not pulling

Between the largely repressed ages of 18 to 30 I now realise that I did not believe girls really danced on public dancefloors with their girl friends for fun.  Fun?! Really?  Yeah, right.  Who would put themselves through that ordeal for fun, with no ulterior motive?  Dancing, blinding lights, sticky dancefloors, gurning DJ wankers, mostly shit, deafening music, having to shout exhaustingly loudly to have conversations.

No way.  Women were there for men.  To pull men.  Probably.  Not for me, of course, not ninety-nine times out of a hundred.

In the unlikely case this wasn’t true, then they probably either had a boyfriend and were playing wing-woman for their single friend, or they had a big crush on someone else to whom their naïve heart was utterly devoted.  Or, and I often thought this was the most reasonable explanation; they had been placed there by God with the sole purpose of taunting my pallid undersexed miserable self.

But my girlfriend apparently did not go out with her girl friends to pull men.  Apparently not even when she was 18, with 18-year old boobs not requiring support, tanned, trim, single and on holiday with mates in Ibiza.  She went out to have a good time and a dance with her friends.  She was dumbly oblivious and uncaring about the hungry gaze of desperate men (like me).  This happened throughout her early 20s.  Finding men was simply not a priority.

It’s a truth I’m embarrassed to find hard to comprehend.  I now realise I did not sincerely believe in such a mentality.

She even balked accusingly at me when I casually used the word the other week, as if pulling was a crass, distasteful notion.  I did not think she was this posh.

(She is not this posh).

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ok not knowing

This morning I took a rare, indulgent browse of this blog and scanned some posts from around a year ago.

All had a dour, fairly miserable, nervous tone about Christmas.  The walking into a lamppost thing was unfortunate and painful but I wouldn’t disagree now with anything written then.

Comparing year ago me with today me reveals marked changes.  Most significant is the fact that I am no longer as lonely and frustrated about humans in the most general sense.  There is now a special person who I am extremely fond of.  Oh go on then, who I love.  And, to paraphrase a romantic musical, that does quite considerably change stuff.

This year Christmas won’t be the same as last, because I’ll be with somebody.  Hopefully I shan’t be out drinking alone watching dour bottom of the table Premiership clashes or walking into lampposts.  Not that I can totally rule out those possibilities.

Indeed, the spirit of the loner remains and I doubt will ever leave.  I still regularly take solo trips to the cinema and walk alone with a camera for some distance.  I still hanker for a dog.  I still have many of the same professional frustrations, perhaps even more than a year ago.  I’m certainly in an even more uncertain professional place now, in that precarious blurry limbo between self-employment and unemployment, with little idea what the coming few months will hold.  I doubt I’m alone here.

But I’m also relaxed about everything; sporadically scared and fearful of the future, but a little more fatalistic.  Having a person who believes in you can help with that.

*

We took a cross-country roadtrip to visit her distant aunties this past weekend.  They are particularly close to her after she lost her mother several years ago, and her father a couple of years later.  The three sisters were very close.

It was a whirlwind weekend of different experiences, environments and people.  Much discussion, mostly about family and relationships.  A considerable amount about spirituality – it seems to me the need for such belief grows stronger with age.  Perhaps it gets harder with old age to admit that it might just be this life and no more.  I listened and smiled and learned the names of lots of dead people and disagreed with things in my head (anti-euthanasia, spirituality and reincarnation, three and a half thousand pounds on an operation for a dachshund).  I voiced nothing, remained polite, kept smiling.

After two days staying with one auntie we packed up.  Heading back west, we stopped to visit an old family friend at a chaotic but cosy house with large dogs and a deviant lingering cigarette scent throughout.  A 70 year old party girl had her 30ish year old affable goddaughter visiting, and our coincidental quartet worked agreeably well.  Two hours of weak champagne, bruschetta, tea, dogs and bawdy laughs, then we headed off again.

The final scene was a pretentious, dimly-lit ‘exclusive’ hotel where frantic James Bond scenes may have been filmed in the corridors.  There we met her mole-ish Scotland-based half-brother for discussions about their father’s estate.

It felt in turns like a film as we bickered loudly over SatNav directions and mock-fought at service stations, the glowing winter sun casting long shadows across car parks and motorways.  It struck me at one point like a specific film, 2009’s charming and funny Away We Go, where a young couple go on a north American road-trip looking for a place to live.

