The Garden of Teenage Delight
When a child crashes into the teenage years, it’s a rite of passage for him or her to blame anyone brave enough or stupid enough to come within spitting distance. Some, turn their loathing inwards.
I hated my hands – disconnected, dyspraxic.
Fingernails – I hated them too. Hated cutting them. Always one long and one black with dirt. All had bloody edges from biting.
I hated my skinny face squinting back at me from mirrors, shop windows and black vinyl. I was that disfigured cretin reflected in the chrome of a coffee machine.
I hated my bleeding heart. It conned me, making me believe the best of people. It fermented my gullibility yet I was ashamed not to trust.
Love. I hated love especially because it wasn’t mine.
Thirteen years old is too young for a child to know the extent of his worthlessness.
No one warned me life would change so completely and so catastrophically the moment I became a teenager. No one on TV, in books, the NME, Viz, not even the Moody Bloody Blues, no one took me aside and gave me the low down.
I transformed from a chubby happy chappy, into a gangling and utterly miserable toe rag who hated everything except sleeping upside down, squeezing blackheads, scraping fingernails across chalkboards, extracting snot, pissing up walls without using hands and banging my head to music cranked so loud the bass blew out candles.
Mother and Father – overworking, over-achieving, rarely seen – were abruptly re-cast as hateful and interfering megalomaniacs. Even if they had chosen to spend time with me what lessons could they possibly teach? Nothing, absolutely nothing because I was suddenly an existential expert in everything. I was a full-on genius. My grasp on the mysteries of human experience and the entire canon of spiritual and philosophical lore was simply incredible.
If only they had listened to me, the world would be saved!
Although this calamity was all their fault, they were smug, dismissive and condescending when all it would have taken to calm the storm was a hug.
Instead, I made idols of flawed humans because I could trust their indifference, and their silence was comforting. Mahatma Gandhi was the coolest of them all because John Lennon said so. Dammit, I needed that tee-shirt with the old man’s head printed on it in fluorescent yellow. Brilliant!
I made friends with dogs because I could get them to do things by the power of thought alone. With just one look, they would stop barking and trying to eat me. Truly, I was that amazing. Hippies knew dog psychology too, being tuned to the higher forces of the universe. And Gurus, and Red Indians. Many times I would crawl into my pit and crash like a mouth breathing bog-monster only to emerge many hours later as the actual son of an actual Navajo Chief, from Texas or somewhere, and was adopted.
I read this story about a Catholic Adoption Agency in New York that took pity on native Americans because they were savages in a land of unimpeachable Godliness and obscene wealth. They made it their mission to save their children’s mortal souls and rounded them up. They had a book of names and addresses of English families who, for a few thousand pounds, would love the newly created orphans as their very own. Eventually, tough guys at the Internal Revenue Service realised the Agency hadn’t paid any tax and broke down the Agency’s door. At roughly the same time, someone else read about the raid in a local newspaper and began to wonder whether it was actually God’s will that children, savages or not, should be bought and sold like piglets at a market and wrote a stiff note to the Captain of New York’s Police Department. Although almost everyone in the Land of the Free agreed that the Catholic Adoption Agency was wicked for selling children, the bosses were locked up for a couple of years for not paying tax.
Justice and morality had been appeased. Everyone was happy (except the bosses at the Agency). The Inland Revenue Service got the taxes due from selling the “orphan” children. The grown-up “savages,” who were now as God-fearing as the Catholics who abducted them, received compensation so they wouldn’t need to get a proper job. How sweet was that?
I wish life had been so sweet in my garden of Teenage Delight.
Dennis Clifford, my grandmother’s gardener, complained loudly and often that he had to “sweat and graft all hours for next to nowt.” He had to have a proper job all his life, he said, all because he wasn’t “one of them savages” and wasn’t adopted.
Funny old world.
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© Rivenrod 2020