I was a late bloomer in many ways and I didn’t mind too much. Last one in my friendship circle getting a period? I could deal with that. Last first kiss? Annoying, but at least there was a build-up and something to get excited for. But being the last person to have a boyfriend or girlfriend felt like the worse punishment ever. It was as if I was lagging behind everyone else and I wasn’t as attractive as the girls in my class who slid into relationships as easily as a new pair of trainers.
Sometimes, it felt like I would be waiting forever for when I’d finally be able to understand the lyrics in Mario’s Let Me Love You or Jojo’s Baby It’s You or Leave Get Out – (still bangers, TBH). Occasionally, it felt like I would be about 300 years old before I had a significant other, then no one would even believe me by the time it happened.
Growing up on a diet of Bliss, Sugar and Sneak magazines (RIP, sob), I was unsurprisingly obsessed with the problem pages. I couldn’t really relate to any of the love-related problems though. Instead, I would devour the problem pages looking for girls just like me.
“Dear Cathy, I feel so unattractive as I’m the last girl in my class to go out with someone – what do I do? Worried, 14, Cornwall.”
I’d be more concerned about checking the ages, checking that I wasn’t THAT much older than the girls writing in. I’d roll my eyes at the agony aunt’s advice: “Go at your own pace” they’d preach, or “you’ll get there eventually”. She certainly can’t have known the agony of spending yet another Saturday trawling round the shopping centre with un-coupled up mates.
Spoiler: I did eventually get there. For all the anxieties about being the last person in the ENTIRE WORLD to have a partner, the agony aunts were (as always) right in the end: there was plenty of time for love, later. And instead of waiting around for my dreamboat, it strengthened my female friendships. There’s always one girl in your friendship circle that decides to spend Saturday night with their honey, missing out on the BEST NIGHT EVER – but at least I can say I was there.
And here’s what I learnt when I finally got my first love: slow and steady does eventually win the race. You’ll be able to appreciate being coupled up more – whether your partner is a girl or boy – instead of having a S.O. just for the sake of having one. And rather than jumping into a relationship purely so you can add him or her to your Instagram bio with a <3 emoji, you figure out what qualities you want your other partner to have instead of diving in head-first only to find out they’re a secret misogynist. Bleugh.
And I also learnt the art of patience and delayed gratification. Sure, just because you want something doesn’t mean you’re able to get it instantly. It probably goes a long way to explain why I stuck with the piano lessons and why I didn’t give up on French – you do get there eventually, and it feels sweeter.
But the biggest lesson I learnt was that being late to the party means you don’t have to be defined by whether or not you’re dating anyone. Instead, you get to learn to appreciate your own company and learn about what your interests and hobbies are instead of focusing on someone else.