Though her employment seems more secure, my girlfriend is not particularly fixed to our current region; she’s open to the idea of exploring or moving away, however far.  Travel is particularly appealing at the moment but only a pipe dream.  I have little motivation to ‘work’ in the conventional sense of finding a regular office job – although that is exactly what I’m seeking out of pure obligation.

Finding each other in 2012 was enough.  Hopefully there will be more discoveries in 2013 and hopefully they will be equally pleasurable and not lampposts to the forehead.  Not knowing is kind of ok for now.

what you can hope to achieve

Stuff in this next post or two is backdated from, like, ages ago, so if any of it was remotely true it wouldn’t  even slightly chafe anymore.

The score was level at two all, one minute into stoppage time at the end of the match.  Manchester City’s hapless centre-back lost the ball in midfield and Gareth Bale was released to attack down the left wing.  Spurs had men over on them.  We could win it here.  As Bale collected the ball and ran, you edged forward on your armchair, alone in your flat.

Could we win it?!  It could change everything.  Turn us into real title contenders.  If we beat Manchester City there could be a great chance of winning the league.  This season Spurs looked so strong but it all felt so transient too; a team at their pinnacle, a good blend of experience and youth, a manager who might easily not be there next season if offered the England job, a sense of now or never about everything.

Bale galloped around the defender and whipped the ball across goal towards Jermain Defoe, who charged hungrily into the middle of the penalty area.

“FINISH!” you wailed at the television screen, sinking theatrically to your knees.  Defoe lunged towards the ball, only managing weak contact with the studs of his boot.  The ball drifted impotently wide of the goal.  Your hands covered your face.

In their next attack Manchester City won a penalty through a player who should have been sent from the pitch for kicking one of our men in the head, twice – for which he was retrospectively punished the following week.  He calmly slotted in the penalty kick.  Manchester City 3, Tottenham Hotspur 2.

Title aspirations all but over.

That afternoon in a crushed beery haze, you exchanged messages with her for the first time.  She looked stunning, well out of your league, as much of a fantasy as Tottenham winning the Premiership.  But the messages snowballed.

Over the course of the following week, correspondence turned to emails, a telephone call and text messages.  This was ridiculous.  She was exceptionally attractive, arrestingly smart, laugh-out-loud funny, beautifully written.  She ruled your thoughts.

She’d seen one image of your face but still continued chatting.  Why?  The attention on her words?  She MUST have had loads of better looking, more successful blokes vying for her attention.  Maybe there was a wealthy, unpleasant married businessman who gave her functional sex and nice shiny things and put her up in hotels but wasn’t all that interested in her.  Maybe she had loads of blokes she played off against each other.

Who knew?

– Stop thinking about her anyway.  Don’t do this again.  She’s just one female, remember.  Nothing to get all sappy over.. Just one female.

..who is, you know, actually a really fucking incredible female.

STOP IT, BRAIN!

[It always pales in hindsight, how besotted you become for a period: a few weeks, a few months.  You look back several months to a year or so down the line and ask: can I really have been that fussed? It feels sort of distant now, like I couldn’t have possibly been that headfucked.  Well know this, Future Self: said female properly dominated your brain for a good number of weeks.]

STOP THINKING ABOUT HER!  Think about football instead.

Yes.  Come on, don’t get ahead of yourself.  Rein it in.  Be cool and casual.  Even if you did meet she’d quickly notice that you’re ordinary looking, forgettable, that you have a gaping harrowing bald spot; you’d inevitably leak weird stuff about your perpetual lonerdom and dreary void of ambition; her interest would understandably dwindle.  Then you’d get all moody and depressive for allowing yourself to hope.  You know that’s what happens.  While there’s the mystique of not quite knowing, you’re little more than an idly amusing Tamagotchi.

Whatever you do, try not to hope and try not to care.  Caring is, like.. SO uncool dude.  Nowadays everyone is flippant and casual and frivolous and throws their hands in the air like they just don’t care.  Caring too quickly makes you look desperate and needy and like you’re not still the 26 or 27 year old you hope to appear and imagine you are in your head.  So no, you mustn’t care or be impatient or honest or want everything immediately.

