Growing up gay in rural Hertfordshire was an experience full of longing and misery. Before the internet brought people together it was difficult to meet other gay people, let alone people you could end up dating.
Everyone has a small private list of people they nearly dated, someone who never made it past that first flush of excitement, someone you would never even call an Ex. This secret list becomes all the more interesting for gay men who had short affairs with fellow Sixthformers or friends of friends, boys who ended up dating (and a lot of the time, marrying) women, possibly never again acknowledging their little dalliance with someone of the same sex.
One boy I think about a lot from Sixthform, was a gorgeous, tall, red-headed posh boy. A friend of a friend from South London. After I heard whisperings of his possible bisexuality, we met at a party and we ended up having a very brief affair. None of his friends were allowed to know. We had a handful of very secret meetings which I optimistically called “dates”. It went wrong very quickly. I remember him telling me on MSN (those were the days!) how it was not going to work out and that he was going to try to get back with his ex-girlfriend. The news crushed me.
This ghostly relationship haunted me for years afterwards. It was the fleeting nature of it’s existence and his insistence on keeping it secret that made it stronger and more painful when it was over. I wonder if I have become a little quirk in his past, the answer to a trivia question, “have you ever kissed a boy…?” I wonder if he would ever admit to it. It’s an incredible thing to think that someone could erase you like that. The power latent in past relationships is you are co-authors. You can argue over who said what, who did what, neither of you will be right. When you break up your versions no longer match as they once did. After years and years, you probably remember the same relationship incredibly differently.
Everyone has secrets about their past. Especially the strange things one got up to in their teenage years. It’s interesting to think about this strange cast of rogues everyone has in their past, relationships which never even blossomed, in my case, relationships which the other person has probably kept a secret ever since.