Confessions Of A Teenage Stalker…
In my mid twenties (in the mid 1990s) I was persuaded by a friend to read a book called Obsessive Love, by Liz Hodgkinson. The author, having experienced the phenomenon of obsessive love herself, offers several ideas on how it arises.
The idea that remained with me is that my teacher, ‘Miss Williams’ and I were lovers in our past lives, that I had had a sudden death and so had carried the intensity of our love, grief from the rift, and recognition of my lover, into my current life.
Miss Williams, on the other hand, had lived for a long time after my death, she had overcome the love, her grief had subsided, and she no longer recognised me in this life.
As a disclaimer, I should like to emphasise that the passing of the years has in every way corrected the behaviour I am about to describe. And yet, I confess, I was once this person. …
When I was twelve, I fell in love with my French teacher, Miss Williams, at first sight. I remember knowing, in that moment I first saw her, that if she disappeared, I would have to spend the rest of my life looking for her. The infatuation that developed … slowly at first … lasted beyond my leaving the sixth form.
Initially the feeling served me well, for I excelled at French. I achieved the highest exam results and full marks for my homework. Miss Williams taught us French, taught us German, and for one year was our form teacher too. The obsessiveness did not start to creep over me until a couple of years later when she was no longer teaching me. Her presence in my life was suddenly reduced to distant sightings.
A longing set in.
I would see her in school assembly. I would see her on duty in the playground. I would see her walk in and out of the staff room and down the corridor. I started to live to see her. I couldn’t bear home-time or weekends or school holidays.
Every pupil at our girls’ school had a red A5 homework diary, which we took with us to all our classes. At the beginning of each school year now I would draw a school timetable in the inside cover of mine, with the purpose of recording where Miss Williams was for each lesson period—which classroom she was teaching in, and when her periods in the staff room were.
When I knew where she was, I would shoot out of the classroom promptly at the end of my lesson, bolt across the school, and place myself where I could secretly witness her emerge from her lesson. And when she did so, I would follow her. I would experience the intense thrill and relief of watching her and I would discover her destination. In this way, I built up, on the inside cover of my homework diary, Miss Williams’s teaching timetable.
Following her in stealth mode wasn’t always enough.
Sometimes I would place myself so that I was walking towards her, in order to see her face. There was a toilet block near the staff room where I could hide out. If I timed our movements correctly, I arrived at a door a little way from the staff room a few seconds before she did. This allowed me to open the door for her, and would earn me her smile and her “Thank you, Natasha.” I over-used this tactic, for one day Miss Williams mentioned to me that she seemed always to be seeing me there.
A little more shrewdness was in order.
I knew that Miss Williams was very often in the staff room for a good part of most lunch hours, marking homework. Every so often she would emerge from the staff room to retrieve or deposit a pile of exercise books from the nearby teachers’ shelves. Opposite these shelves was a large cloakroom, the windows of which had a frosted effect that largely blocked my view.
But here and there was the odd gap of about an inch across, where the effect had worn off. At lunchtime then I used to sit on the bench in that cloakroom, peering out of a small gap, hoping to catch even the briefest glimpse of Miss Williams. Any glimpse, for any amount of time, was worth waiting all lunch hour for. Just seeing her elbow for half a second was pure joy. Behaviour such as this continued for the rest of my years at school.
As well as stealing sightings, I wanted to feel like I was somehow in Miss Williams’s life.
So I started acting in slightly odd ways around her pupils and around other teachers in the hope that they would talk about me to her, or in her hearing. One such attempt, one evening at home, was taking a thin needle and three colours of cotton, with which I sewed three lines of about three millimetres in width along the inside of each of the four fingers of my left hand. I wore this embroidery on the skin of my fingers for weeks. Another attempt at spearing her attention was growing my left thumb nail an inch long, pierced it, and wearing earrings in it.
As time went by I had to face the horrific idea of my school years ending. I applied to the university at which Miss Williams had studied, and for the same course in which she had graduated.
My applications were successful.
On the last day of school, with nothing to lose (not caring much at that time for the concept of personal dignity), I appeared at the staff room and asked Miss Williams to stand whilst I photographed her. I managed to acquire three photographs of her alone, a fourth in which she insisted others join her, and a fifth of her back as she walked away.
I had my favourite one of these photographs blown up into a poster.
During those summer holidays, still living with my parents, I fixed this poster to the ceiling above my bed so that Miss Williams’s life-size face was the last image I would see at night and the first image I would see in the morning. It seems my Christian father was so thrown by this that he made no comment.
In October 1988, I started university.
Towards the end of that first term I attempted to alleviate some of my grief by having the words ‘I LOVE MISS WILLIAMS’ tattooed onto my left wrist. With unusual foresight, I reasoned that I could hide the tattoo with a watch should I wish. I rarely did. I wanted everyone to know how much she was loved. Several of the tutors at the university remembered Miss Williams.
During the Christmas holidays, following my first term at university, I attended my school’s Christmas Fare. I took with me a mini tape recorder, concealed in my pocket and I recorded Miss Williams’s voice when I spoke to her. I had brought with me too an aerosol can of spray snow in my bag, intent on seasonal vandalism. After the event was over, in the dark, I sprayed ‘I love Miss Williams’ large, several times, over the external school walls. … Once remorse had set in, some months later, I let the school know who the culprit was. The information was met with no surprise. The Deputy Head Mistress advised me to “channel your feelings into ‘like’ and ‘respect’”.
This advice was clearly absurd and made no impression on me beyond mild amusement. At the end of my first year at university, once my sleuthing had produced the requisite information, I applied to live in the same room as Miss Williams had lived during her time at the university.
My intention was to lose my virginity in the bed in which she had slept.
I was successful in moving into her room.
And I did indeed lose my virginity in her bed.
For some time I entertained the idea of tracking down Miss Williams’s brother with the aim of getting pregnant by him.
I went so far as visiting my local library where I recorded all entries of her surname from all the phone directories in the UK.
I remember watching The News at some point during this period of my life. They were discussing the introduction of a new law, a law which had been in place in the US for many years, against a crime that had not until now been recognised in this country. For the first time, and with a shudder, I heard the word ‘Stalker’…
Have you ever experienced obsessive love?
Natasha Holme is author of Lesbian Crushes and Bulimia: A Diary on How I Acquired my Eating Disorder.
** Names have been changed