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In March, it happened to me. I was outed by the press over an inappropriate relationship I had when I was seventeen.
An artists interpretation of my doorstep that fateful morning. May be slightly exaggerated...
The ill-advised dalliance with an older man (an MP no less) has been over for two years, and yet suddenly it was front-page news.
Momentarily, my life felt like it had been hijacked by the Coen brothers. One minute I was a normal teenager, picking fluff out of my belly button and YouTubing kittens, the next I was being interviewed by journalists and gracing the front page of a tabloid paper.
I was asked for every detail you could imagine about the relationship. How the hell did this happen?
I was approached by a newspaper a couple of days before my gurning, seventeen-year-old face greeted the front pages. Stumbling from my slumber to find a poor reporter standing in my doorway, I was told that everyone knew about my story and that the tale was about to boil over.
Pyjama clad and yawning, I was waiting for Ashton Kutcher to jump out and shout that I had totally been Prank’d. No such luck.
While the reporter spoke to me, I sat on the wall outside my house and chain-smoked. My head was going a million miles per hour, and my eyes glazed over.
‘Anonymous tip. Wants to remain that way’. Oh fuck they know.
‘Inappropriate relationship. Seventeen years old.’ Oh fuck they know.
‘You were still at school. He took advantage’. Oh fuck they know.
That day was a blur. I survived on cigarettes and cups of tea, and along with being presented with one of the weirdest situations I had ever been in, I had a choice to make. I could keep quiet and let this story come out, have the press on my doorstep wanting glamorous shots of me going to buy a pint of milk and wait for this to all blow over.
Or I could explain myself, tell my side and live without the secret. After discussing the situation with my partner, my friends and family, I decided for the latter.
My ever-supportive partner already knew and lovingly assured me that everything was going to be okay with us no matter what happened. My friends nodded and gave a completely neutral argument for what I should do.
My parents had been blissfully unaware of the whole thing. Telling them about the fling alone only brought accusations and name-calling. Telling them about the fact that I might be on the front of a major tabloid was a whole different kettle of angry fish. So I hung up the phone and went to bed, to sleep on it.
The next morning I answered another baffling stream of accusations from my parents, and not the first or last time in my life – I hung up. I don’t have the best relationship with my parents and although I don't fancy writing about them here, I needed to stand up for myself.
That said, once I knew my story was definitely going to be in the papers, I tried to get in contact with my parents, who weren't home, to no avail. I felt obliged to keep them informed as to what was going to happen and worried that they didn't know.
Then, the next morning, without warning, my story was on the front page of the rival tabloid. A tabloid my father is a manager at.
I watched my world unravel in print as I was ripped a new one. The story basically described as an embarrassing politics groupie, who had no other interests apart from snaring a sugar daddy and becoming rich and famous. Personal photographs were supplied, along with confusing and inaccurate details.
The situation had been taken out of my hands and played out in front of me.
I went into autopilot. I posed for photo-shoots, gave intimate details, high on anger and hurt. I could barely make sense of anything. I was told that my old fling was tipped off by my father. By my old fling. The reality hadn't hit me and I was still waiting for Ashton Kutcher to pop up. There was still no sign.
The events following that day merge into one. There was a lot of crying, thinking, silence, laughing, staring into space and scrolling down page upon page of Google after looking up my name.
I found a lot of friendships dissolving. My fiancée’s ex-girlfriend, someone focussed on breaking up our relationship, did her best to cling on to my fifteen minutes of infamy by tweeting relentlessly about me. I still hadn't heard from either of my parents.
I mentally carved myself a hole and stayed there, only to emerge for dinner, cigarettes and to research myself. I was in a state of disbelief and often snapped at my other half. I exhausted us both by finding a horrible forum thread dedicated to me or yet another misinformed blog.
I had no contact with anyone other than my partner and the lovely journalist I was working with. I was cut off from reality.
After my Exclusive, going back to everyday life was one of the strangest experiences of my life so far. I finally was able to get into contact with my parents who, as it turned out, decided to go on an impromptu holiday.
They called me a liar and told me I had ruined their lives, I hung up, again. I gave one other interview, with the proceeds going to a domestic abuse charity. It was probably a pretty bad idea considering I was made out to be a crazy Stalin-worshipping drama queen, but hey, what do you expect from tabloids?
My partner and I were in the process of moving house, so we packed up our little flat and left. I’ve now changed my name, and no-one I now work with knows anything about what happened to me.
I'm still gawping and wide-eyed with the complexities of my story to this day. Believe it or not, there's actually a lot more I could write about - I might leave that for another “It Happened To Me”.
But at least my hairdresser, a month on, thought I looked nice in my photos.