Fast forward a year to Summer 2004. I’m now 15. Still struggling with my fashion sense and in finding comfort in my own style. I’ve developed a goofy humor that only my family and my closest friends were allowed to witness. Again, afraid society wouldn’t like me (for being me).
I’m at a Summer Camp. With a few of my best mates from school. The duration was 4 weeks and our days revolved around classes, activities and a dance in the evenings. I was bound to meet a nice boy here of similar age and interests, right? WRONG.
The first day we arrived, I got involved in a game of football with the boys. Such a lady – obviously the Tom-boy inside me was still alive and kicking (No pun intended.) I had to retire early from the game however, my jeans just didn’t allow for the same mobility as the boys’ tracksuits. I sat down at the edge of the make shift playing area. Along came….Mark.
‘Hello there!’ he said. I wasn’t instantly blown away by him, but strangely attracted to him all the same. ‘Hi!’ I said back. He asked me my name and then commented ‘There’s a rumour going around here that you play football for this country. Is that true?’. I laughed, and simply responded with an ‘I wish’. He sat beside me. ‘I think that you’d be good enough, you should give it a go. I’m Mark by the way’. A serial charmer. But I wasn’t used to it, so I felt *gulp* special.
We hit it off, and continued to for the rest of the camp. I started to notice girls flocking around Mark. ‘They must fancy him’ I thought. I wasn’t sure if it bothered me or not.
Now, let me introduce Liz. My arch nemesis of this Summer Camp. She had long brown flowing hair, a smile so bright it was almost glow in the dark (her Dad was a dentist) and a killer wardrobe to boot. A threat for any girl in that place, never mind little old me. She mixed with different groups throughout and people seemed so desperate to be liked by her. She liked to mention the fact that her family were rich a lot. Her conversations with me revolved around Mark. What he likes, what sport he plays, music he listens to….I could go on all day. Why was she asking me this?
I’ll tell you why. Word had filtered back to me that Mark had a soft spot for me. Obviously, I panicked and said to the messenger that I wasn’t sure if I liked him. Again, why did I do this? I think the thoughts of people discussing me and my business freaked me out. Part of me didn’t believe it either. If this was a joke and I did admit that I liked him I would be publicly ostracised and the butt of everyone’s jokes. ‘I’ll play it safe’ I thought, and give an impartial answer.
That night at the dance, I saw Liz and Mark chatting. They were getting on really well. How? My friends took a quick walk past, lingered to hear some of the conversation and then reported back to me. ‘She’s using the answers you gave her about Mark to pretend she likes football! And the same music!’ Oh my God I had been out crafted. Liz had let me do all the hard work of getting to know him, and then swooped in last minute like a bird of prey to claim her prize.
It got worse. They kissed. I could hear my heart beating in my chest. Hurt or rage, or both I’m not sure. But it wasn’t a nice feeling. Yet oddly, it was one I experienced many times after, which I will blog about in time.
I avoided Mark and Her Majesty Liz the man stealer for the last few days of camp. On the final day I was faced with saying a goodbye to Mark. The awkwardness was palpable. ‘You didn’t like me….’ He said, as if trying to justify kissing Liz. ‘I did’ I said ‘I’m just not very good at telling people what I think’. He hugged me and then put his forehead against mine. ‘I wanted to kiss you’ he whispered. ‘Goodbye, Mark’ I said. I walked off, still angry not only with him and Liz, but with myself.
Years later and I’m now 21. My younger brother received a football scholarship to play and study at University. He came home one day and he asked me ‘Sis, do you know a guy called Mark? He plays football on my team, and he went to that Summer Camp you went to a few years back? He said he knows you, and to say ‘hi’.’
My heart jumped. ‘Yeah, I know him. Tell him I say ‘hi’ back’.
They still play on the same team to this day. I have yet to bump into him.