Charlie didn’t like my nose picking

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Do you remember your first crush? Our writers take a potentially embarrassing trip down memory lane to relive the joy and pain of their first loves.

When I was seven I told my parents I had a girlfriend at school called Anna. This wasn’t as entertaining a story as I’d hoped, so the next day I told them that my best friend was bored of his girlfriend so we’d decided to trade. I think I was visualising relationships as some sort of elaborate card collecting game. Needless to say, I wasn’t quite ready for girls.

I remember fairly well the first girl in real life I had a crush on. Three years after pretending to trade girlfriends as if they were Pokémon, I was in my first year of middle school and was surrounded by more girls than I had ever seen in one place. My lower school was small, and had exactly 87 pupils. I know the exact number because they would occasionally let me photocopy the newsletters that were given out to every student, and at the time I thought 87 was an impossibly large amount of children for one building to hold.

My middle school was about five times the size of my primary school (apologies for those of you unused to the three-tier school system, but some light Googling will catch you up), and suddenly there were girls. I can’t explain it any better than Nick Hornby in High Fidelity:

“One moment they weren’t there, not in any form that interested us, anyway, and the next   you couldn’t miss them; they were everywhere, all over the place.”

I don’t think a single person my age ever acted on any feelings, mainly because I don’t think we were old enough to know why we had suddenly noticed girls. The labels of boyfriends and girlfriends were still being used as punishments when you lost games, where we’d make the loser claim their endless affection for a randomly selected girl from the other side of the room. Of course, girls sat on one side and boys on the other; we were interested, but we weren’t that interested.

The first singular person I focussed my attentions on was a girl called Charlie. She had short blonde hair and I think she may have been tall.

A brief but important interlude: as a ten-year old boy I picked my nose. A lot. Picked it like you wouldn’t believe. My finger was up my nose so much I thought bloodied snot was normal. At school I would ram my finger up there, pull out a chunk of bogey, and wipe it on the inside of my pocket.

I never had any intentions of asking Charlie out, not really understanding at that age what “going out” meant, but I liked making excuses to talk to her. I was a small, pasty, and nerdy sort of a fellow (delete the past tense as appropriate) but I could occasionally say funny things. My conversation wasn’t amazing, but I could quote Austin Powers movies much better than any other boy my age.

One day, during a conversation where I was probably stuttering out a third-rate Dr. Evil impression, a girl called Sam turned sharply to join us. She listened quietly for a minute or two, and then said with perfect clarity:

“You pick your nose.”

Bemused, I reacted with a firm denial and tried to laugh off the accusation. Sam wasn’t having any of it.

“You do. I watch you do it in every lesson. You pick your nose and then put it in your pocket.”

It was the level of detail that threw me. I would have been able to brush off a simple nose-picking accusation, but the added information of exactly where I was hiding my snot was setting off too many internal alarm bells for a quick response.

Charlie, processing the idea that I was some kind of snot-gremlin, snorted at me and walked off arm-in-arm with Sam. Ten-year old Elliot nodded slowly to himself, then probably went back to talking about Dragonball Z.

As Nick Hornby also says in High Fidelity, “all my other romantic stories seem to be a scrambled version of that first one.” Although I am proud to say that I have put my nose picking behind me. Mostly.


Image credit: shayshayallday via Compfight 

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