February 16, 2010

On the nature of young love

I had a rather interesting experience the other day.

Taking advantage of a free Friday I went with a friend of mine to the Victoria And Albert Museum in London. If you've never been there you really should. It's a marvelously huge, over the top, building with literally dozens of halls and galleries displaying everything from vintage gold-covered snuff boxes to displays of Metropolitan Police fakes and forgeries. We wondered around for hours and only saw a fraction of the items on display.

However that's not what I wanted to tell you about. By the time we finished at the V&A it was slap bang in the middle of the Friday night rush hour and we decided that rather than brave the masses on public transport at that time we would wait for a another hour or so and head out after the rush. To while away the time we headed to a nearby coffee house.

The coffee house was next door to Harrods and had a street level seating area and a subterranean level. Because we fancied a comfortable sofa seat rather than a wooden chair we headed down to the basement where we were the only people there.


At another sofa were a couple of schoolkids. He was smart, well dressed, preppy and looked and spoke like he came from a wealthy upper class family. She was also smart, very pretty and of Indian or Pakistani origin. They were both about 14 or 15 years old judging by the fact they were both in school uniform. Nothing untoward or peculiar about this, I thought. Until I watched them.

It was obvious that they were very much into each other. She was lying across the sofa with her head in his lap. He was leaning over whispering at her and stroking her hair. At one point they pulled her long, dark school coat over the two of them and started doing heavens-knows-what underneath there. I suspect his hands had a bit of a mind of their own and started working their way from her face and neck down across her throat and upper chest. She appeared to offer no resistance.

The phrase 'Get a room' sprang to mind. Until I realised that they had already done that.

As they were wearing school uniform it was obvious that they had come straight from school. It was Friday night around 5.15 so there was no reason for them not to be on their way home if they weren't staying for extra-curricular activities at school. So why were they hidden in the basement of a coffee shop in Knightsbridge canoodling under a jacket? The answer was obvious: This was the 'room' they had found. They needed somewhere they could interact which was generally out of the public eye - hence the basement room with no windows - and they apparently couldn't go home because that activity would have been frowned upon at either of their houses.

Or was it something more than that? Was there some sort of stigma attached on either side to a multi-racial relationship? Had her parents forbidden her to bring home a white boy? Did his parents make it clear that he was expected to marry a WASPy girl from his parents social circle? Obviously if they were both attending the same school then financially her family must at least be in the same strata as his, but maybe they were 'new money' that was frowned upon by the old money ruling classes?

Whatever the reason was it was apparent that this coffee shop was the place they felt comfortable spending tie and doing the things that mid-teenagers do when interacting with members of the opposite sex.

Maybe I thought they were just whiling away the time until a parent arrived to pick them up. But then I realised that they were the only schoolkids we had seen in our journey from the V&A to the coffee shop. All the other kids had gone. If this was 'innocent' then maybe they would have had friends with them or at least there would have been other school kids hanging around in the coffee shop.

I found that the whole situation disconcerted me a little. If their parents frowned upon the relationship then the lies and deceit involved would be painful when things were discovered. If they just wanted to keep their relationship quiet for a while then why would they do it in a public place like a coffee shop (albeit underground and out of the eye of passing traffic)? If they were just waiting around for the traffic to die down - as we were - then why not sit upstairs where they could watch people? We were downstairs because the sofa's upstairs were full but these two had been there longer than us, and besides we weren't canoodling under a coat like they were.

There was obviously something not quite 100% kosher about this situation.

It was all very mysterious

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