CW: being a frickin teenager. Also CW for a mention of suicide, albeit not in a serious context. Also also CW for comedy violence. Damn this post sounds awful after all of that.
Beloved recently told me that I’d never told him anything about my teenage years. I protested. “You don’t talk about yours much either.”
He said “Yes, but you don’t talk about yours at all. It’s like you disappeared out of existence at ten years old and then reappeared when you started at uni.”
“Well,” I said, “it was a really rough time, but it’s not a secret. What do you want to know?”
“That’s just the thing. I know so little I don’t even know what to ask.”
When I was a teenager, I did a lot of these dumbass questionnaire memes that you’d email out to your friends. They were BIG in the mid 1990s. I was also the first person in my group of (sort of – it’s complicated) friends with internet access, so I had a few different email penpals around the world. We loved these questionnaires. Now to be clear, adult me finds them a bit self-indulgent. The ones I find REALLY self-indulgent are memes that ask you “hello friends. Here are some questions about ME so you can tell ME what you think of MEEEEEE!” Everyone knows someone who posts these. Usually it’s one person. Who posts them endlessly.
So I thought I’d find one of these questionnaires and answer it as 15 year old me and the person I am today. The trouble was that they’re actually fairly difficult to find now because the world has moved on. The ones that do exist seem to be 400 questions long. Does anyone care THAT much?
I did find a shorter one in the end. Teenage Me and Now Me (in bold) will be telling you what’s going down.
1. WERE YOU NAMED AFTER ANYONE?
Without giving away my real name: a famous writer and also a batshit crazy great-great-great aunt. Let’s not forget her.
2. WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME YOU CRIED?
Probably today. Shit I’m not sure and that’s unusual. Couple of weeks ago? I must be doing better.
3. DO YOU LIKE YOUR HANDWRITING?
What a weird question. Who cares about handwriting? Other people seem to like it. I’m just too aware that by pen nerd standards it’s nothing special but I’m always working on improving it.
4. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE LUNCH MEAT?
Morningstar Farms fake bacon. Damn I miss Morningstar Farms fake bacon.
5. DO YOU HAVE KIDS?
Not yet! No. No no no no no no no. Although I do have three beautiful cats.
6. IF YOU WERE ANOTHER PERSON WOULD YOU BE FRIENDS WITH YOU?
No. The act of being friends with myself would probably reveal to me the personality faults that only other people can see in us, and taking this on board I might change somewhat and then would I be me still? Or would I go into denial about these personality traits and end up becoming a worse person and THEN would I be friends with – I’m overthinking this aren’t I. I certainly wouldn’t be friends with you. Nor I you, kid, because that’d involve hanging out with a weirdo 15 year old.
7. DO YOU USE SARCASM A LOT?
Well yeah DUH. It’s my first language. English came later.
8. DO YOU STILL HAVE YOUR TONSILS?
Yeah. Are you offering to buy them?
9. WOULD YOU BUNGEE JUMP?
Oh fuck no. Oh fuck no.
10. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE CEREAL?
Crunchy nut cornflakes. Cinnamon toast crunch.
11. DO YOU UNTIE YOUR SHOES WHEN YOU TAKE THEM OFF?
Usually. I hate shoes with laces.
12. DO YOU THINK YOU ARE STRONG?
Emotionally? I guess. Physically no. Emotionally? I suppose I must be by now. Physically not really.
13. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE ICE CREAM?
Mint choc chip. Cinnamon anything.
14. WHAT IS THE FIRST THING YOU NOTICE ABOUT PEOPLE?
Do they have pretty hair? Are they currently holding a fountain pen? No? In which case: do they have pretty hair?
15. RED OR PINK?
Red. You think you can limit someone with maybe 70 different shades of ink in her possession? Screw you and bring on the Diamine Teal.
16. WHAT IS THE LEAST FAVORITE THING ABOUT YOURSELF?
I never quite seem to be able to convince people that being my friend is a good idea. That’s a bit too personal to blog about.
17. WHO DO YOU MISS THE MOST?
Various friends I’ve fallen out with and I don’t know why. That Asshole. Although we can’t be friends unless he stops being an asshole. Which seems unlikely at this point.
