Friday, October 12, 2012

Date with S (and the tooth fairy)

You're saying it, I'm saying it: what the f*ck am I meeting S again for?

A brief flick through earlier posts delivers the reminder that he is a charming womaniser who is 20 years too old and has previously made it painfully clear he doesn't want a relationship with me. To make it worse, I have – in true pushover style – agreed to go for dinner at a Japanese restaurant when I can’t abide Japanese food.

Unfortunately S is also a fantastic kisser, kindly, entertaining, easy company and I fancy the pants off him despite the grandad zip-up cardigans and being, essentially, an only slightly hotter version of Sacha from Holby City (a clear sign that I have got it either "really bad", or just "really wrong"). 

Thus I regress to age 16, step into my semi-gothic charleston outfit, and find myself supping half a barely swallowable blackthorn in a dingy pub in Camden, having arrived early and nervous.

Dinner, S style, consisted of him ordering a banquet of a thousand starters (“to share” – yeah right!) as well as a couple of mains. Some of them were surprisingly edible (not the rubbery fluorescent seaweed which made a gallant effort to resist peristalsis), and the game of blind-testing beers helped me with some of the more inedible items – e.g. gelatinous shitake mushrooms - the clue’s in the first syllable. We also sampled a Colico - "Japan's favourite drink" – but certainly not mine (something akin to an effervescent aspirin).

However, greater culinary problems were to be in store when I realised the crunchy texture of my aubergine was not some crystal of carelessly strewn gravel, but actually my once-again-broken false tooth. Cursing myself for having allowed S to sit "gap-side", I attempted to surreptitiously regurgitate the offending piece of porcelain and its plastic bridge into my napkin and deposit the articles into my handbag (for a fifth super-gluing on the morrow). This manouvre was somewhat impeded by the plate being securely wedged between the roof of my mouth and a large mouthful of semi-masticated soy-flavoured sludge. I battled on. The only consolation of this grotesquery was that S’s dislike of my new haircut was no longer of any consequence!

Should I be generous and believe that S graciously chose not to notice this ineptly executed and – frankly – disgusting performance? Or, in the light of previous posts, would it be more accurate to record that he was too engrossed in the morsels between his chopsticks to notice? You reader, may decide.

Either way (or perhaps it was pity), he unleashed the charm. Sample: “You can have any man you want”;  “You’re really one of the smartest women I've met” (clearly a lie – he lectures at one of the world’s top universities) and – in an infinitely more self-sacrificing gesture – gave me the last lychee.

Over jasmine tea he laid his hand on my arm. Over double cointreaus he took my hand and started playing with my fingers. Although this time I had come fully prepared with my week’s wages in cash, he generously treated me to dinner (for finishing my MA, he said).

“I was hoping you'd be wearing a basque,” he said, a little coyly. Yes, I thought, then I’d really look like your prostitute. “You’ll need to meet me on a Friday instead then.” I deadpanned.

We got up to leave. He pulled me forward for a kiss as I was heading to the bathroom. Then mumbled a sweet nothing into my ear. What were these beautiful words of wooing? Let me record it verbatim: “Those glasses really do absolutely nothing for you.”

In the cold light of the bathroom, I wondered had he also reflected that the newly-acquired Mr Greedy-style potbelly did similarly little for him?

I decided to score points instead through a virtuoso display of crossword-completion on the tube, and treated him to a bag of maltesers on our way back to his.
Oh my! What a lot of toothbrushes you have!

After furnishing me with my own new toothbrush (later I wished I’d checked to see how many he had – I have visions of a full pirate’s chest). 

In bed, I took his glasses off. “I'll put them back on thanks!” My '20s haircut was even "growing on" him. 

Well, I barely slept a wink (two causes both beginning with 'S', the second being "snoring"), but he made reparation by making me comfortable on his shoulder, bringing tea and biscuits in bed, offering to iron my shirt for work, and providing me with a mini-packed lunch.

Feeling confident I later texted: Fancy an encore? 

His reply: Yes please, followed by a standing ovation!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Old flames

Ok, so I didn't think I'd catch myself doing this, but one night at a loose end (since my dissertation and I had finally parted company for good) with a friend beside (and a bottle of prosecco inside) me, I was persuaded to email a one liner to all those men I had previously gone on dates with who did not have anything sincerely wrong with them.

Obviously this didn't take long.

The email was short, sweet and scripted by my infinitely more sexually-successful friend: "I've just finished the dissertation from hell and wanted to let my hair down... fancy a catch up? x"

I sent five emails, and received four replies. There was Y, a prominent psychiatrist, extremely handsome, demeanour of ice, but nonetheless charming and certainly interesting to talk to (great kisser). Then H, cute French engineer, who I met about 5 times, and argued about feminism with, but I never felt that he particularly fancied me (as such, am unable to comment on kissing ability).  S, despite being dangerous waters as detailed in previous posts, made the cut (well, why not, I foolhardily reasoned), and I threw in an old school chum for good measure.

(M, the charismatic Oxbridge lecturer for whom I could have dropped everything (including knickers) in a shot (were I simply given the chance not to be a blithering buffoon) alas, did not reply.)

So, 2 dates lined up and 2 more pending. Hey - if it was this easy, why didn't I do this a year ago?!

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Internet dating? How about just getting drunk like normal people?

Internet dating? Had enough of it.  Exes? Had enough of them.  Male friend who keeps muttering about leaving his wife for me but is never going to? Had enough of him. Other male friend who occasionally deigns to flirt with me, but is currently bragging about his "super hot date"? Had enough of him.

