laws of Love to a Belfast boy. I would hazard a guess it hasn’t changed much since.
Finding a girlfriend was never a problem for me. I never understood why the girls liked a skinny little runt like me but they did, and I wasn’t complaining. There were young innocent loves in Diane, Julie, Helen and Debbie, and later in my late teens and early twenties, there were the girls who shared wild drunken nights with me.
One of those hedonistic evenings involved a drunken snog with Aggie Trimble. Being drunk is not much of an excuse for this action. I mean, this girl smelt of chip-fat. Just say the name to yourself - "Aggie Trimble" and think of the smell of lard. I think you get the gist of how much of a brave public confession this is. I lower my head in shame at the thought of cavorting with Aggie Trimble. I sincerely hope I never match THAT feat.
There were many strange, scary and hilarious moments in my love life. Even being threatened with death did not halt my experiences with the opposite sex. Like the night I was with a girl known as ‘Big Yvonne’. She was only about 5'5'', and her title of ‘Big Yvonne’ was not a reference to her height. Yvonne liked sex - a LOT. She would sit in a crowded bar and scan the male revellers. Once she had decided on her prey for the night, she would stare continuously at them. The victim would either become so unnerved they fled the bar, or they would be trapped by her hypnotic, mind-controlling glare and fall victim to Big Yvonne and her lust. I was one of those poor victims on three occasions. I was so terrified of her that I behaved like a captured hostage who didn't want to be killed. I simply obeyed her orders. It wasn’t worth not doing so.
Big Yvonne took me back to her house one night. While she was feeding off me in one of her lustful frenzies, a British Army soldier knocked on the front door and shouted through the letter box "Everybody out! There's a bomb-scare two doors away!" Yvonne once again demanded that our cavorting continued. "Just keep going!" she ordered me like I was her sex-slave. Against the background noise of army bomb-disposal trucks and voices from walkie-talkies, we got on with business. Not even the threat of death from a bomb could stop Big Yvonne's lust - and as for me, well I thought "if I'm going to die, this isn't a bad way to go..."
Long before I went on my wild lust-driven rampage in my late teens I did actually meet the girl of my dreams. This happened when I was fourteen years old. She was called Jane and was twelve years old. Her friend Kim was going with my mate Marty and when a fourteen year old boy went on a date his mates came along also. That’s the way it was for girls – you dated a boy usually in the company of his friends. My mates and I went everywhere together. Rules are rules.
One summer's evening Marty went to his girlfriend's house with me tagging along. Her friend Jane was also there. Once I set eyes on Jane’s blonde hair, jeans, cowboy boots and rather ample chest I decided “she’s the girl for me”. I said hello to the new girl of my dreams while wishing I was wearing something other than dirty jeans, tee-shirt and a Manchester United scarf. If I had known this tasty bit of stuff was going to be present I would have worn something a touch more classy, like my Glentoran jersey. Perhaps I would have washed my jeans or maybe even taken a bath.
Jane and I seemed to hit it off. Soon we were going out with each other to the point where I had written her name on my schoolbag and on my arm in a ballpoint pen tattoo. When a girl’s name makes it onto a boy’s school bag and the covers of his schoolbooks it must be love.
Each night Jane would come to my street to be with me, while my mates and I played football. When we stopped to take a rest, I would disappear up the street with Jane to a quiet nook for a kiss and fumble. Occasionally I left her standing waiting for me out in the street with my mates while I sat in my house watching television. These were the ways of an apprentice romantic without a clue of how to treat a lady. Jane stuck me for a year or two then wisely got rid of me and my ever-present mates.
This was the start of our on-off-on-off-on relationship which ended in us getting married thirteen years later after being apart for eight years. I can safely say that mates are no longer present in our relationship. In the ways of how to treat a lady, I at least learnt that much!