18. WHAT IS THE PAUL MCKENNA TECHNIQUE THAT YOU NEED TO WORK ON THE MOST?
That’s a weird question for someone who isn’t a stage hypnotist. Screw that guy. He’s a fraud.
19. WHAT SHOES ARE YOU WEARING?
Purple DMs. Slippers that look like crocodiles are eating my feet.
20. WHAT WAS THE LAST THING YOU ATE?
Toasted cheese sandwich. M&S wotsits.
21. WHAT ARE YOU LISTENING TO RIGHT NOW?
The Beatles. Right now? Nothing. In general? Audiobooks and Ella Fitzgerald.
22. IF YOU WERE A CRAYON, WHAT COLOR WOULD YOU BE?
Green. I don’t think crayons get to decide what colour they are.
23. FAVORITE SMELL?
24. WHO WAS THE LAST PERSON YOU TALKED TO ON THE PHONE?
Whichever friend I’m on best terms with at the moment. My boss.
25. MOUNTAIN HIDEAWAY OR BEACH HOUSE?
Beach house. Mountain hideaway.
26. FAVORITE SPORTS TO WATCH?
Showjumping. I never watch sports.
27. HAIR COLOR?
Green. At the moment I’m growing out my light brown hair but there’s still bright red henna in the ends. It’s taking forever.
28. EYE COLOR?
Blue. Unsurprisingly still blue.
29. DO YOU WEAR CONTACTS?
No. I wear glasses.
30. FAVORITE FOOD?
Toasted cheese sandwiches. Tandoori salmon.
31. SCARY MOVIES OR HAPPY ENDINGS?
Happy endings. Not really all that keen on movies tbh.
32. LAST MOVIE YOU WATCHED?
A Hard Day’s Night. Ready Player One.
33. WHAT COLOR SHIRT ARE YOU WEARING?
Green and white hand me down from my sister. White with Pusheen on it.
34. SUMMER OR WINTER?
35. HUGS OR KISSES?
I would like girls to want to kiss me. Usually hugs but this is a weird dichotomy.
36. FAVORITE DESSERT?
Mint choc chip ice cream. Cinnamon rolls.
37. STRENGTH TRAINING OR CARDIO?
Cantatrice does not do exercise except riding. Strength.
38. COMPUTER OR TELEVISION?
39. WHAT BOOK ARE YOU READING NOW?
One of the DragonLance ones. Education by Tara Westover.
40. WHAT IS ON YOUR MOUSE PAD?
It’s plain blue. Icy Strait Point – most beautiful place in the world.
42. FAVORITE SOUND?
The Beatles. I’m rather partial to total silence actually.
43. ROLLING STONES OR BEATLES?
THE BEATLES I AM VERY GLAD THAT YOU ASKED ME THIS LET ME TELL YOU ALL ABOUT THEM SIT DOWN AND WE WILL HAVE A LONG DISCUSSION ABOUT HOW JOHN LENNON IS A TOTAL GOD [five hours later] I’m not really very keen on either group. Their music is very simple, none of them were particularly skilled instrumentalists or singers and frankly they were/are all kinda a bunch of dicks as people. Especially John Lennon. Wow what a total asshole. HOW DARE YOU. I’m sorry. REMIND ME TO KILL MYSELF BEFORE I BECOME YOU.
44. WHAT IS THE FARTHEST YOU HAVE BEEN FROM HOME?
The Gambia. Can we go back to talking about The Beatles now? Alaska. Or California? Wait I went to California when I was a kid, too, so maybe that’s… I don’t know. Let me fire up Google Maps.
45. DO YOU HAVE A SPECIAL TALENT?
I am a creative writing genius. I am not a genius at anything, but I am somewhat musically gifted and have quite a nice singing voice.
There you go. Now you know all about 15 year old me!
Now you know a few things about 15 year old me.
Now you know 15 year old me’s favourite flavour of ice cream.