You knew how this worked.  It had all happened before, sort of.  You were building yourself up to fall.  And yet still, STILL you audaciously dared to hope..   You gigantic anus.

Gareth Bale had galloped beyond the defender once more, his left foot primed to whip the ball across the penalty area, as tantalisingly close to exhilarating glory as to agonising defeat.  You were both on the edge of your armchair and Jermain Defoe, charging into the penalty area; about to lunge for the ball in a stadium full of fifty thousand people, ready to sink to your knees alone in your flat, dagger to the heart.

*

Empty glumness is hard to shake off when hope fades, despite self-talking-tos. You told yourself not to do this and you’ve no right to miss something you never had. This is precisely why investing hope is so dangerous, you mug.  It’s possible to grieve for hope, although it feels considerably less respectable, more lame, this undignified permanent sense of embattled disappointment you haul around with you.

It’s involuntary though, which almost makes it excusable. Consciously choosing to invest hope is impossible.  “Yes, I will choose to hope about this thing”.  No.  Hope is more subtle, gradually sliding into you before you find you’re freakishly possessed.

It was worse after meeting and seeing that holy fucking shit yes, she IS that attractive.  Extremely attractive.  GOD you wanted to sleep with her so badly.  So what if you thought with your dick a bit.  What man in that position wouldn’t?  Your admiration extended further than that.

Pangs of bitter regret recurred long after you realised there was nothing doing, her interest had died, the frequency of messages had dwindled, her replies grown shorter, questions apparently outlawed – inquisitive ‘did you’s clipped to rhetorical ‘hope you’s.  After pinning your colours to the mast, brave and unambiguous and punchdrunk, her gently subverted response of I’m Not Really Into You So Leave Me Alone Now appeared clear enough.  Perhaps there was different, newer attention.  Perhaps not.

What had previously been a busy junction of two-way traffic – meaty email marathons, semi-regular texts, quickfire instant message chats – was no longer.  It was a transient confection rapidly scaled down to a one-way street; little returning besides token tumbleweed acknowledgements. With it came a slow dawning realisation that now she sincerely gave not even the faintest of shits.

It was fine.  You got over it then lapsed into gloom, then got over it again and then lapsed again.

You angrily reprimanded yourself: WHAT WERE YOU THINKING OF ANYWAY!?  Someone like her: sure, some layer of pretence but still ostensibly an intimidating preening glamour-puss with expensive tastes and talent and drive. And you, who usually goes to work wearing slippers, doing something just about tolerable, albeit unchallenging and boring?  To entertain the notion of any kind of ‘match’ was tantamount to self-harm.  Although it demonstrated a level of perverse ambition too.

At least you could take comfort in its brevity, the small mercy that it wasn’t a protracted period.  Usually it’s only ever a short matter of time between discovering that Yes, oh no, oh shit, you suddenly hope – Bale galloping; and learning that you are of course once again doomed to fail – Defoe missing.  Hope then slips away once more, like a tidal swell dictated by a sadistic god.

cruel dream

There she was, sitting down on the floor, her back to the tiled swimming pool wall.  You said hello and began chatting, clumsily half crouching / half leaning to her level.  Why didn’t you just sit down?  She was doing well in her work, it seemed, doing impressive things.  You remembered you still had those shared interests, she’d been to different places you yourself would like to visit, often hiked the mountains nearby, like you’d like to.  You didn’t speak about this and weren’t sure how things were between her and her boyfriend / husband.  She was down here in the hotel swimming pool on her own, looking a little sad?  Had something happened between them?  Not that you’d ever dare try to elbow in or anything, being generally averse to the indignity of competition, as well as always suspecting that better candidates than you exist for everything.  Where had that Scottish twang in her accent come from?  She was from Cornwall.

Speaking to her brought it back:  the warmth of feeling, the painful sense that she might have been it; you shared so much, she was still damned cute, you had hurt so much and for so long when you parted, nobody has even come close since.  ‘Since’ has been a long time.