Having tired of the inane pointlessness of searching for an articulate, affectionate and available man, I spent the rest of the summer in the more entertaining company of my dissertation, and accidentally hit on a novel plan to find a man the old-fashioned way: booze.

Firstly, the plan was not to find a man. The plan was simple: to get eye-wateringly drunk. And at that, by gad, we succeeded!

 I do have photos from that night. They are worse than this, and I'm not putting them up.
We decided to go to a burlesque night. Three bottles of wine later we hit a bar. No one else was in burlesque attire. Kate realised that beneath her mac she had basically come out in her underwear. I hazily recall telling her to feel my boobs to confirm they weren't fake, but I'm not sure whether that was post-grovelling on the toilet floor looking for the missing lens from my glasses (indicated to curious onlookers by poking my finger through the frame, in what would have been a highly sexual gesture were I a 15 year old boy), or indeed before or after men started requesting photos of us with our fingers in our mouths, etc (photos with which we were only too happy to furnish them).
You'll find this is me, actually.

I had the requisite sobbing fit at some point around 1am ("I broke my tooth again!" Kate's reply: "In that top, do you think anyone will be looking at your face?!") but this was quickly quelled by the sudden realisation I was snogging an extremely hot youth who had a not even elementary grasp of English.

Through the medium of gesticulation I ascertained he was approximately ten years my junior. However, as previously noted, extremely attractive and a most rewarding kisser! He seemed to be trying to tell me he liked my eyes. I also remember him courteously asking permission to put his hands inside my basque ("Is ok? [gesture]"). I recall finding it unaccountably quaint that he would even ask. And yes - we were still in the bar.

I'd prefer not to tell you how the evening ended. However, as I have little sense of shame remaining, I will do so anyway. We went back to his house on an endless bus ride, where once ensconced in his student flat I treated him to the twin horrors of my actual age, and the sound of me vomiting (in the toilet with the door locked, at least). After five minutes of fervid squeezing-tube mimes I managed to procure toothpaste (it's not the same in Spanish!), and then passed out on his bed until sheepishly waking up and trying to sneak out at around 7am. At which point he kindly led me to the station and dispatched me towards home.
Give me more of that creamy goodness!

And that, my friends, is what I call a successful night out.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Summer of Discontent

After calling it off with T (Calling it off? Nothing had happened anyway), I disconsolately turned to my dissertation for solace.

Actually, there was none of that Romance of the Intellectual crap. I had to write 55,000 words in 3 months because, having previously been more interested in snogging than studying, I'd pretended it didn't exist for the first half of 2012.

Oh the misery!

What did I need to relieve me from the burden of the lonesome scholar and the full-time job? Someone affectionate, easy to be around, undemanding. Someone who knew me inside out (and still found me tolerable), and was therefore willing to cut to the chase (thus representing a good investment of my minuscule amount of free time). But who could this demi-god be?

A-ha! An ex!

In timely fashion one got in touch. Ex (as I shall henceforth refer to the being) sent me an extremely romantic birthday present, out of the blue. From thence I fell into a pining and a sighing. Hadn't he always been my One True Love? Wasn't this, finally, the very pinnacle of moments for Ex and I to reunite in a metaphysical merging of both body and soul?
Stop wasting my time!

The short answer: No.

We met for drinks, things seemed encouraging when - and I must admit a level of presumption on my part here - he turned the discussion to the possibility of having children with me, how he had never stopped fancying the pants off me, how he'd never met anyone he could get on with as well as he got on with me, and what a wonderful mother I'd make. Six or seven long phone calls (and holiday plan-making) later and...

Well, reader, I feel such a fool. You see, I had interpreted the above outpourings (articulated after one measly pint) as an indication he was still interested.
scratch 'n' sniff

However, one month down the line he kindly informed me this is how he talks to all his female friends. Yes, that's right - "I want you to be the mother of my children" appear to be words used as a mere token of friendship in Warwickshire...

Following his suggestion that we now be bestest of best friends ever, and maybe swap sticker albums or something, I decided that the time to be hankering over commitment-phobes 20 years older than me was past*: in short, the Era of the Ex was over.

Time to reinvest my energies in the more emotionally thrilling "Panic" stage of the dissertation.

Back to old faithful...

*you will enjoy my upcoming posts, if you believed that...

Monday, October 1, 2012

T: 4th and final date

"The bells, the bells!" my subconscious cries.
So, he fucks up, and he sends flowers.

I love getting flowers. It's sweet he bothered. It's great he realised an apology was required.

BUT as a male friend pointed out - send flowers to show someone you care, not as a buy off when you've done something wrong.

On balance it seemed another chance would only be polite. However, warning bells (and friends) clanged "Don't trust him."

Nonetheless, I met him at a London museum Late (not the ice-cream parlour that he'd have preferred), and we spent an awkward hour examining exhibits that he feigned no interest in, thus inhibiting mine (except for the string quartet playing pop hits in 1800s style and costume - nothing could have dulled my pleasure in that!).
Was this the offending article?

We didn't discuss the problem - it seemed too early to be having that kind of intense conversation, but I no longer felt free to be myself as I didn't trust him. He then revealed another present. This made me extremely uncomfortable.  Not least because I sensed it might be something that would exacerbate rather than rectify the problem. He admitted that he had initially purchased an instructive 1900s manual on etiquette for women. Does this guy never learn? Would he have liked me to gift him a book on subordinating the natives in colonial India? It was at this point I gave up.

The present in fact was extremely cool, but this man just seemed to be too much hard work. He wanted to go for dinner. I wasn't hungry, and there seemed little left to say. I declined. His face fell. He asked if he could give me a hug goodbye, and left me at the tube.