To be serious for a moment: being a teenager is always hard. Being a queer, autistic-but-nobody-has-figured-that-out-yet teenager who’s having a rough time at home is really hard. I may write a bit more about the particulars of that at some point in the future but right now I’m going to move on to talking about pens.
I’ve already written about the dire cheap Parkers of my youth and the lack of alternatives so here’s something about the pen I wish had been available. For pen nerds reading this it’ll come as no surprise that I wish I’d had a Lamy Safari. In fact they did exist when I was a teenager: they first hit the market in 1980. So they’re as old as I am. But they weren’t in the shops that I could get to so I didn’t know that they existed. In the mid 1990s I don’t know if they’d broken out of Germany yet. I didn’t see one in a shop until maybe 2005, when Esteemed Ex and I were once again in WHSmith staring at the uninspiring fountain pens on offer. She said she’d heard good things about Lamy. I said they couldn’t possibly be as bad as the Vectors so I bought one.
It really is a very good pen for the price bracket. I think in order to do significantly better you’d have to move into gold nibs, and other than the bizarrely cheap and wonderful Platinum PTL-5000 those start at about £60. So if the next best thing costs £17-ish that’s worthy of note. At some point I will do my tirade about how terrible everything is in the £30-£50 range, but that’s another post. Lamy nibs are extremely smooth and reliable. Unfortunately they’re not compatible with anything else so you can’t just buy a ton of them and switch them around with all of the “Iridium Point Made In Germany* (*neither of these assertions is true)” nibs. I’m tempted to try a gold Lamy nib but is it silly to put one in a Safari? I don’t have any other Lamy pens.
The reason why I don’t have any other Lamies (Lamys? Lamies? I don’t know…) is that none of them really appeal to me aesthetically. Lamy are big on making their pens very metallic and shiny. If metallic and shiny isn’t your thing then you’re pretty much out of luck. I had an Al-Star for a while (exact same pen as the Safari, but metallic and shiny) and it annoyed me so much I gave it away. I don’t even like the look of the Safari. Nobody has ever looked at a Safari and thought “GodDAMN that pen is a work of art.” If you’ve looked at a Dialog 3 and thought that it was anything other than hideous then I am judging you very hard right now. The 2000 has an extremely good reputation but to me that extreme cigar shape makes it look like one of those fruit juice cartons that has been sitting around for too long and blown up like a balloon. I wouldn’t kick it out of my pen case but I also wouldn’t buy it, because there are too many other options in that price bracket that are beautiful. There are lots of other Lamieeeeeeeeez that are fairly unremarkable in design terms, but they’re almost all sleek and metallic. Not my thing. The only one that I think is a real looker is this Accent but again it’s in a price range where I’d inevitably choose something else. This is frustrating because they’re probably lovely pens to write with.
So. The Safari. A bit modern and joyless in appearance, really. It gets brought out as a special edition in a new colour each year and everyone loses their shit over it. This year it’s matt black which is actually rather nice. It’s good because many of the other special edition pens of various brands have gone off the deep end this year with colours that are hideous. I probably won’t buy it because I don’t buy the same pen in different colours, but many people do and some are obsessive about collecting all the Safaris and Al-Stars. The Safari is a perfect school pen though. The bullies won’t pay any attention to it, but your hand will fly across the page as you write smoothly and quickly. It starts immediately every time however long it’s been sitting there. Every fountain pen should do this but sadly a great many of them are in the “Can I take a number? Yes I have a pen. No wait it’s just… lemme… hold on I have to smear some spit on this nib dammit. And now I have ink all over my fingers and I’ve run out of tissues. Right. That number then. Hello? Hello?” camp. It never leaks. In fact in all my interactions with pen nerds I have never once heard anyone try to troubleshoot a Safari. This is very much not the case with some of its competitors such as the Nemosine Singularity. The Safari has become so popular that it now appears to be the most commonly counterfeited fountain pen in the world. This is why you should never buy one from eBay or even Amazon. But you should buy one.
And now a nice song from… oh God 15 year old me is still here and she’s coming at me with a hardback copy of The DragonLance Chronicles. Stop hitting me! That thing is really heavy and hard. What do you want? Stop hitting me!
So. The Beatles it is.