It was the summer of 2001. Bridget Jones’ Diary had just been released at Easter and Tullene and myself had already seen it five times. It was a few weeks until my 18th birthday and I’d just passed my driving test.

I can still remember my first car to this day. It was a Talbot. I don’t even know if that make of car is still in existence. Car make and models are not my specialist subject. It was my pride and joy though, a beautiful silver colour and I called it Toby. Toby the Talbot.

I bought it off my mum’s mate, Barbara for fifty quid. Apparently she didn’t want to charge me anything but my mother insisted she make me pay something. She was very keen on teaching me the value of money!

Many a night after the passing of my driving test, Tullene and I, along with our fellow best friends Amber and Gemma would often be found driving aimlessly around Central London. Well, it was something to do. We clearly thought we were hard nuts.

We’d blare Destiny’s Child’s ‘Bootylicious’ from the car CD player, windows down, partying through the polluted London streets in my Toby. 

I remember one particular night when we stopped at some traffic lights on Oxford Street. I hung out the window with a frying pan. (Don’t ask me why we had a frying pan in the car. We were 17!) Clutching onto the random cooking utensil, I asked a woman if she fancied a fry up. I’m guessing she didn’t fancy one by the disgusted look she threw my way.

The lights turned green and we sped off towards Bond Street. The woman looked at us as though we’d escaped from the asylum and we all laughed hysterically. Oh the idiocy of youth.

I’ve completely digressed off the subject of my coming out story to my parents but I feel describing my beautiful Toby Talbot is important in setting the scene. He played a vital role in the story.

I was fast approaching my 18th birthday and I’d fallen in love with a boy in the year above me at college. Darren. But he’s a story for a later date. I decided that before I declared my love for Darren, I had to tell my mum and dad I was gay. 

I pulled up outside Tullene’s house and beeped my horn. I heard Mummy Pat (Tullene’s mum) shout out the window. “Keep the noise down!” Tullene came running out the house and jumped in Toby.

“We’re going to see Mummy and Daddy Woollard”, I told her.

“Why?”

“Tonight’s the night.”

Being my best friend, she knew exactly what I meant. I couldn’t do it on my own. I needed Tullene by my side. And she still is by my side through most dramas, twenty years later.

Driving onto the council estate where I lived, I could feel my hands getting clammy and beads of sweat on my forehead. Yes, I could sweat back then. I was only 17 remember and hadn’t a need for botox yet.

We parked outside the back gate and Tullene went to open the passenger door. 

“NOT YET!” I screamed, unnecessarily loudly. I saw her wig nearly hit the roof as she jumped as a reaction to my bellowing.

I say wig and not head, as Tullene has a vast collection of wigs that she adorns on her scalp. She would be the envy of any drag queen. She has a hairpiece for every occasion.

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“I need a cigarette to calm my nerves.”

I grabbed a Marlboro light from my glove box and puffed on it like my life depended on it. 

How could that 17-year-old boy afford Marlboro lights?, I hear you cry. Well, this was 2001 remember and they were only £3.99 for a packet of twenty in those days. I don’t smoke any longer but I believe they are about twelve quid a pack now. I don’t know how anyone affords to smoke these days.

As we sat there, chugging on a ciggy, I saw my sister Clare pull up in her car. She had a purple Fiesta which was later to become my car after Toby Talbot went up to motor vehicle heaven. And she would become Fiona Fiesta.

“What are you doing out here?” Clare enquired as she came up to say hello.

“I’ve got something to tell mum and dad.”

“What?”

“I’m gay.”

“Okay then. Let’s go inside and tell them.”

I lost my bottle. I quickly started the engine and swore my sister to secrecy. And then me and Tullene sped off. Driving around Central London, I heard a beep from my Nokia 3310 to indicate a text message. It soon became apparent my sister was no good at keeping secrets.

“Read the message to me Tullene.”

It was from my mum.

“We still love you”, it said.

And there you have it. No fanfares or whistles in this coming out story. Just a sister with a big gob.

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