And he strode off to get his long awaited ice-cream.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

T and I fall out...

The next few days were a flurry of witty texts and emails (I was still riding on the wave of date 3: the positive interpretation).

I would recount them here, but 1) my phone had an epileptic fit and deleted all my texts, and 2) the emails are extremely intense and still make me blush (despite the fact we hadn't even kissed) - e.g. his creative responses to my task "25 uses for a stethoscope" or the more dramatic (and let's face it, immensely flattering) sign off: I want to kiss you. Deeply. For ages. And for time to stop.  

Phew! Pass me a fan!

As he was wading (Darcy-esque) into the marsh of "risque", I had the inspired idea of sending a book with the addressee "Dr Fifty Shades of T" (this was when the book had just been released and the wider populace were still deciding whether it was acceptable to read or not). 

When I requested his address, he sent his work one. Why not his home one?! What did he think I was going to do? Turn up uninvited? Hmmph!

Undeterred, I ordered the item on Book Depository (in fact simply a harmless miscellany) and, egged on by my housemate, addressed it accordingly. 0.2 seconds after I had submitted the order, my housemate (also a hot ambitious male doctor) informed me he was only joking, and of course I should never dream of sending such a thing to a man's workplace, particularly if it were a hospital, as the internal mail system meant the entire staff would get a laugh at it before it made its way to his pigeon hole, thus rendering him the subject of undermining smutty jokes from his entire team.

Oh fuck.

This became less than my key concern however, due to what happened next. 


Whilst I was unequivocally relishing the bosom-heaving sections of the correspondence, other areas were causing me serious dismay. Here I'm talking about the references to the "simplicity" of women, attention-seeking being "clearly more prevalent in those with two X chromosomes" (he who had sent me a text that morning, when I hadn't replied instantaneously to his first two, in capitals, demanding "GIVE ME SOME ATTENTION!") and more on the "my best friends fall in love with me" theme.

In particular, comments such as "What is it with women?! Are they simply unable to listen to men talk?! Or are they just too shocked when they come across a man who knows how to communicate!" had started to grate to much to be ignored.  

What to do? Clearly no amount of bodice-ripping correspondence could make this sort of hogwash tolerable. I wrote a cautious email asking if he could go easy on the casual sexism, positing it as a personal tic of mine to be over-sensitive in such matters, in an effort not to offend.

I received an apology, followed by a summary of a couple of my failings (I'm perhaps unable to love, it seems), and the following facile question which he seemed to think as a trump card: If a woman refers to "man-flu" is that being sexist? (Of course it is!! But if that's the worst it gets, are you truly going to compare it to e.g. the wage gap, being told you're genetically predisposed to being hysterical by a qualified doctor, or Todd Akin's rape comments?)

Somehow he then rationalised the entire situation through reference to the Oedipus Affair (i.e. as it was unintentional he was innocent - an excuse one can unfortunately never use more than once) gave two examples of times he harassed female colleagues to the point of them making official complaints about him, and a request for us to put the matter behind us. The email returned to the apologetic, before this grand finale:
Anyway dear, I also hope that on reading this you will have calmed down. You must have had a terribly stressful day at work. Maybe your stilettoes might have broken and you had fallen over. And clearly you are on your period.
I'm sorry, what? 

Did I write back, "Whilst reapplying my lippy I reflected that I must be careful not to irritate you, or you might stone some women to death, strap yourself to a bomb and then blow yourself up"? 

No, I did not.

I wrote back briefly, saying that I'd thought it over and despite enjoying his company when we'd met up, I didn't think we were compatible enough to take it any further: good luck with the search.

What happened next...

Response 1: curt email, "No problem, good luck."

Response 2: apologetic email with the admission the quoted paragraph was inappropriate and a request not to end it in this way and give him another chance.

Response 3: the next day a box of red roses arrived at my workplace, with a thoughtfully written card.

To be continued...
And then I remembered the "50 Shades" book hadn't yet arrived... [Clasps hand to forehead]

Thursday, September 20, 2012

T - Date 3 (the alternate version!)

When writing up a date, it's tempting to filter the write-up through the lens of whether it later worked out or not. Reader, things with T did not work out! Here is the alternate version of date 3 with warning signs included!

We met at Greenwich station, and went to Cafe Rouge for a cooling drink. As I was feeling a little abashed at the flowers, having arrived so late (and hot and flustered, I avoid the term "sweaty"), and the small matter of having a crone-like missing tooth, I let him talk.

Oh T, which of us wouldn't?

In a monologue I will generously entitle “falling for the wrong people” T began recounting a detailed story about his best friend who declared (unrequited) love for him. The essence: the two were extremely close for years, did everything together, sufficient for the friend to assume there was some romantic spark, and one day, "out of the blue" the friend decided to leave his wife for T. T, appalled, said there had never been anything romantic between them and alas, their friendship has never fully recovered this cruel blow.

Hmmm. This does not ring true. I internally drum my fingernails on the table.  “That’s a shame,” I offer.

Unadvisedly encouraged, he progresses to a second anecdote in similar vein.

As he works nightshifts at a hospital he has a driver (for home emergencies). Story 2 involves his female driver, Claire, whom he used to take to dinner/the cinema once a week, make treats for, and have a great laugh with. And guess what, dear reader! Despite the fact he clearly had No Interest Whatsoever, this driver remarkably also declared undying love to him and also imagined it would be reciprocated.

At this point I was forced to interject. Looking him in the eye and with a silken tone I can only summon for cases of the most scathing irony, I cooed, “You know what I find reeeeeaaaallly sexy? I just love it when I'm on a date and a man tells me stories about all the people who are in love with him. It’s just… [I mime a shiver of delight] irresistible.”