On Facebook she initially sent a friend request a few years back, which you falteringly accepted.  After a while quietly unfriended her because you didn’t like seeing and feeling those things.  Then a few months ago you sent another request to re-friend.  Odd behaviour.  An idea that any new friend is an audience expanded if you’re trying to subtly pimp business interests, combined with new unsubscribe settings that mean you can immediately opt out of someone’s inanities if they prove too idiotic, combined with curiosity and nostalgia, combined with whisky; all shaken into a nervous cocktail that made you tap the Add As Friend button.  You were still interested to know where she was up to – married yet, kids?  Just moved in, in turned out.  The photo albums hadn’t changed much.  Perhaps a few more looking beamingly happy and couply on mountaintops.  No messages were exchanged upon re-friending, as they had been upon initial friending.  Not a frequent user, you presumed by her activity, possibly wrongly.  She merely accepted the request.

You’ve heard tale, or maybe fable, of weak old men who once upon a time missed a boat, who didn’t struggle as much as they should have to stay afloat, and subsequently paddled off elsewhere, living out their lives on an island of dim regret.

Water came trickling in around the poolside and began to rise, over the edges of your slippers and socks.  Why were you wearing slippers and socks?  You couldn’t detect its source, the pool didn’t appear to be overflowing.  She was apparently unfussed, sitting in her bathing suit.  But it unsettled you and you sought higher ground, pleased at the meeting, heartened almost, yet also knowing it had meant nothing.  You wondered where your friends were and what you’d be getting up to that day, cycling the cobbled roads and coastlines of that island.  Later on you’d have a spat with a friend whose behaviour you deeply question, all the while faintly knowing that this is all just another nonsensical, cruel dream.  One which will leave remnant fug when you eventually wake up.

*

Wistful residue which results from dreaming about females is easier when the female subject is entirely fictional.

belief and a lamppost

It was boredom which teased you out alone, the desire for more general stimuli than exists in your flat, the desire for a populated environment, for that warm festive buzz you supposedly revile; as well as an antipathy towards your own company in your own flat for yet another evening.

Although you like your flat and could have watched the match there, you were bored.  You fancied alcohol and more variables. In your flat someone might email you!  Or reply to a tweet!  Your phone may even ring!  These are all quite unlikely though. 

There are more possibilities in a pub, although as an individual with no friends you’ll most likely sit in a corner intermittently studying the large screen showing live football and the small screen in your palm.  Still, there are other people in the same room to illicitly consider and make judgements about.

It was raining as you walked to the pub.  You looked back over your left shoulder into a newish trendy bar and considered doubling back into there instead.  No.  It was too trendy to go into on your own and watch the football, wasn’t it?  Yeah it..

-A metallic clang was audible a millisecond before the scuffing impact and the searing pain into the centre-right region of forehead.  gaahh.  Ouch.  Really ouch.  FUCKING ouch.  Shit.

Several yards down the street a handful of people at a bus stop looked towards you, remarkably none laughing.  You took a moment out to stand in an empty doorway, getting rained on a little less, waited for the world to stop spinning and the pain to subside.  You wondered if this would prompt a brain tumour to hemorrhage.

A minute or two later you confidently ascertained that you were wet and throbbing and had a rucked, probably swelling forehead; your dignity was severely compromised – despite there being no evidence anyone had actually witnessed your calamity.  But there was no blood.  That was a good thing.  You’d live long enough to watch the Blackburn-Bolton game.  At least the first half.  Slowly, carefully, you made your way towards the pub.

Once inside the surprisingly crowded room and maybe mildly concussed(?) you bumped into a shortish but burly, typical doorman.  Not softly.  You thwacked a full shoulder of your frame and apologised immediately, a pacifying hand on his shoulder.  He glared back at you, up in your eyes, steely and unimpressed, two glasses in his hands, the level of one glass not up to the level of the other.  You apologised again.  His face was unmoved.  He probably enjoyed his moment, thinking you were shitting yourself and worried you might get immediately ejected.  You were shitting yourself a bit.  He said nothing and you left him, continued on to the bar and got a pint before seeking out a quieter corner of the pub near a television screen.

Also nearby were two separate couples on dates.  All handsome people.  The better looking pair were more polite and slightly less relaxed with each other.

You’d developed a soft spot for bottom-of-the-league Blackburn Rovers, a luckless football team with numerous solid, experienced professionals who never appear to play that badly.  You admired the dignity of their besieged manager, Steve Kean, who received a barracking from his own fans at every match, home and away; constant abuse and hounding to quit.   You wondered about his domestic back-up, judged that there must be a strong woman at home who supports and believes in him.

