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!
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...|
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...