He looked confused. Clearly this was not going to plan!
Not my style, I'm afraid.

I presume his revelations (ever so ‘umble, mind) were based largely on three flawed assumptions:
1) Other people who know me very well have fallen desperately in love with me so you should too. Or at the very least be quite a bit impressed.
2) I wasn't interested, but it wasn't my fault. Because I'm so self-deprecating that I never imagined that they would want more, because I'm A Good Guy.
3) In the case of the first, as it was a male friend, note how metrosexual and liberal I am (this possibly to counter my 2nddate question, prompted by the high open-collared blue shirt, excessive confidence and public school accent: “Are you a Tory?”).

However, I cannot bear this kind of story because:
1) It’s grotesquely egotistical to brag about your romantic fan-base on an early date, especially when the subject was artificially made out to be chanced upon, when it was clearly engineered. Also, purely pragmatically, if you're bragging, there's no space for me to give you a compliment.
2) The idea that this will inspire some competitive impulse to prove myself and win his heart where others have failed, is way off. I don't want to compete, that is not the way to start a relationship.
 3) No one declares love to anyone unless they feel they have a semblance of hope in it being requited. Therefore for this to have happened twice (and to be a tale delivered with pride rather than shame) I can only conclude the teller is an arch-manipulator whose priority is to be at the centre of an adulation he has disingenuously cultivated with no concern for the feelings of the supposed “friend.”
What's that Simona? You think T is a bit of a bell-end? Well, you'd know best...
4) It is incredibly disrespectful to discuss your current friends/colleagues in this way, if there is any chance your interlocutor (whom you are making romantic overtures towards) might one day meet them. 

Did it stop there? Well, I heard about how he loves how his eight year old daughter (overseas) loves wrapping Daddy round her finger (a man who loves being played by women - hmm), and every date so far he had brought his psycho-therapist along. Or Simona, as he refers to her (Unlike T I don't work in health care, but even I know that there's a rule against pairing a patient with a counsellor of the opposite sex). She has kindly taken his part in every disagreement thus far. "Simona says it's my intelligence that hinders me with women." Later, it would be: "Simona says that although she can see your side of events, mine is also equally valid." Did I ask to have these three-way dates? How can she possibly see my side when I haven't even explained it to him, let alone her?! Perhaps "Simona" will turn out to be a sock puppet that he pulls out of his blazer pocket.

Between this and jokes about how I probably "throw like a girl", how he gets his female assistant to "chase a ball round the office" like a dog and how I "must be on my period" if I refuse to chortle at said comments, I became increasingly irritated and determined to say something. Something incisive, thought-provoking, challenging yet not unnecessarily riling, something to put a rapid stop to the sexist slop coming out of his mouth, something intelligent, articulate and unequivocal. What did I say? Drum roll please. The perfect sentence formed itself in my head. The put-down to end all put-downs. Here it is. I said... "Shut up, Paki."

Ok, I didn't say that.

I would never be so utterly offensive as to say, "shut up." However, I indeed did make a joke with the word "Paki" in. Before you start quilling the death threats, may I clarify that this is the first time the word has ever left my lips, and it felt far more taboo than the few times I've said cunt (a word I take offence at being called offensive, as a part of the female body cannot possibly be considered that disgusting). The sole reason I mock-jovially called him "Paki" was to provoke an angry response, which I could then relate to my feelings about his sexist comments. The response took a few days, but I did receive an email informing me that that word was "never, ever, acceptable" but that I could be forgiven for my "slip." (This I found bizarre: he would prefer I was covertly and accidentally racist and made that kind of "slip", than said it to make a point?).

So, racist jokes are never acceptable? Oh really? Is that because racism derides not just the person involved, but a huge swathe of friends and relatives (and their associated cultures), who are/have been historically belittled, oppressed, ridiculed, disenfranchised, considered deviant from the norm, and thought incapable and physically disgusting by the dominant power?

Funny. That's how many people also feel about sexism...

Was there anything else that should have rung an alarm bell? Well, at one point he pulled out a vial of the malodorous scent that he had stewed himself in, and sprayed my forearm. I felt as a lamp post must, when subjected to the pungent visitations of a local hound.

And yet, as he was deliberately (rather than ignorantly) being provocative (and because I am so frequently provocative myself), and because he was otherwise funny, considerate, unusual (in a mainly good way) and interesting, and because I rather wanted to kiss him despite all this, I decided I would give it another chance...

Monday, September 17, 2012

T - Date 3 (the positive version)

Dear Reader,

Here is a quiz. I am midway between Aldgate and Aldgate East stations and am running late, am too hot, have had an annoying day at work and have managed to snap my tooth, thus making myself about as attractive as the witch in Disney's "Snow White", if she had been transported to the tropics and asked to do the 1500m hurdles in her cloak with her basket of apples. In order not to further exacerbate the situation, which route do I take to meet T as promptly as possible in Greenwich?

OK. Here is what I actually did. Prepare to be bemused.

Got on at Aldgate East. I could have walked to Tower Gateway, but my feet were hurting. Didn't get off at Whitechapel as would have been sensible as I was too hot and tired and had a seat which I didn't want to risk not getting on the next train. Instead I took the Hammersmith Line to... West Ham. There instead of taking the Jubilee Line short cut all the way, being flustered, I took it to Canning Town, got off, got onto the DLR to Poplar, and then changed again for Greenwich.

Minutes this trip should have taken: 20
Minutes it actually took: 60
Minutes I was late by: 50

T had received my texts informing him of my mishaps, and kindly replied that he was just happy that I was turning up, and to expect to see him opposite the jazz saxophonist outside Greenwich station.

