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.