A glance at a laughing couple below the screen.  Your wobbly, still-throbbing head went on to generate thoughts about the consequences of isolation, loneliness and perceived constant shunning by people.  How that can infect a person and ultimately lead to misogyny and misanthropy.  Hell, if nothing and nobody accepts you – literally: females, friends, employers, family, lampposts, then why the fuck should you accept them? Fuck em all.

But where does that leave you? A crazy lunatic who wants to punish the world?  A paranoia-wracked schizophrenic?  A person who scuffles with lampposts?

In spite of everything you feel an enduring faith in people, entirely devolved from religion or religious values.  And also an obligation to the belief that life must be about surrounding yourself with people, if you can.  You rarely see an artistic endorsement of happiness, contentment and oneness through total isolation.  Not in a relatively young person anyway.  It’s commonly portrayed as leading to madness, self-harm and suicide.  Potentially brilliant art too.  But no, sociability is where it’s at.  It’s what seems to work for the majority of humans.  And it’s what you believe in, despite it being completely at odds with how you appear and how you live and how you instantly dislike a lot of people.

There are no guarantees though.  As painfully unfair as it seems, shit things happen to generally good people all the time and in lots of ways.  Good things you want might for yourself, through no fault of your own, might simply never happen.  They don’t happen for everyone. But you still have to invest in romantic ideals, or you could end up just wanting to kill everyone which, on balance, doesn’t sound like the greatest idea.

Blackburn lost again by a fine margin to their near-neighbours and fellow strugglers, Bolton Wanderers.  A slice of luck in the dying moments could easily have seen them earn a brave point.  The wet ball skidded off centre back Samba’s shining head and wide of the post.

great expectations

A question re-illuminated by events of a couple of posts ago was this: how far should your expectations of a female (or male) be adjusted?  Or, how far should they be toned down?

For a romantic idealist who wears their heart on their sleeve, they’d prefer to be completely wowed by a female.  At least for a brief period.  Sure it’d be unlikely to last forever, but initially they would want that early phase of fuck me, she’s a-m-a-z-i-n-g.

But what if that never happened?  What if there wasn’t ever that exhilarating romantic spark with anyone?  Maybe you could only feel that in an unrequited way, with dynamic females who had been snapped up a good few years ago.  And maybe part of the reason those females are so dynamic, magnetic, electric, is because they’ve pretty much always had the attention.  They’ve never spent much time sitting alone in rooms wondering if they’re fundamentally unattractive.

So what if you met someone and she didn’t exactly knock your socks off?  What if she was just fine to be around?  If it was enjoyable hanging out together, and doing a little more besides.  You weren’t deluged with other offers, so why not?

Should that be good enough?  Should you allow yourself to make that compromise?  Because that is what it feels like.  Or should you go on searching in hope of someone who wows, someone you may never find?

Would it be wrong to lazily throw in the towel like that?  Or is that precisely what people do all the time?  They settle.  Especially if one party is a dominant and decisive, and the other is lazier and doesn’t have the nerve or inclination not to settle.  Because it works well enough.  I absolutely have a certain couple in mind here.  I have no idea how he landed her at all.

It’s arguable that the longer you go on bitterly kicking down the picky single lonely path, the less likely you will find someone you’re wowed by.  More likely perhaps that you’ll gather additional neuroses about how you’d like A Person to be, and collect further constipating baggage through constant over-analyses.  By not thinking: fucksake, just do something you prick.

A friend suggested that, if you asked many unmarried couples whether they’ll go on to get married and have babies, a good proportion would just shrug and say they don’t know; they’re just having an ok time as it is, see where it goes..  There’s no need to overthink it if there aren’t any real fireworks.  Don’t make a drama out of it.  If you find you’re having an ok time, go on having an ok time.  Take each game as it comes.

Therein lies a beauty of being relatively casual.  If someone else should happen by, it’s not illegal, there’s no til-death-us-do part sin, especially if you’re both on the same page about things.

