So many years ago I had a boyfriend. Well, I have actually had a few boyfriends, but given that I met my (now) husband when I was eighteen this particular boyfriend was significant as he was the boyfriend I was with before I met my husband.
His name was Marshall and even giving him the honour of being referred to as ‘significant’ feels weird. But anywhoo…it is what it is. My friends and family who knew me then and know me now will all be smiling ruefully as they read this I’m sure – what on earth is she writing about HIM for they’ll all be thinking.
Yeah, I know I know I shouldn’t be giving him the time of day to write this…cause he was an asshole, yes, and he did cheat on me with his step-cousin, yes, and he did break up with me on my birthday, yes, and he did smash that bottle and wave it in my face that night in Rotorua all those years ago,yes….etc. etc.
Yeah, he was a bad egg. But we met when we were both 15 and despite all that shit that happened later Marshall was actually the least bad egg out of a whole bunch of other bad eggs during some tough years when I tried wholeheartedly to fuck-up my life – yeah I was that teenager. (*If you want to know more read my Metro article from a few years ago called Let’s talk about Sex – or hold out for a copy of my tell all poetry book due out next year, Cultural Diplomacy)
But the thing is, even though Marshall was ultimately the arch-asshole during my screwed up teenage years, he didn’t start out that way. He was actually not a bad person when I met him. He was a boy living in Auckland with his Aunt, going to MAGS working at St Pierres who was smart and funny and interesting. He was from a working-class rural family and really wanted to finish school and do well. But he was – a bit like me – also a cheeky teen who had a penchant for getting himself into shit.
So much shit in the end that he left school at sixteen to work in forestry, got involved with the gangs down that way and thrown into Waikeria at seventeen for drug-related offending (dealing, I think). But you know what, after all these years I’m pretty sure I can pinpoint the critical moment when the tide turned. And it was just prior to him leaving school – he was fifteen and got caught stealing a car (his first-ever offence). Not cool at all – but rather than keeping him up here, in school, with his Aunt (who was strict as hell) and wrapping support around him, the judge sent him back down home to Rotorua.
There’s something in that moment – when the ruling was made – that has never left me. Marshall made a stupid decision- broke the law- and no doubt that needed to be addressed. But the response wasn’t a strengths-based one. The judge’s assumption was the boy would be better off down home – but where was the support for the family to support him to get him back on track? To my knowledge there wasn’t any. Within my circles I have a few friends who were in similar situations who got sent ‘back’ home and then things got worse. I’m curious to know whether the assumption that sending first-time offending juveniles ‘away’ from the city is or has been evaluated as a sound first response or whether in fact the very act itself- especially without adequate support for the family or people directly supporting that teenager may be causing more harm than good? Keen to hear others thoughts.