He was leaning against the wall, looking attractively dandyish, and as I approached he went to pick up his bag, next to the saxophonist, and a bunch of flowers, for me!

We ordered lime waters at Cafe Rouge, and then ate delicious tapas at a colourful place near the market. I produced a book that I had bought him for his birthday, which he asked me to inscribe (he was pressurising me for some sort of witty epigram - I wrote something mature about him being a prick). But we both laughed. Without alcohol (gasp!) we had both got a bit giddy and giggly, and as we walked back to the station I had a strong desire to take his hand, and sensed he was considering it too. But neither of us did it (the trials of dating a teetotaller).

On the DLR we continued winding each other up, and could sense the eyes of the carriage on us - confirmed when I pointed it out and three people started laughing. Then, suddenly he leant over and planted a kiss on my cheek. And blushed. How immensely charming!

He hopped off and I spent the rest of the voyage home trying to suppress my grin.

Couldn't have had a happier train ride!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

T Re-met (Date 2).

No, reader, it didn't all end with my heart being trodden on like a squeaky dog ball, by S.
I won't tell you where this is, as they gave me food poisoning.

After I got back from a conference-cum-springtime-holiday in the US, T casually got in touch. It became clear that he has an eye for the aesthetic, as I received instructions to join him at an atmospheric Moroccan restaurant. (This was pre the 50 Shades tsunami, or I may have drawn a parallel, on the level of authoritativeness, at least).

What did we talk about? I remember that listening formed my main duty of the evening, and that there was a distinct absence of follow-up questions when I mentioned my Masters. There was also a notable moment when he didn't let me have the dessert I wanted, insisting instead that we go for ice-cream (on what was a chilly March evening), at a place that turned out to be shut.
Look good don't they?  Sadly I never found out!

Undeterred, he selected an extremely over-priced touristy pseudo-Italian cafe on Regent's Street, where I watched him eat a tiramisu, while he told me he wouldn't normally have contacted me as I'd put my body type as curvaceous (accurate) and I should have put slim (inaccurate). As he had also labelled himself slim (inaccurate), I suppose I could have. However, my premise is to err on the side of um... honesty, in order not to be greeted with the horror of the first-date-falling-face. Experience, however, begins to indicate that this is not a typical male concern.

It seems my somewhat snarky replies had charmed him, as once the serious business of dessert was out of the way, he put his cutlery down, looked me in the eye and told me he didn't like to play games, he was interested, and would like to see me again. As I rather enjoy being non-plussed in this kind of way (it happening so rarely), I said yes, that would be acceptable, and then walked back to the tube babbling so self-deprecatingly I was waiting for him to stop me and say he'd changed his mind.

However, he didn't.

We shared a charmingly awkward goodbye in the tube tunnels under Oxford Circus, where he clumsily kissed me on the cheek and concluded, "Nice to meet you!" belatedly remembering, as I arched an eyebrow, that this wasn't in fact our first date.

He picked his bag up, flustered.  Smirking, I tripped off down to my platform.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

S and the weeping woman... (that'd be me)

After the exchange of some fruity post-date texts suggesting we visit Mary W's gravestone in Bournemouth, all went quiet on the S front. Considering the evening had cost him the best part of £150 I thought it only polite to follow up the next day with a sober thank you for the delicious dinner "and post-meal entertainment" which elicited an amused and enthusiastic reply, but this followed what I've learnt is his typical pattern of courteous responses and zero initiation. Hmm... Just maybe I scared him off with my drunken recommendation not to do "the man-nonsense of waiting until it was too late"?!

S somehow manages to have a profound effect on my mood - when he's keen it's like the sun shining down a blessing on me; when he's politely dismissive it's like the thunder clouds have opened over my head and battered out any self-esteem I might have ever possessed.  I enjoy his company and find him exceedingly attractive. I know he's no good for me. I suggest we meet as friends.

My plan was just to have a coffee and brief catch up, possibly with a view towards making myself indispensable as a friend (and perhaps along the way provoke him into realising he'd missed out on a good catch), but avoiding alcohol and anything that could be implicit in "getting my hopes up". This morphed into going to the cinema, and then going to the cinema and getting something to eat (both his idea).

Unfortunately for him, it was the once a month free bar at my work, and we weren't meeting until 7.30. I had been planning to fill the time gap with a spot of light reading, but following a major work-related vexation at 5.29pm, I was persuaded to join my colleagues in the pub. The same colleagues who, on ascertaining my plans for the evening, ribbed me with "Not a date?! Yeah right!" until a few beers and sufficient innuendo later, I was riding the crest of certainty that I was the most desirable woman in London and was essentially heading out to be proposed to.

Within minutes of meeting S, my confidence and mild alcohol-induced elation were doused. 

"I've started seeing someone," he announces as we sit down opposite each other in the restaurant of his choice. "I've taken my profile off the website, we're serious about each other."

"Oh? The One?" I reply nonchalantly, possibly in a slightly higher pitch than usual. "That's nice. How long have you been together?"

"You're going to laugh. Since Tuesday."

Laugh? I should have. But not many people laugh when they receive a metaphorical slap. Today is Thursday. He made categorically clear that he did not want to "rush into" a relationship after first meeting me. I'm starting to feel a little... well, shit.
Bla Bla talking hand

"I thought you weren't into rushing into anything?" I allow myself (trying to avoid doing the petulant mimc voice and accompanying "talking hand" when quoting his words back at him).

"Yes, well, we'd been writing to each other for three weeks, so we felt like we knew each other well already."

