Sunday, June 14, 2009

Defining Moments: "I'm a grown up now"

We can all remember, with a little gentle coaxing, one of the first times as a child that we felt like we were growing up.

The first one that springs to mind for me was the first time I ever crossed the main road alone. It was a route I'd travelled many times with my mother. And now she was trusting me to go alone. She trusted that I wouldn't end up like a lot of the hedgehogs, foxes and badgers did: squashed and very dead.

Not only did she trust that I would cross the road safely, she was trusting herself; that she had taught me well how to recognise when it was safe to cross the road.

She had taught me not to talk to strangers, accept sweets from them, or go and see puppies with them.

At last, I was an adult. At nine years old. I could cross the road on my own and mum trusted me with that, and all that stuff about strangers.

That stuff with strangers, you know, it changes as we get older. I realised this one night a few years ago.


I was sat in a pub when I struck up a conversation with this bloke who had a Marshall Amplification t-shirt on. Figuring he was a guitar player, or a fan of guitars at least, I kicked things off by asking him who the greatest player of all time was.

Unusually, he had the right answer. And I liked that. The answer? "You can't say that there is just one great player. That would be a load of bollocks. There are a lot of players who you could say are a lot better than average bedroom noodler."

Straight away, we were into a friendly, but not serious, conversation about music, which bands did it for us, who shouldn't have died from an OD, and all that other stuff.

Before I knew it we were buying each other beers and chain smoking and he said there was this great band on at a club tonight and that we should go.

It was at that point that I made a quick assessment as to whether I was going to end up dead in a basement after being violently sexually assaulted. It seems sensible to me, to make this kind of assessment, given how much my mum told me about strangers as a kid. And I decided I was okay.

After a quick phone call to say I would be out late (or early depending on how you look at it) we headed for the club. I'd already broken the first two rules: I had spoken to a stranger, accepted the sweets. And now I was breaking the third: I was going to see the puppies.

Turned out it was a good night and a good band. But what it got me thinking is this: At what point does it go from being unsafe to talk to strangers, take stuff from them, and go to a place where you normally would go with them, to being perfectly safe?

When does that happen?


Tabor said...

Oddly enough, I have thought of this very same thing. When can you trust strangers and find that you may make new friends. Being a woman it is much more difficult.

dan said...

Tabor, I appreciate what you say.

Interestingly, there was a time when a woman who walked alone into a pub in town would be deemed to be a tart. Nowadays you often see women drinking alone, at least in these parts you do.

leslie said...

When they have puppies, of course! :)

Good bit of writing here, Dan.

I don't know, really, to answer your question. It's not an age, but a mindset. When one feels that they could successfully run away and get home under their own steam, I suppose.
I still don't like going off in a car with someone, even if we are good friends.

eric said...

i don't think there is any way.

given all the domestic deaths in my area ... you pretty much can't trust to be safe no matter what.

i would say hitch hiking, at least here, is pretty much dead from kerouac days.

dan said...

Leslie, I now realise that I made a mistake in writing "perfectly safe". There's no such thing, of course. Some situations are safer than others is what I meant.

Eric, Are there really that many domestic deaths out there? Can it be that bad? It was on the news here today that road deaths are lower than ever in the UK:

PBS said...

It's a matter of developing one's intuition about people, I think. That said, intuition can sometimes be faulty!