But romantic idealists beat themselves up.  They’re such soft pricks they’re nervous about other people liking them; even ones they don’t know if they like much.  Although a kooky inverse vanity can inflate that impression.  There might not be as much meaning involved as you think.  They might behave the same with any guy and feel exactly the same as you.  They might be a level-headed, mature, sensible person, which is a dangerous assumption to make, but you never know.  They might exist.

It’s still unsettling, all the same.  Now stop cupping my face like that, quit with those soppy doe eyes.  Please don’t like me too much; I’m a prick.  Everyone knows it.  Here, I can even prove that by being honest and saying I’m not really that into you.

Although perhaps I could convince myself into being into you, in time, maybe, perhaps, possibly..

No, I couldn’t.  Shut up.

the perfect angle

You think you can make compromises for potential short-term gain.  It’ll be easy.  So what if there’s an age-gap of some kind or there’s another obvious cosmetic defect?

You think it’s true.  But your friend, or one good friend, he laughs, says ‘no you can’t,’ shakes his head like he knows you better than you know yourself.  All evidence points to him being right and you being wrong, which is annoying.

You thought you might be right this time.  She had years on you, a good decade in fact.  But so what?  This wasn’t marriage.  Just.. whatever it was.  She seemed smart and had other strong features, notwithstanding the baggage.  You can’t get to her age, be single and not have baggage though.  It’s to be expected and is extremely rare if that’s not the case.

So you met.  She entered the coffee shop and you saw her and immediately shrunk.  You wanted to recoil back into your shell and not come out until she’d gone.  This was all wrong..  just, no.  Would you have had this reaction if she was more attractive?  Because you are that shallow, without doubt.  How about if she didn’t have such a dominating brace stapled to her teeth?  Still, you had to be polite and nice and charming and play along for a good hour or more, asking questions, lightly filling in the edges of yourself without giving too much information away in case she was a lunatic.  You liked that she knew next to nothing about you, not even any of your many tragic internet identities.

Yet it still felt wrong and you weren’t at all proud of yourself.  You were embarrassed by yourself, tired and irritated.

You took an early day, went for a wander into town, into a grimy pub, and bought a beer which slid down incredibly well.  Then you texted a friend who was just leaving work and open to the idea of a beer in a sunny beer garden.  You met and went to a better bar where eventually you told him how you’d spent your day and he laughed.  ‘You’re pickier than you think!’  You shrugged, and laughed too.  It was ok now beer and a mate were here to rationalise.

After a couple of beers he was harried home for dinner and you parted.  On returning to your flat with beer you grazed social networks to see a female fancy had gone on a successful first date.  It made you sad because you liked her a lot, although you knew you couldn’t put your lives on hold for the memory of one night, when now a few thousand miles separated you.

You drunkenly pondered other opportunities in the last week or two, times when you could have gambled and risked embarrassment, but who knows?

Champagne-at-dawn girl who was surely too posh for you?  Or not.  Was she expecting a move you didn’t make because you were slightly intimidated and rather drunk?

The Italian postgraduate student in the gym jacuzzi who talked your ears off.  Boyfriend in New York but so what?  (As a terminal singleton, it’s possible to respect the relationships of others too much, particularly if signs point in the other direction.  You have responsibilities to yourself too).  You couldn’t help feeling that one of her own kind, an Italian or Frenchman would have made more of a smooth, cocksure play: coffee or something.

The blonde you mocked in a bar for being so cross that there were only three files in the S Drive.  It was irresistible after overhearing her conversation.  She burst into embarrassed giggles.  As much as you played with it in your head, you only had the nerve to use the line as they were leaving the pub; not while they were still sitting opposite you, firmly ensconced in girly conversation and a bottle of wine.

In real-world situations you should be more daring, not in the safe-haven of the multi-layered and often duplicitous sodding internet.  If you really are clinically unable to compromise on the short-term, learn to take a risk or two.  But that’s easier said than done.  Like watching a football team which plays a neat passing game but never takes a shot because they can’t find the perfect angle.

Coming out

An hour into my return train journey I south, I sent a text message asking if a friend fancied a pint when I arrived back into town.  We hadn’t been able to catch up in the month I’d been back in the city, mainly due to his diary packed full of holiday and weddings.  To my mild surprise, he agreed and we arranged to meet.