There's a pause as at least one of us contemplates the fact that he and I were writing to each other for three months before we finally met up. He gets up to pay for the meal (you have to pay when you order in this place).

"Wait!" I say. "How much do I owe you?" I'm not accepting dinner from someone else's boyfriend.

He declines to take any money. Guilt? Pity? Flash? Still wanting to be charming? Just a nice guy?

"Come on," I text (he is now in the queue), "you should be saving your money for your new fiancee."

"Yes, weddings are exorbitant nowadays!" He texts back.

Fine. "Can I be a bridesmaid?"
This is what my outfit should say!

Dear reader, before reading his response, note that I was wearing what I'll pretend to think of as my Lois Lane outfit - i.e. a satin pencil skirt, non-slutty fishnet tights, boots and a low cut but smart white shirt. I probably wear this to work about once a week, but it doubles up as my work-to-date-without-looking-like-I've-made-any-particular-effort-for-you outfit.

His reply: "Definitely, if you wear that outfit!"

I shrugged the inappropriately flirtatious comment off with, "What? Office wear?"

But really, what game are we playing here? Is he seeing someone or not? And either way, why is he even meeting me? To take his turn at knocking me back? I was too unsettled to eat much, or to even mentally note infractions of commonly held table manner conventions for later ridicule. Yes, it was that bad.

We go to the cinema. To see Martha Macy Myrtle Margery Miranda... This was my choice and not a good one. Brooding, sinister, alienating, wholly depressing... the ideal film to give a very wide berth when you're exhausted, haven't really eaten, have pmt, are reaching the groggily depressed stage of drunkenness and have just been publicly given the mega-brush off by someone you have been pretending to everyone (yourself included) not to like a quarter as much as you do.

The film is like walking further and further into a dank, deserted forest at dusk. As, three-quarters of the way through, a character submits herself to rape, a tear slips down my face. I lose the will to pretend I'm enjoying myself anymore and the tear's followed by a cascade of more. This is the sort of mood where you need to be in bed with a hot chocolate, a Pixar DVD and a sleeping pill, not out on a date with someone you like but have somehow blown it with. The film ends and I go to the toilet to have a sob (experience has taught me that teariness needs immediate purging or I'll be on the cusp of a breakdown all evening).  I emerge red-eyed and -nosed, hoping the dark will conceal this and I can emerge with a thread of dignity.

No such luck!

S appears to jolly me along: "Remind you of your experiences in a cult, did it?"

"Yes." I retort, flatly.

I recall that S is a psychiatrist. At this moment there are few professions I would less like to be on a date with.

He seems, understandably, in a slight hurry to get his tube. I tell him to go ahead: I need a hot chocolate or I'm going to spend the whole night being haunted by the film (I'm very suggestible). He accompanies me despite my internal pleas that he doesn't decide to benevolently humour me. He gets kinder and more distant by the minute. I feel more and more like a young and foolish patient... I wonder if he has any diazepam.

We have hot drinks and a share a cake. He makes the sort of kindly gestures to cheer me up that a psychiatrist would of course be so adept at - steering the conversation towards my past successes, asking questions he already knows the (cheering) answers to in a bid to buoy my mood, all the while keeping it impersonal and himself detached. This is smart and considerate of him, and truly depresses the hell out of me. The only thing that could possibly make it worse would be if he started telling me what a catch I would be - for some other man. And that's exactly what he does. If I'm that good a catch... but no, I don't labour that point.

Goddam phoney psychiatrists!
The next day I will send him a message apologising, explaining I am not on the verge of a nervous breakdown, do not want a fling, do not go home with men after only meeting them once, am not persistently drunk, have not been in a cult and do not like seeing films with anything higher than a 12 rating. He will write back telling me he accepts my self-evaluation, and how funny and intelligent I am, how I owe him dinner and how he can't wait to see my published work on the 3 for 2 table in Waterstone's: "All I ask is to be a character in your book, so that I can tell my friends."

But for tonight, this week, this month, I have had enough. I listen to assorted tunes of torment on repeat all the way home and snivel into my pillow, with a plan for the morrow to invest my future energies into dull essays instead of phantasmagoric romances.

Here endeth the blog (for the rest of this month, anyway).

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Q – the profile and the reality!

A man doing this for the camera? Please no.

I met Q through a mutual friend a couple of years back and we had a brief fling followed by a superficial and occasional gesture at friendship, so it was with some amusement I recently stumbled upon his online dating profile. This seemed an excellent opportunity to gauge the ratio of truth to nonsense of a man's self-analysis (a qualitative rather than quantitative survey, you understand).

The profile commenced with a photo of Q looking imploringly up at the camera, hand coyly over mouth, puppy dog eyes.  This alone would usually be enough for me to "Next!" a bloke (no effete manipulators, please).

The content of the profile itself however, was more engaging. He comes across as funny, articulate, self-effacing, genuine, charming, sweet. A fantastic date and/or boyfriend in fact.

I will refrain from quoting it directly, in the interests of maintaining some shred of decency and anonymity (for him not me), but I think it is fair to say that were I to rewrite this profile (as many men request a female acquaintance do), here are some of the key points I noticed were missing:

  • Happy to offer unsolicited unconstructive criticism on anything from your career to your choice of footwear to what you are cooking for dinner this evening (even if he is not invited to said dinner).
  • Rude to taxi drivers, and potentially anyone else who is working class and/or an ethnic minority.
  • Likes to receive texts and exclaim expletives such as “bugger” (or the strangely unplummy "motherfucker") in loud voice to provoke you into asking what the problem is. If ignored will repeat in attention-seeking manner until he gets the go ahead to disclose a "teaser" about the latest girl who is "stalking" him.
  • Enjoys point-scoring off friends, particularly in front of their new girlfriends.
  • Inability to give compliments: they "have to be earnt" - yes headmaster!
  • Frequent difficulty in distinguishing between wit and tactlessness/rudeness.
  • Capacity for occasional acts of charm and sweetness, but only activated after at least a bottle of wine, and likely to be strenously denied in the morning.
  • And let's not forget my personal favourite: the post-coital baby voice with accompanying lisp. Irresistible.
On the other hand (after all, it wouldn't do to appear one-sided), also unrecorded on his profile was the fact that he possesses a rather nice, sleek body.

