Although I love chomping on tasty food other people have prepared – sitting in a plether covered faux-pine chair, caressing the pretty, shiny cutlery; waiting for dinner to be served while chilled Pinot Grigio is poured into a glass for me to drink by a charismatic waiter (I love how Pizza Express gives anyone with a spare £15 an opportunity to indulge in experiences once reserved for the aristocracy – although I did once get barred from the Blackheath branch when I complained after my friend found chewing gum on her Fiorentina. I’m pretty sure that kind of shiz doesn’t happen to Samantha Cameron), dining at restaurants is becoming a bit stressful for me. You see, I recently started eating meat again after a 20 year flirtation with vegetarianism. This means that suddenly, instead of having a maximum of two dishes to select from on a menu I can now pick from all the available items.
Obviously, when one is placed in a situation where there is a choice of stuff to select from – such as the menu in a restuarant scenario – one wants to select the best thing. That thing which will bring your fatigued palate to life by dancing flavours across it in sequinned tap shoes. So you read and you think of the potential of the offerings before you and you ponder. The duck might look good but is it better than the calamari salad scrawled in chalk as a once-in-a-life-time offer on the specials board? How can you tell, unless you’ve been to the restaurant before and tried them both? And the seabass wrapped in fennel – it sounds divine, except you don’t really like the aniseedy flavour of fennel, and the menu gives no clue as to how overpowering it might be.
It won’t take a genius to work out that I spent the preceding paragraphs introducing the menu concept as a lazy metaphor for dating. Or, since I’m not sure anyone in the UK actually ‘dates’ in the way introduced to us by American sitcoms/movies (we have sex with people we meet and then we either marry them or leave their house awkwardly after breakfast and never speak again), I’ve introduced the above as a metaphor for relationships. As with items on a menu, careful consideration must be given to potential partners, of course. In matters of love it is even more important that you find the BEST one, otherwise you might end up marrying a bell-end who tells ‘jokes’ to harassed shop assistants and enjoys wearing orange Afro wigs to parties to express his ‘crazee’ side.
The one flaw with my metaphor is that finding a partner is absolutely nothing like ordering items off of a menu. Although in the ‘modern world’ (not to sound too much like your grandma), that’s not always entirely obvious. The marketisation of romance, via online dating websites, speed dating and so on, does blur the distinction.
This the truth: it is okay to keep your options open and faff about for a bit, or a lot, if nothing takes your fancy. There is no compulsion to order a lover for fear you might go hungry. Selecting a lover from the choice of those currently available to you, when that choice comprises philanderers, misogynists, knob-heads and alcoholics, is very a short-sighted plan. It is actively stupid to set up a life with someone who is going to make you embarrassed, self -loathing and miserable. This is so self-evident you will probably think me patronising for pointing it out. But something needs to be said. I am routinely flabbergasted that so many of the clever, intelligent, beautiful women I know do exactly that and then expect me to celebrate.
Some text messages I have received:
‘Gary and Alice have just exchanged on a flat! A-maze.’
‘Lindsey and Pete are going to be parents – soo lovely!xxx’
‘Mark and Maisie moving to China. Following their dreams! X’
Each of them made me want to smash myself in the face with my phone, repeatedly, until the world made sense.
I’m not saying these things aren’t, objectively, lovely. I’m sure it is very fulfilling to buy a house with someone you love and have squidgy likkle flocks of babies to dress in Osh-Kosh dungarees. And I definitely would like to move abroad at some point, and if I could do that with a fun, sexy man who shared my vision of the future then – celebrate good times, come on! But:
Gary went down on a girl asleep in his bed at a house party six months before moving into that flat.
Pete takes so much cocaine that he once spent all his wages on it on payday and had only £1.62 to cover the rent, food and bills for the month.
Mark has been shagging his ex-girlfriend for the entirety of his relationship with Maisie, and hates foreign people – making the decision to move to country full of them a bit idiosyncratic.
I know that love works in mysterious ways and that a relationship is a mystery to those outside of it etc, etc blah blah blah… Its just: are we so jaded even after the supposed sexual revolution that we accept this is all love has to offer? Someone who doesn’t respect you enough to keep his tongue out of your friend’s vagina? A dream future that belongs to woman you can’t be faithful to? Betrothal to a man who might soon have one nostril? Why are we so willing to compromise before we’ve even reached our thirties? I am almost certain that life’s head-chef will come up with something more palatable than this, if we just hold on, keep our options open and trust in the future. Hold on and life will be sparkling, rather than this kind of shit covered beige. I promise. It’s true. You don’t have to settle. Ignore the match.com ads and carry on.
Let us keep our options open single people, because there’s no pressure to select from the available options until we’re presented with one that’s the best of the best. And we should all bear in mind the wise words of one Judge Judy: ‘never hitch your wagon to a falling star…’