He was a sort of by-proxy friend.  My school friend and I attended the same university and he was roundly better or perhaps luckier at finding a good group of friends.  As a result, several of his friends became my friends, all using the school nickname which I was introduced to them by.  This friend was primarily one of his.

Lumbering, a little awkward and a long-time single, despite being smart, funny and professionally successful, he made me feel better about my own ineptitude with female-kind.  If he’s not finding it as easy as our other mates either, I reasoned, then I’m ok too.  Nothing wrong with him.

I greeted him slightly more tired than I expected to be, the whole day and early start now taking its toll.  We took pints and a seat and caught up.

Half way down the second pints, we reached the subject of women.  I mentioned one or two of the events which litter these blog pages, then turned to him: “So anything news on that count for you?  Do you do the whole dating thing much, or..?”  I didn’t know.  I presumed he must do.  His job involved him seeing many people, going on courses.  He’d had girlfriends and we occasionally heard tales that he slept with them, though not for a while.

“No, well.. I should tell you, I’ve told the others.  I’m.. m.. more the other way.  I can’t help going red when I tell people, he smiled.”

I swilled half a mouthful of Guinness and the penny dropped.  Shit.

He mimicked me spluttering my drink everywhere in disgust, which made me giggle.

I hadn’t seen it coming at all.  I thought he was just like me.  He wasn’t just like me.  The bastard.  It did make sense, but made me feel more of a weird useless freak.  Don’t be such a selfish twat.  Listen.

He’d only fully admitted it to himself when he was 24 or 25, he explained, and started gradually coming out to friends a year to eighteen months ago.  He wasn’t out at work yet, but his closest friends and family all knew.  He was still single but had a good gay crowd of friends.

After the revelation, the laughing and the blushing and the shocked swearing had subsided, I didn’t feel able to leave that as our last pint, and went to get another, still dazed, tired and numbly drunk.  Him: a big gay; who would’ve thought?

This could easily be what people think about me..

malestream

You tell yourself what to say and how to behave as you sit there waiting, your heartbeat feeling steadily more pronounced and your stomach faintly complaining.  You’re cool though, it’s all fine.  Casual.  Remember to lie and be nothing like you are most of the time.  You must not ‘just be yourself.’  There disaster lies, or at least the usual route of ambivalence.  Nobody wants to date that sort of person: a miserable bastard.  Exude charm, appear effervescent, affect some level of charisma and contentedness with your lot: you know you can do it.  Although it feels fraudulent, like lying or pretending you’re rich.  Try not to be too honest; you’ve fallen foul of that one much too often.  Don’t allow your brain to buckle under the pressure of attempted fabrication.  Make something up.  People do it all the time.  There’s no need to lazily concede and automatically speak the truth, especially if it isn’t favourable or doesn’t reflect brilliantly upon you.  Pretend you don’t mind your job or lifestyle.  Accentuate the positive and attempt to believe it for a short while.  You don’t want to have a boss or regular hours.  You like your own freedom.  It’s all cool; maybe not forever, but for now it’s fine.  Don’t fear conversation pauses, or go about nervously machine-gunning questions into them.  You’ve done that before and they don’t like that.  Listen.  You rock at that anyway; your larger than average ears help.  Remember to specifically lie by saying ‘we’ instead of ‘I’.  (Because it’s only ever ‘I’).  Invent company if you have to.  Just do NOT sound like a weirdo loner.  Don’t look at any other girls either.  This one will be the centre of your world.  A very occasional glance perhaps, but no studied lingering looks, even if they’re insanely hot; especially if they’re insanely hot.  You can however share a bitchy comment about another person’s dress or shoes.  Don’t over-share or say too much or stay too long.  Leave something else, don’t play all your cards.

And above all… there should be an ‘above all,’ a mantra to remember at all times.  Is there one?  Perhaps: try not to think too much about it?  Don’t painfully overanalyse everything, even afterwards.  Casual, nothing really matters.  Remember that.  Now put the book down now, she’s coming.  Is that really her?  Christ, she’s quite attractive.  What would she see in y-?  Be quiet, brain.  Make your mouth smile.

*

“Who with?” she asks because you’ve avoided saying we or I, again.
Make it up!
LIE!
Invent a friend.
Don’t be a lazy brain!

