EVEN if you haven’t seen Normal People, the BBC’s adaptation of Sally Rooney’s novel about star-crossed lovers Connell and Marianne, you’ve probably heard about the sex scenes.
All 41 minutes of them (I didn’t count them, someone else did). You might even be aware that Connell’s neck chain has its own Instagram account.
The show has become an obsession, inspiring millions of viewers to fondly reminisce about their own first loves. But I think we need a reality check. It’s all too easy to look back on our youth through rose-tinted glasses (maybe those John Lennon ones that were popular in the ’90s), but personally, I’m glad my teen years are over.
People say: “You never forget your first time”, but I wish I could. It lasted all of three minutes and he brutally dumped me a few days later.
Unlike Netflix hit Sex Education, which shows how messy, weird and funny our first sexual experiences can be, Normal People is all dimly lit scenes of brooding, beautiful people heavy-breathing and sheet-twisting.
No wonder it’s made everyone who’s watched it misty-eyed about the one who got away. I bet lockdown boredom plus Normal People binge-watching has inspired a lot of women to track down their high-school boyfriend. Trust me: he doesn’t – and never did – look like Connell.
Dating as a teenager is terrible. You’re too young/skint to go to the pub, so you sit on park benches in the freezing cold for hours making uncomfortable conversation and even more uncomfortable fumbles.
Eventually, someone has a “free house”, so you get all dressed up and schlep across town to watch boys murdering Green Day on their guitar. A single text could make you buoyant with happiness or deeply depressed.
Even at university, my love life was more disastrous than my wardrobe, and that’s saying something given I thought waistcoats were cool because Kate Moss wore one once. As a student I was mainly having deeply disappointing sambuca-fuelled sex in my tiny halls of residence bed, rather than an epic romance. Relationships when you’re young rarely go the distance – you’re too selfish, too insecure, too busy figuring yourself out.
I didn’t love Normal People as much as the book. The TV version of Marianne is much too glossy, for starters. In the book, she has hairy legs, underarms “chalky with deodorant” and her “nose is running”.
And as you don’t get any of the characters’ inner thoughts, Connell comes across as a mute meathead on screen.
It makes it even more unconvincing that he’s so complex and brilliant. I found a lot of the scenes excruciatingly boring – so I guess it does capture teenage life in that respect.
Perhaps Normal People has struck a chord right now because lockdown has made us feel like we’ve regressed to our teen years.
We’re perpetually grounded, cutting our own fringes and developing weird crushes (ahem, Dishy Rishi Sunak?).
There are a few things I do miss about my youth. I would love the metabolism I had at 19, which meant I could drunkenly eat a cheese toastie every night at 2am and never put on a pound. And I know all the adolescent heartbreak, hangovers and horrible sex made me who I am today.
I just never want to relive them. Even typing the word sambuca nearly made me retch.
- Follow Kate on Instagram @katewillswrites.
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Loving… Akt The Deodorant Balm
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Sipping… Ancestrel Wines
Specialising in shipping organic plonk direct to your door. Will I ever need to leave home?
Discovering … Marks & Spencer Percy Pig Ice Cream
How did I not know this was a thing?! Now I do. Oh, I really do.
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