The one with Lauryn Hill and the university boyfriend

This evening I have been listening to The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill.

There are certain songs or albums that always trigger memories for me. I can’t listen to Tap on my Window for instance without thinking of a certain man, and if I hear Run DMC vs Jason Nevins, It’s Like That, I’m 19 again, getting ready for a night in a crappy club, drinking peach schnapps.

Lauryn Hill reminds me of a particular time during my second year of university. I was 20 years old, a single mum of a three-year-old, commuting two hours a day to get to lectures. I didn’t get to do any of the social stuff, or even really get to hang out much, so there was very little opportunity for any sort of drunken debauchery.

However, I had my eye on a boy…

We were friends, we shared lots of the same lectures, but when you have to rush home after class to pick up a small child from playgroup, it’s hard to find the right time to make your move. Plus, believe it or not, or was actually pretty shy when I was 20, asking someone out (whilst sober at least) was a really big deal.

I remember we were in the middle of end of year exams, and I was beginning to feel I was going to have to do something, sometime soon, else it would be summer, and the summer holidays seemed ridiculously long. How could I possibly wait weeks and months to see him again?

I had a habit in uni of leaving three hour exams after about an hour and a half, (I get bored easily), so one afternoon I was sat on my own in the bar, waiting for everyone else to come out, when I spotted my boy. He had come out early too. He came and sat with me. I was convinced he would be able to hear my heart pounding in my chest. Even now, typing this, I’m feeling nervous, just remembering it.

We had about 20 minutes until everyone else came out. I was feeling brave. Petrified, but brave. Time was ticking, I had to do something. The conversation went something like this:

“So,” I said, trying to keep my voice as calm as casual as possible, “how are you feeling about the exam tomorrow?”

“Pretty confident,” said my boy. He always was cocky.

“Only I’m feeling a bit unsure about it,” (blatant lie), “and I was thinking maybe you could help me?”

“Sure, can you hang around now?”

“Well no, that’s the problem, I have to get back. You’d have to come with me.” I lived about 50 miles away. “You could stay over if you like.”

He later told me it was the most instant erection he had ever had, which is always good to know.

Lauryn Hill was on in the car as we drove back to my house and I tried to stop my heart pounding and appear sexy and cool at all times.

We went out for about six months, and I was smitten. I was living in a tiny house at the time, just me and Bee, with barely any furniture, and just enough money for pasta ‘n’ sauce. My boy took me out for Proper Meals and brought real grown up food to my house. I was so impressed. He was also hugely driven and ambitious, and challenged me to feel the same. Until that point in my life, although I had always had support, and plenty of praise, I’m not sure I ever really felt pushed, not in the way that he pushed me. He took me outside my comfort zone, he seemed to have a different way of being, and he helped me believe that perhaps I really could be anything I wanted to be.

I remember just after we broke up, I went with some friends to see his band play in a bar in Bristol. I thought he was just the best guitarist in the whole world, and after the gig, back at a friend’s flat, I cried and cried. I couldn’t stop crying enough to go to sleep, so at about 6am I gave up and drove home, still crying. I felt broken – like all of my insides had been ripped out, I couldn’t control myself, I couldn’t imagine how I would ever stop crying. I wasn’t so much crying for him, but for what I felt might have been, the kind of person I might have become with him.

Does that sound stupid? It was really a pretty insignificant relationship, and who knows, he probably doesn’t even remember me now, twelve years on. I got over it, pretty quickly in the end, but for just a little while I was gutted. I still think about him sometimes and the impact he had on my life at that time. They say it’s the things you don’t do that you regret, and I’m certainly glad I took the chance that day in the uni bar.



  1. the dotterel
    13 October, 2010 / 8:46 pm

    Oh, gosh… don’t get me started! But anyway, you didn’t tell us how you got on in the exam ; )

    • 13 October, 2010 / 9:20 pm

      Well I got a first of course. I didn’t need the help at all really. I am such a square :-)

  2. 13 October, 2010 / 9:53 pm

    It doesn’t sound stupid of course but I hope you are proud of the wonderful person you became *without him..or would you even say partly because of?

    (for me it was a challenge to stay around long enough for them to know my 2nd name…)

    • 14 October, 2010 / 2:13 pm

      Well there were plenty who probably weren’t sure of my first name to be honest…

      I would say he could take some of the credit for opening my eyes to the possibilities in my life. Just a tiny bit though – he did dump me after all, let’s not be too generous :-)

  3. 14 October, 2010 / 6:12 am

    Yes Dotterell, she’s quite the titillator. I want to know how steamy things got on that “revision” evening?!
    A lovely post my dear. Really touching. It’s strange how some people change you, just that little bit, and they’ll probably go through life never knowing.


    • 14 October, 2010 / 2:10 pm

      Now you know a lady doesn’t kiss and tell…

      Which is why I can tell you exactly what happened…

      It was certainly steamy, but I exercised amazing will power and we didn’t actually sleep together, although we slept in the same bed – I was such a tease. But then a lot of the fun is in the anticipation isn’t it? It certainly encouraged him to arrange a second date pretty sharpish.

  4. 14 October, 2010 / 7:55 am

    Life has so many regrets. I regret most of my younger years, and not being able to say what I wanted to say to who I wanted to say it and so on. I still think occasionally about a lady called Suzie who worked for Allied Dunbar in Westminster. That was 1989, you’d have thought I’d have forgotten about her by now …. You look back and think “what if ….” and so on, and wonder if life would have turned out differently. Who can say ….

    • 14 October, 2010 / 2:07 pm

      There is definitely evidence for the idea that you are more likely to regret the things you DON’T do than the things you DO do, exactly because you are always thinking ‘what if…’

      • 15 October, 2010 / 12:08 pm

        The secret (I believe) is not to keep trying to decide whether to do something or not, but to just stop “faffing around” and come to a decision, either do it or don’t. That way whatever “it” was then it won’t necessarily be so much of a “what if ?” later on in life.

        Is that making any sense or do I need some more coffee ?

  5. Nicky Richards
    14 October, 2010 / 11:51 am

    This has made me really sad, to be one of your oldest friends and i realise how little i knew of your life back then. Hate to think of you being so sad.
    It doesn’t sound stupid at all, the what ifs are always harder to handle. Well done for being brave and giving him an instant erection!!

    • 14 October, 2010 / 1:59 pm

      Don’t be sad! Honestly, I was properly gutted, but only for about 36 hours :-)

      What’s weird though, is that writing it, although it felt like a really vivid memory, it almost felt like I was writing about someone else, someone even I didn’t know very well. It was quite a long time ago now I guess! *old*

  6. 14 October, 2010 / 3:44 pm

    Lovely piece. What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.

    Except quick drying cement, that is.

  7. Lucy
    14 October, 2010 / 8:18 pm

    I think women need MENTORS. It’s really important. I think that when we are older, we are perhaps (hopefully) good at mentoring each other, but I think that boys get mentored ‘naturally’ from an early age. I’ve had mentors in my life and they’ve made a huge difference, expanding my horizons. xxx

  8. 14 October, 2010 / 10:09 pm

    Girl, how are you listening to Miseducation on the exact same day as me? That is one of my faves….but I always forget to listen to it. Love her!! Love your post too….I love that you didn’t leave your boy to be one of those “what if” stories. Especially if he was cute xx

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