Your face is transparent, crumbling under the effort.
“Just me,” you squeak.
“Are you a bit of a loner?”
She’s even used the fucking word.  Jesus.  WHY are you so useless at concealing this?!  It’s not that hard.  Lie.

Oh.. bollocks.

Once the truth bubble has been pricked it’s far easier to let it all tumble out, rather than to attempt repair. “Hey look.  I’ve done plenty of fun travelly things I would have never done if I’d waited around for my mates.  It means I’ve done lots of them alone, yes, which I wouldn’t necessarily have chosen to, but you meet people you wouldn’t have otherwise met who I’m still in touch with.  And it means you don’t do nothing, you don’t just sit at home moping.”  Although you DO very cleverly omit to tell her that you’ve done loads of that too.  Well done, you: that’s really sensational.   “And I live alone and work alone so, you know: draw your own conclusions.”  You sound heavy and serious and have completely over-shared, but strangely you don’t regret it.  You take a perverse pride in what you perceive to be your difference, even if it gets you nowhere, which it usually does.  She hasn’t walked out the door yet.  You don’t even want to begin trying to decipher the meaning behind her smile.

Say something stupid now.  Diffuse.

You share two bottles of wine and stay there for far too long.

crap pub sandwich

A professionally challenging week ended last Friday with another personal challenge, as if designed by God to halt my tedious moaning.

Sometimes this happens and it’s like somebody is actually saying, “there you go then, twat.  Cease your boring whining and make something of this.”  And I predictably falter.  Today, having not eaten a proper meal for a couple of days and only skimped on rubbish food between times, I decided to treat myself to a late pub lunch.  My stomach has been doing that gripey, empty, complaining thing and I wanted to satisfy it with hearty gastro food.

Studying the menu at the bar, I balked at the prices and merely opted for a steak sandwich and chips.  It took a long time to arrive, and as the sheepish barman made a sharp exit, what was presented to me explained why.  The steak had been forgotten.  It lay on a bed of passable salad, on top of a pathetically thin slither of dry white bread.  Soggy brown chips underneath.  It wasn’t a triumph.  You often don’t get served the best cuts when dining alone.  Perhaps it’s widely known that sad single folk lack the will to complain.  Particularly slightly defeated, younger looking ones.  It worked again and I didn’t.

When I’d sat down another solo eater had been sat there finishing soup, reading a newspaper.  After a time he’d left and his replacement was surprising.  An attractive young blonde girl who looked for all the world like she’d be waiting for someone, but wasn’t.  She’d also ordered soup and sat there unavoidably in my eyeline attached to her mobile phone.

Shrill screaming toddlers pierced what would have been an otherwise pleasant Friday afternoon pub scenario.  They ran amok like it was a nursery, their guardians largely unconcerned.  I’d waited twenty minutes to be served my simple and not very nice meal, she waited ten for a hearty looking soup with thick crusty bread.

As the waiter left her, our glances finally crossed and we weakly exchanged smiles.  My sandwich was still dry and crap.  “Any good?” I bravely chanced after a few minutes.

“Mmm,” she replied, amiably enough, well spoken as you might expect from a pretty young blonde Putney-ite, “it is.”
“What is it?” I said, wanting to prolong conversation of some sort.
She described what it was.
“I’m jealous, mine was horrible.”
“What was it?” she politely returned, and I told her.
“Steak sandwich?  Well it’s your own fault, you shouldn’t have steak somewhere like this.”
I wasn’t sure exactly why, it was a reasonable enough pub, notwithstanding the wailing children.
“No, I agreed,” as if understanding completely, “schoolboy error really.”
She slurped soup, I snapped a bit of stiff bread.
This was the point when I could have moved the subject off food, something more general.  But confidence in my ability to do this without appearing predatory, weird, intrusive or just creepy always fails me.
So instead we sat in silence, listening to the wailing infants.
I raised my eyebrows in her direction when one speeding sprog veered towards our corner, then away.
“Peaceful here isn’t it?”
“Oh, bliss,” she agreed.
Escalate, move on.  So what brings you here…?  What do you do?  Do you want a drink?  Can I join you?  No, no, no.
We studied our mobile phones, then after a few minutes I finished my food, loaded my bag with book and my jacket pockets with devices.
“See you,” I said.
“Bye,” she said.