I’m pretty certain, actually, 100% convinced, that I’m not the only one who silently cheers when I read a headline that states the bull gored the bullfighter to death. Hell, I’m also pretty certain I’m not the only one who engages in a little fist pump to go along with said quiet acknowledgement of the bull’s victory. I don’t actually read the article mind you. I find it far too distressing that bullfighting is still acceptable, in some parts of the world.
I know for a fact I’m not the only one who reminisces about my youth with a little rosy glow and perhaps some tinted specs. I was chatting with a friend about this very topic, and in particular, first love a few days ago. I hope she doesn’t mind me reproducing it here to dramatic effect… Actually, I know she won’t mind because I said I was going to, and if the subject of my first love happens to be reading this – yes, I know you know who you are – then, I hope your memories are as fond as mine. To spare his blushes, I won’t use his real name but will refer to him as, simply, X.
I think I can safely say that the loss of X at the tender age of 10, was my first foray into heartbreak. I cried rivers over him. Sadly, he was not the last boy I have cried over. We first met around the age of 6 at school (no brainer really). We became virtually inseparable very quickly and we spent every spare moment we had (you know, that time between school finishing and tea time and then again between tea time and bed time) together. I was either at his house or he was at mine. I loved being at his house, it was so much bigger than mine, plus he had a sister and I’d always wanted one of them. Hmm, was I materialistic 6-year-old or were my preferences borne out of his house having just so many more rooms to play in? I clearly remember that the bathroom was significantly larger than my apartment is today and I can’t get close to describing how wonderful his garden was. So, materialistic tendencies aside, our friendship blossomed into the kind of romance that only kids seem to have. Pure, cute, tender, loving and safe. We were joined at the hip. We would hold hands and kiss during playtime at school (this was the 70s; it wasn’t illegal then!), we would sit in the field behind my house and talk about our future. We were obviously going to be married. We were obviously going to have 6 kids, although I think we both believed that you either bought babies at a special shop or the stork left them under a rose bush. We were going to live on a farm and we were going to be blissfully happy with each other. We never said “until our dying day”, as we didn’t know what death was.
Then, at the age of 10, he got the whiff of fresh meat and I was dumped. I was devastated. The little minx who stole him away from me was a new girl at school. She came, she saw and she got my man! I went from spending all my time with X to staying inside and crying on the floor. Such was my heartbreak. My Mother explained away my pain by simply claiming that I’d never really had a friend before X (bit brutal, I had friends!) and that I was not grieving the loss of my soulmate and future husband, but merely the loss of a friend. I didn’t really understand what she was banging on about then, but nearly 40 years later I can understand that she wasn’t ready to see her 10-year-old married off to some cad who could so easily have his head turned. Then, the unexpected happened, X’s Mother whipped him out of the local primary school and sent him across the country to another school. Well, it was actually in a nearby village, but it could have been another country for all the difference it made. Neither I nor new girl saw him again.
The friend I was chatting with a few days ago about first loves, is actually the new girl who stole my man. We actually became great friends. She asked me the other day why I didn’t hate her. I answered, quite truthfully, that I didn’t know I was supposed to. It wasn’t her who had hurt me; X was the cause of my suffering. I’ve heard that used as an excuse by those who carry on dalliances with married men/women. The fact that they are not the one actually cheating on the wife/husband, would seem to absolve them from all liability. Obviously, this example is a little different to my childhood love, but it’s an interesting argument to ponder.
With heartbreak number 1 securely under my belt. Comprehensive school beckoned and a whole new game began.
I don’t imagine I’m the only one that had their heart smashed to smithereens as a child. At the time, I didn’t really understand why I was hurting so much. My Mother’s attempts to make me feel better failed miserably. Actually, when I really think about it, I don’t think I’ve talked to her about boys since! Oh dear. The first boy I brought home at around 16, was met by my Father and our exuberant Boxer dog! He didn’t come to my house again and I never brought another boyfriend back to meet my parents. The next guy they met had already been living with me for a few months before they even got to hear about him, let alone meet him!
My dad took full advantage of Rusty – the Boxer – and the fact that all you had to do to make Rusty foam at the mouth and look like he was going to eat you alive, was grab his collar. Rusty was a rescue dog. He was the subject of an RSPCA prosecution case and so we didn’t get to know much about him, but my dad was told a few facts when he and my Mother went to see him. My Dad had Boxer dogs all his adult life. I got my first Boxer – Skipper – when I was a mere toddler. Truth be known, I’d spent months stamping up and down the stairs at home chanting “I want a pony” and getting a puppy Boxer instead (I like to think he was all mine, but actually he was for the family) was simply the best thing to ever happen to me. Anyway, the point is, my dad knew Boxers and knew how to handle them. Skipper had died, I’d finally come out of my room and my brother had started to speak again, and it was time for another dog. My parents crossed the mighty Pennines, passed the dark, satanic mills and arrived at a Boxer rescue centre.
Rusty, or Rastas, as he was then called was approximately 2 years old. This was his second stay in a centre and he was proving extremely difficult to rehome. My parents were his last chance. His previous rehoming ended badly when he was simply turfed back out onto the streets of Manchester to fend for himself. Sickening to do that to an animal. Rusty was wearing a red cat collar. The centre said that he simply refused to have it removed. Rusty was also bald, one of his jowls had been ripped, his jaws no longer fitted together and he had been beaten and kicked badly enough that it seemed a rib or two had broken and healed. My Dad took the lead and collar we’d used for Skipper and put them on Rusty. The centre didn’t think Rusty would walk with my dad or even take to him at all, such was his experiences. But, that could not have been further from what happened. Rusty walked with my Dad as if he was at Crufts. We had our new family member. It wasn’t always easy with Rusty, but he and I formed an incredibly special bond. He was, without any doubt, my dog. I remember when my parents brought him into the house on that first day. I was standing in the kitchen and the back door opened. This thing just charged in, charged through every room in the house, ran up and down the stairs and finally jumped up at my Dad, nearly knocking him off his feet. We definitely had a lot of work to do with this fella. We managed to get his cat collar off and replace it with Skipper’s old one. It was pretty loose for a while, but as Rusty started to gain weight (and fur) it seemed the right place for it to be.
We don’t know the outcome of the RSPCA prosecution case against Rusty’s former owners. I don’t want to know the full horror that Rusty went through as a puppy. I do know that when he sadly had to be put to sleep, he had had an amazing life with a family that loved him very much. Rusty brought a lot of joy into my family and I like to think we gave him a really happy life in return. I’m not the only one who can’t understand why humans treat other species with such cruelty and I commend all those that work tirelessly to try to make sure mistreated animals are represented, rescued and cared for.
In case you’re wondering, I do know what became of X. Although, we haven’t seen each other since we were kids, we are in touch. I like to remind him that he broke my heart and hence ruined me for every man I’ve met subsequently. I suspect he believes he had a lucky escape…!