Have you ever been 16? I’m assuming you have. Or maybe you’re not 16 yet and honestly, you’ve seen too much in this book for a child’s eyes. But like any mid-teen, my personality was still forming like magma.
I was Michelangelo clay waiting to become David. I wanted to be a conglomerate of influences — I wanted desperately to be associated with The Face, very nonchalant and spunky. I wanted to be the sexy boy from ‘Sexy Boy’ by Air, with a dash of French je ne sais quoi. I wanted to be a character from This Life or The Lakes, more in attitude than low socio-economic status. I also wanted to be like Samantha in Sex and the City, a woman who f***s a guy one summer because his family have a pool.
The only gay culture I remember on the telly was Queer as Folk, with the virginal Nathan getting rimmed on a school night by Stuart. I didn’t want to be either of them. From my lovers — lovers being nothing more than a hypothesis at this point —
I wanted Jane Austen romance, heaving breasts under corsets, but my outer shell was Twisted Levi’s. I wanted men to fall completely in love with me, in an unhealthily obsessive way, those hearts round their heads like on Photo Booth, but I didn’t want to be bogged down by my own emotions.
I wanted to be footloose and fancy-free and infinitely f***able. As men went head over heels, I wanted to remain a calm, mysterious je ne sais quoi sexy boy, inoculated against heartache.
At this exact time, a recurring life theme was beginning to take effect: an insatiable desire for personal tales of adventure. As a nascent party monster, I was always getting things wrong, always f***ing up, but my modus operandi was to transform those benign catastrophes of youth into witty two-liners, the perfect pub banter. I wanted to be able to retell my misdemeanour stories that made people both wince and laugh, so I neatly packaged every calamity from every night out into excruciatingly captivating vignettes.
To date, The Chronicles of Raven Smith have included: falling in human shit at Gay Pride; the time a cloakroom attendant let us search the cloakroom for a lost coat and we ‘found’ a miniature bottle of clear Jack Daniels, downed it, and flew home off our tits, scribbling on each other’s faces with a bingo marker; the party where the birthday girl took acid at 8pm and refused to open presents because she was terrified of the wrapped boxes; the time I accidentally took two sleeping pills before work, trying to ward off an early hangover; the night at a pretentious artist’s where we thawed and drank shots of his blood from the freezer.
Sometimes I’ve torn someone’s passport in half just because; sometimes I’ve encouraged everyone to stab the Habitat lampshades with kitchen knives like duelling cavaliers; sometimes we’ve snorted lines of cheap black pepper off the table at the all-night diner just to feel something; sometimes I’ve strained vodka from a chipped bottle through a pair of tights rather than bin it. We once found a huge block of ice on the way to a house party and gifted it to the host, only for all our drinks to taste of market fish.
There was a sort of extreme bro culture at the time, of being a f***ing ledge, which gained wider public consciousness via MTV’s Jackass, but I don’t think these tales of boozing are exclusive to turn-of-the-century Brighton. These stories, often involving but not exclusive to vomit and faeces, were part of a self-mythologising. A way to swagger through the chaos of late adolescence. A way to drink and be expressive and daring, without anyone cottoning on that you were sad. A smoke-screen for existential dread.
Extracted from ‘Raven Smith’s Men’ by Raven Smith, out now (£14.99; 4th Estate)