Can I ever approach a profile with my prelapsarian innocence again?

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Date with T: Renaissance Man.

Is he a doctor? Is he a banker? Is he a philosophy and theology double postgraduate from Oxford University?

Yes, this was my date from last week.

Instead of taking me to planet Krypton he takes me to a restaurant that looks rather ordinary (in fact, verging on dingy) on the outside, but inside, tardis/phonebooth-like, opens down into a indoor south Indian villa replete with fountains, palm trees, grottos and multi-level splendour. Wow.

And despite the fact he doesn't drink the evening passes fluidly. He's intelligent, interesting, asks questions I want to answer (engaging ones). He orders vegetarian to share. He's open. He's straight-talking and witty (therefore slightly dangerous). He's foppish (I wasn't sure about the pink blazer at first, but I'm now of the opinion that individuality is an excellent thing). He's going on holiday to North Korea (as above).

So - ticks all my boxes. But do I fancy him? Unsure. In the sense that if he flirted with me more overtly I'm sure I would, but it seems I'm required to do the chasing, which leaves me a little cold: I don't like to feel I'm with someone because I've ground them down, even if they are resplendently out of my league. And does he fancy me? We exchanged texts, but as he seems to be waiting for me to make the move twice (something he said he prefers women to do) I get the impression the answer is, if at all, then not enough.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

In which I have a moral dilemma.

Until now, all the men I've met I was talking to prior to commencing The Blog. Whilst I do sometimes feel a little pinprick of guilt typing our meetings up, this is waylaid by the fact I leave it at least a week before publishing each post in case I change my mind (or my interpretation - they have time to make reparations), and also the fact that I hadn't met them originally with the intention of publicly humiliating them - if that's what they feel has happened, perhaps they should look to their own behaviour?
Kiss and tell
Now, starting new conversations, I feel rather like a venus fly trap - luring men in to ensnare them in a report of their own weaknesses. Am I more expectant of finding someone to love, or more expectant of finding someone to laugh at? It's surely the latter (although I hope you'll agree I am equally willing to laugh at myself). This has definitely taken the sting out of rejection: however badly a date goes instead of feeling I've wasted an evening, two cheering words spring to mind: "blog fodder."

In my last LTR I behaved pretty badly at times, little thinking that the intimacies of our relationship would ever go beyond our bedroom (imagining, as you do when you're 20-something and living together, it'll be 4EVA).  In fact, one of the cruellest parts of the break up was the thought of him sharing with some sympathetic eyelid-batting 6-stone beauty what a monster (both physical and mental) his ex had been (Of course, this did not extend to any hint of remorse about doing the same thing to him - and to be frank at times he'd bordered on the beastly).
For example, no jokes like this. 

However, from this I learnt the valuable lesson that you should never do anything you'd regret having done if someone else found out (e.g. no slamming-door-and-marching-off tantrums, no farting in bed, no using tears to get what you want, no silent treatment, perhaps exerting a fraction more effort in toeing the line with the rude mother-in-law, and no using the full range of my whiplash tongue on a man* - exceptional circumstances notwithstanding).


So is blogging about the men I'm dating an abuse of trust, akin to trampling on their Yeatsian dreams; or is it fair enough that consenting adults should be held accountable for their behaviour, albeit through the medium of a secret, snidey pre-meditated blog?!

*See what an amazing gf I'd be?!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Back to the drawing board?

Attractive only to P V Glob 
It's been a rather dry month for new contacts. Here are some of the highlights:

- A cousin of the Tollund Man, from Staines, who wants to share tea and "banter"... 

- "Mr Efervescent" who is too bubbly to check the dictionary and see his username is spelt incorrectly, and thinks a mildly homophobic joke makea good introduction.
I don't want to wake up with you.

- Shapher, who makes the extraordinary claim: "In the near future I am going to be one of the best selling authors in the world". Yes, we did both read that correctly...

- Mark, a lumpish Pole, who believes in "Cerpe Diem" (which I first misread as "Herpes Diem") and looks like he's wearing a wig.

- Dan, who sent me the following incisive yet tantalising message: "Hi." (Yes, that really was it).

And how about this for a bizarre introduction from someone who seems to have forgotten that he has already sent me this email (or a variant of it) twice before, at six monthly intervals: 

I suppose I could begin with a harmless, mundane opening email that induces a yawn in you but won't offend and may well lead to a harmless, mundane reply in return. We then spent a few months emailing pleasantries to each other, at the end of which we decide to meet up. If we haven't slit our wrists in boredom by then, that is.
So I'll just be honest here and say that you're cute. Superficial I know but screw it, I'm a man and blame it on that y chromosome. Fancy a drink?
His profile only further enhances the impression of a tolerant, agreeable, open-minded, jolly good sport:
- cooking (I do a fair bit. I mean good, solid, old-fashioned french+italian cooking. So if you dislike butter & garlic, piss off).  
- Real ale. Belgian trappist beer. German weissbier. Old-man pubs (preferably full of old men, rather than wanky advertising types). 
- opera (it's not just for posh tossers. The music and singing are actually rather good) 
-jazz (no wanky modern stuff - mostly crackly old recordings from the 1920s-40s) 
Talk about a glaring mismatching of style to audience and occasion... With this man I'd probably be asking for "a kick in the c*nt" if I tuned into the "wrong" radio station. And in light of my intellectual revulsion, there is really no need to venture into the aesthetic with any commentary on the photo evidence of his extreme swollen-faced morbid obesity...
Not lying: he was much bigger than this.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

C date 3: too "nice"?

