I invented my imaginary friend when I was twelve, which is terribly late. Of course, I was very conscious that this friend did not exist, but I wanted one. His name was Ambrose. I was a big girl by then so I rarely spoke out loud to him and certainly not anywhere someone might hear me. I did write to him though; all my diary entries through my teenage years begin Dear Ambrose.
Why Ambrose? Well I was interested in etymology, would have known the origins of the word and I was also fascinated by the idea of angels and things. I perhaps liked to think he was my Guardian Angel and not just someone I made up. But I did know I had made him up.
I was obviously lonely, but in a complicated way. Teenage girls both attracted and repelled me and whatever my reaction, I was very uncomfortable about the way I felt about them. I always had to pretend a lot. Not just about those feelings, but I had to pretend to care about this and not to care about that. I had to pretend to have a favourte Gallagher brother and an interest in clothes and cosmetics and not what my purpose on Earth was. And I could never do this thing where you mould yourself to the person you are talking to; most people get the same package from me, despite my best efforts.
In fact I was probably little different everyone else. I do possess my diaries from this period and come across as an obnoxious little shit. But I did have friends and was never bullied exactly. It was just that much of the time I wanted to be alone. Yet I not really truly alone, just unchallenged. Thus Ambrose.
Why was Ambrose male? I am afraid I had a low opinion of what girls could offer me. I could share a joke with Ambrose, having come to the conclusion that humour was an entirely masculine attribute. He would say what he meant and wouldn’t need any interpretation. Plus he was as baffled about feminine behaviour as I was. He wasn’t a fantasy boyfriend or anything like that.
He wasn’t passive though, not by any means. When I saw the otherwise dreadful Lord of the Rings; Two Towers I was struck by Gollum’s conversations with himself, or at least with Smeagal; the part of him that was still good, the part of him that was still a hobbit. That was Ambrose and I; whether the question was does God want me to do this? or should I still be friends with Isobel after what she said? Ambrose was generally more cynical than I was, and tried to persuade me to do the wrong thing. I generally won these arguments, funnily enough.
I don’t know whether it would be more disturbing to have been a teenager with an entirely passive and compliant imaginary friend who agreed with my every opinion than having one who I would fall out with.
However, I have to emphasise that I was in fairly reasonable mental health. I had spells of melancholy and anxiety, but there were no problem behaviours. Teenagers are not generally happy creatures; you have pressures equivalent to those of adult life but none of the choices and none of the rewards. You work very very hard and all you get is an empty grade. You have no confidence about anything, you think you are a total pervert who would be locked up if anyone saw inside your head, your body is doing disgusting things with or without your intercession. You have no perspective on anything and imagine that your life will be over if just one little petty thing goes wrong. It is not fun.
Mind you, I am not about to admit the last time I spoke to Ambrose.