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Sunday, 24 October 2010

Birth of paranoia

So far, since I found a new groove with this blog, most of what I've posted has been fairly unthreatening stuff. Or at least, unthreatening to me anyway. I've slated my Grandfather as a violent bully, my Father and Uncles as cowards and my other Grandfather as, at the very least, a bit of a numpty. I've also mentioned that when I was forced to live apart from the rest of my family for a while, my parents made little effort to keep me in their lives. This last one is the only time I've come close to criticising myself, in admitting that their absence didn't really bother me.

Anyone can tell stories that paint others in an unflattering light, that's easy. The point of this thing was to be honest about myself. There will be a lot of unflattering stuff about me in future posts, most definitely, as I get into my life as a slightly older, and so slightly more independent child. But even at a very young age I was far from perfect. Time to talk about that.

The very first lie I can remember telling occurred during the 'staying with Grandparents' phase. It's something I've not had to dredge my memory for because I've thought of the situation often since then, in moments of self reflection and/or self recrimination. It wasn't a particularly big lie. I mean, how big a lie is a 6ish year old capable of telling? The reason I've never forgotten it, though I suspect every other person involved has, is because it was a pointless lie. It achieved nothing, and actually made me seem a bit silly. Not to mention a really bad liar.

I had been to school that day. A message had come around telling everyone that the school was putting together a football team and that anyone who was interested should go to a certain classroom at lunchtime. My best friend and I decided we'd go along. Now, I was very young at the time and the inherent stupidity in participating in sports, and especially in voluntarily participating in sports, had not yet occurred to me. Anyway, lunchtime came and after we'd eaten our fill we trudged off to the classroom in question, signed up and got given the practise times and whatnot. (There was no try-out or selection process or anything. If you turned up you were in, competition not being all that fierce amongst 6year olds.)

I can't pinpoint a specific moment in my childhood when I suddenly decided that I hated sport. I would imagine that it came early in my Secondary education, since that's when my perfectly logical reasons for disliking sporting activities - I'm no good at them and see no reason to waste time and effort on something at which I'm unskilled, risking ridicule in the process - would have presented themselves to me for the first time. Before Secondary school football and other sports were just a bit of fun, not to be taken seriously. You didn't need to be good. You didn't even need to know all the rules necessarily.

Anyway, at 6 I was definitely pre-hatred and was actually genuinely excited about being on the school football team. It was a new thing in my life, a fun new thing, and I was bouncing about it for the rest of the day. For all that I had done nothing to deserve or earn it I felt special. Then my Uncle came to collect me from school. Now, seeing as that drop off and pick up was one of the few times I saw my Mother you'd think that I'd be disappointed by her absence but no, I was happy to see my Uncle. It didn't matter that I would have seen him anyway once I got home - he was still young enough to be living at home with his parents - this was my cool Uncle and he was picking me up from school. He would be the first to hear my great news.

Except here comes the lie. I told him about the football team, but as I was talking I started to tell him that I hadn't wanted to join the team but had done so by accident. I explained that Peter (my best friend) and I had gotten into trouble at morning break and so had been told that we weren't allowed outside at lunchtime. We had been ordered to sit out the period in a classroom but the teacher doing the punishing hadn't known about the football meeting in the same room and we had been caught up in it. Being too shy to tell the football teacher (he being quite intimidating) that we were there for being naughty, we signed up for the team.

It was complete and utter nonsense. I know why I said it, I can remember the thought processes even now. As soon as I told my Uncle about being on the team a little voice in the back of my head said "he doesn't care", closely followed by "he won't think you're cool if you're excited". At that time he was probably the person in my family that I looked up to and admired the most. He was my hero, despite being little more than a kid himself and probably just wishing I'd bugger off and leave him alone with his porn mags and illicit VHS copies of gory horror movies. (I didn't realise that last part at the time though.) The thought of him thinking I was uncool was soul destroying. I had to think fast and the story I told was my way to seem indifferent to the team and also a little 'cool' for being in trouble.

Why did I assume that he wouldn't be interested? Where did that little voice come from? Thinking abut it now, it's tempting to think that the need for his approval was me compensating for the fact that I didn't seem to have any from my parents. Maybe, despite not seeming to care about that, I did, in my subconscious, crave adult attention. The problem with that is, I have no recollection of ever getting upset about the separation. If I can remember this tiny little white lie about a football team wouldn't I remember a traumatic separation? Even if I buried it, wouldn't it have manifested at least once, at the beginning? I don't know, I'm no psychologist. What I do know is that the story wasn't over and I was about to look even more foolish.

I had to go and tell my Mam about the football team. She would need to buy me some boots of course, and there was also the matter of Saturday practise sessions at the school, which I would need taking to and picking up from. So I headed off, after my tea, to see her. As I've said, the house they were staying in wasn't massively far awayand it took all of about a minute for me to get there. More than enough time for the little voice to raise it's head again. "She'll be angry" was the basic theme. "She won't want to pay for the boots". "She doesn't care enough to to deal with the practises". "She'll laugh and say you aren't good enough". And so on.

I knew I had to tell her about the team, there was no way out of that. But I found myself so convinced that I would be in trouble about it that I just knew I had to make up a reason why it wasn't my fault. And it couldn't be the one I told my Uncle, since that one involved me already being in trouble. What to do? Well, I blamed it all on Peter. I'd gone along because he wanted to sign up. He put my name down without telling me and now I couldn't get out of it. Oh, the creative juices were pumping that day, I can tell you.

Can you see the problems here? I'd told my Mother one thing, my Uncle another, not really thinking through the fact that since they were brother and sister there was an ever so slight possibility that they would, you know, talk to each other at some point. Then there was the chance that, by saying I didn't want to do it, I might make my Mother try to get me out of it. My Mother was friends with Peters Mam as well, so would likely talk to her at some point. And if my involvement in the team went ahead, members of my family would come into contact with the teacher whom I had been so enthusiastic with originally. In short, there was no way in Hell I was coming out of this looking anything other than a total prat.

Which is exactly what happened. The thing is though, there was very little comeback. I was a little kid after all, and tradition in my family was that you didn't take little kids particularly seriously. None of that heart to heart, "tell me what made you do this", 'special chat' bullshit that you see in soap operas. No, what I got was a half-hearted bit of a telling off that lasted for all of 30 seconds and then a week or so of being mocked and made fun of by everyone I knew. It was fucking horrible. I was too embarrassed to talk to my cool uncle. My Mam, when I saw her, never shut up about it and when I told her something she'd say "Is that right? Or should I ask you uncle Darren?". I was mortified about the whole thing and they just thought it was a joke.

I ended up playing on the team for the rest of that term and then the team was scrapped because too many kids dropped out once the novelty wore off and we didn't have enough to make up a squad. Truth be told, I wasn't particularly bothered, since the whole thing had become a bit of a chore for me as well and I was glad of the excuse to be rid of it. I can't remember the name of the teacher, or any of the other kids on the team apart from Peter and the whole experience was one big damp squib.

But I'll never forget that first day and the way I turned what should have been a little bit of fun into a huge big deal and drove myself to panic attacks. It was the first time I can remember those little paranoid 'voices' wreaking their havoc on my life but they didn't stop there. As I grew older they would strike more and more often and were largely responsible for the crippling social shyness that gripped me throughout my teens and led to my being mercilessly bullied. But that's a story (or 10) for another day.

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