Something's gone wrong. My feelings for C have swung from enthusiasm to mild disdain. How has this happened? It was all going so pleasantly. He has no noxious habits (thus far revealed anyway), is kind, affectionate (kisses me frequently, on the head if I'm semi-asleep - I love that!), attentive (sends generally amusing texts), generous (bought me a second dinner out - to my embarrassment - after he'd chosen an expensive wine I didn't have enough cash to pay my half), he's sexy, he's enthusiastic... But still, something is wrong.

I've dug deep, and here it is!

Problem one: "Pleasantly." You see. It's all there. If I'm going to abdicate from my Monaco of singledom it's going to have to be for something more than "pleasant". C is really a very sweet (boy-) gentleman. But there's something lacking. Depth? Is that simply because he is untroubled? In which case, isn't he what everyone is looking for? Well perhaps not. I enjoy the grit and colour and tone in my life.  I need to feel alive. I don't like binaries. I like to explore...  I... OK, I get bored easily.

Problem two: he's an investment banker. Aside from the stereotypes that attach to the role (which he generally does not seem to fulfil), it occurs to me that bankers do not often spend their money wisely, or creatively. Life has more imaginative pleasures, and rewarding ethical opportunities than the typical corporate interests. He works in Holborn - verging on the funky end of town, but lives in a sterile Docklands (surely an inversion of how it should be?). His considered opinion (I am informed) is that resorts make better holidays (having spent most of the last decade living abroad, I do not concur). He dallies with golf. And I don't know if this is connected to being a banker and the ensuing life priorities, but he has NO BOOKS in his house. No books?! The extent to which this is a problem for me means I could quite easily halt the list here. I'm also skirting around the issue of ethics as this is meant to be a lighthearted blog, but: Hello? Ethics?!

Problem three: he has too much money. Or rather, he is too young to adequately appreciate the amount of money he has. A trip to Iceland taking a helicopter over a volcano is not a big deal for him; he's passing on the huskie-sledding, not because he can't afford it (which would be my only reason) but because instead he is going on an ice buggy over a glacier, or maybe it was champagne swilling in an geothermically heated igloo, or something. No, it wasn't as cool as that. That's what I'd do with the money. He wants to do a brewery tour. Maybe he is a secret philanthropist who donates swathes of his time and income to charity. But if so I need to know about it, and fast.

Problem four: I think his aspirations are based on Friends. There's something altogether teenage about his flat set up. Maybe it's the leather covered sofa with lever-activated foot rests (neither beautiful nor useful), the two large wall mounted TVs (one in the bedroom - indicator of instant sex death), or the fact the luxurious bathroom with heated towel rail has a ring of grime around the bath and smears in the toilet. Something really disappoints me about seeing someone with the finances to do it properly still failing to pull it off.

Problem four: we have already sunk into comfortable. His place is verging on a sty (I'll be honest, now that the glazing of interest is dissolving: smint boxes, mountains of receipts, pockets full of coins and various currencies on every surface vying with the dust for total coverage), and he has no compunction about me seeing it that way. And let's just say the third date's routine was more Thomas the Tank Engine than Trans-Siberian Express.  A reasonable enough exposition but no modulation or recapitulation.  Work that out! He's texting from his holiday. I know I'm being old fashioned - but part of the joy of a holiday for me is exactly that feeling of being cut off from phones and emails; there is no way I'd be delivering updates on my itinerary from the Arctic Circle. I'd hope I'd be too busy enjoying myself. Or if I weren't, I'd damn well pretend to be!

Problem five: he doesn't have a degree. I tried to convince myself this wouldn't be an issue (he's definitely not thick), but as I have spent the majority of my life either working or studying in higher education, it's clear we do not share the same ideals.
"I'm mad, me." Remember Colin?

Problem six: he's too young. Five years makes a difference (especially when the man is younger). And he's a bit sheltered. He expected me to be astonished slash horrified by the time he took 2 sleeping pills and didn't wake when his girlfriend pushed him on the floor. However having been knocked out in a 15 car pile up in Java, my idea of a dramatic unconsciousness story is a bit different.
It's not the story itself that's the problem (of course I don't imagine every man should be Indiana Jones, and his could have been funny, had it not been over-hyped); it's the expectation of a grand response I can't conjure. It's the same every time a man expects me to coo over an unspectacular denouement - I can't bring myself to fake it, and am bemused by the embarrassing presumption that I am meant to be virtually peeing myself with excitement whenever a guy "shares." What I like is humility - a man will get far more response from me if I'm not frogmarched to the compliments cupboard with the demand to hand over the key and contents.

Problem seven: his shirts. He wears loud stripy shirts. And they don't coordinate with the slightly ratty but equally loud yellow stripy scarf he loves. Like most men, he looks fantastic in his white, pale blue or grey-striped normal shirts. How about sticking to those, and finding other outlets for your "creative" side?

Problem eight, and this is the real, inescapable, deal-breaker: I'm being mean and I don't like being mean. But once I've lost a sense of admiration or respect for a man, I'm like a missile - seek and destroy. Experience tells me now is the time for both of us to get out.