Writing 101 day 3 – The Serial Killer (Loss)
There’s an incredible sense of relief, but it’s a hollow one. The last red squiggle has been triple checked, the last print-out corralled into place, the last march down the hall, the last wait in the queue, the last hunt for a working pen, the last satisfying thud as it drops into the waiting box. It’s gone, there’s nothing more to do but wait.
I got a high second, in the end. Just a mark or so short of the ‘go on then, we’ll give you a first’ point, but close enough that I thought I’d made it. On my dissertation I got a first, nearly but not quite high enough that they’d help me publish it. Generally, I was nearly there but not quite. Story of my academic life, to be honest.
I mean, I can’t complain, really. I got 10 GCSEs and 5 A levels, missed out on a first class degree by the narrowest of margins and have been asked to go back and do my Masters with them once the course is running. I did well, but I’m a Grammar School girl. Calderdale is one of the few places in the country that still has selective state schools, and there was pretty much no debate about where I was going to go. We looked at the other schools, and then I went and sat the 11+ exam, and my parents took me out for steak to celebrate. Seriously, that was it. I enjoyed the exam, and I never doubted my abilities. Fortunately, I never doubted the fact that I was good but not amazing. Some kids struggled with going from being the brightest kid in their year to one of many bright kids. We sent six to the two selective schools in my year, and I was firmly in the middle of the pack.
So I enjoyed school. I was bullied for twelve of my fourteen years, but that stopped mattering somewhere around the middle. It faded into the background, I started to find it funny, and it turns out that among my school year being gay actually had street cred. I have never had street cred in my life except for when I came out, completely casually, and they realised that there were layers to me they’d never suspected.
That was a funny lesson, actually. I had a copy of Sugar Magazine with Jessica Biel on the cover. It got stolen, as these things do, for the boys to pass around, and they made general ‘phwoar, Jessica Biel’ noises. I told them that I preferred Jessica Alba, and yes, I did mean that I fancied her.
Cue shock and awe. It was a good time to grow up gay at my school. We were old enough to have spent our early years under Section 28 and for the effects to linger into our sex ed classes, so we had to figure out that gay people existed from Hollyoaks, Eastenders, the L Word and Queer As Folk. Or, if you were me, John Barrowman.
I had a very specific type of street cred that only extended to my liking girls. They probably thought it was why I was uninterested in any of the boys that liked me, but that was just complete obliviousness. I had more important things to think about, like what role Legolas played in the events of The Hobbit, and whether Orlando Bloom was a really wooden actor or just standing next to Johnny Depp. Like I said, really specific street cred.
You can’t use words like street cred when you’re an adult, except with a vague confusion. I know, I’ve got there. It has to be ironic, but with an extra level of irony to the irony it always had. Being in education was simple. It was this closed-off world with its own culture and language, where the ebb and flow of social groups was of Utmost Importance and exams were just a by-product.
Now, the exams are what matters. No one cares about the summers spent on the sixth-form lawn (yes, it was that sort of school) or being caked (sixth-formers with flour, eggs and bottles of milk), or the girl who sat on top of the TV cabinet in the music room or the guy who put my pencil case on top of the bookcase whilst I tried not to laugh. All they care about is the grades I got, and they don’t even care about those all that much.
I never thought I’d say it at the time, of course, but my schooldays really were the best days.