Part 71: Overexposure

You’d think we’d learn, innit? You can have too much of a good thing – even when that good thing is accomplished at sex and has a proper gorgeous chiselled jaw line that you can plunk softest kisses along. But, as evidenced by Channel 4’s decision to play Come Dine With Me back-to-back whenever there’s a gap in the schedule, we do not learn. We find a good a thing and then we just rinse it for all it’s worth, until what was once a pleasure becomes a painful reminder of life’s lengthy tedium and we are forced, once again, to turn to alcohol or narcotics to numb our senses against the horrifying blandness of the concrete existence we have created.  

Nothing is worse for one’s popularity than overexposure. Except, perhaps, halitosis.

Take Emeli Sandé, who, when she appeared at the Olympic closing ceremony, was a revelation to me. I had absolutely no idea who she was. Actually, that’s a lie. I did have some idea who she was. As we gathered round the telly, like a proper family  – even though a third of it are gay –  I cooed ‘Oooh look – it’s Pink! I love Pink! I’d have sex with Pink! I love her hair – it’s just like mine!’ Until my brother shot me one of those glances you shoot men with a loudspeaker and a Bible and an insatiable need to tell you about Jesus and said, ‘that’s not Pink. Look at her. She’s black.’

He was right.

I was like: wow.

This was amazing. An English* version of Pink, with better vocals. Emeli was on her way to securing a fan.

And then she made herself a permanent fixture in my life, appearing everywhere like that friend of a friend who turns up at events you ‘forgot’ to invite her to. And I started to hate Emeli Sandé. More than a little bit.  

I found myself longing for the time when I had no idea who Emeli Sandé was. She had become so ubiquitous that I actually started to wonder whether she was stalking me, via the mediums of radio and television, like some digital hot-lady version of that fat bloke who used to follow me home back in the day when I was a barmaid and wore skirts so short that old, fat men presumed I was gagging for it (I wasn’t. I was nineteen and boasted a wardrobe full of translucent t-shirts and a pert pair of D-cup boobies. I was fine for sex, thanks). And I still couldn’t tell you a single song she sings or anything about her at all except that, like me, she has less than flawless skin and amazing hair (celebrities must rue the day our insatiable appetite for realism led to the invention of HD). Mind you, as I type these words, I realise that I haven’t seen Emeli for some weeks – her absence serves only to reveal the contrariness of the human condition: I have started to miss her.

In a relationship, particularly in a relationship where you are very very attracted to your partner, you are Emeli Sandé. At the start you are a comely and intriguing character who probably reminds your lover of someone famous, or an acquaintance they’ve admired but been unable have sex with in the past, or an ex who dumped them, or – in rare but alarming cases – their mum. It will be very sexy and exciting and you are likely to feel giggly and girlish and acquire a revived sense of the world’s wonder.

In a few short months though, you’ll morph into the relationship equivalent of the mould growing between the folds of the shower curtain in their bathroom. Your existence in their life will come to symbolise, not the enduring other-worldly love they hold for you, but their lack of motivation to engage in the effort necessary to scour unpleasant things from the household.

Relationships are the worst for over exposure. Which is why people in long term ones are so often either miserable or drunk or fat. 

I know you don’t want to hear it babe, but the unfortunate fact of the matter is that you are very likely to become repulsive to your object of affection if they don’t first become repulsive to you.

One day the love of your life will wake up, stare at the slack, gormless expression on your sleeping face and decide enough is enough. Pastures new, even pastures fertilised with gonorrhea and sprouting small children, are preferable to the tedium you have created, by no fault of your own, just by loving them and being available and uncomplicated and nice.

At this point, they are likely to indulge in illict sex with someone else and then hide it from you. And then, once you find out – especially if you’re sensible and remove yourself from their company as a result – they might totally fuck with your head by realising that they loved you all along.

This is one of the many reasons why I do not advocate niceness as a quality one should nurture.

Faced with the reality that I have offered above you have three realistic options. The first is to pursue romantic relationships regardless and to deal with the inevitable heartbreak by anesthetising yourself with the alcohol and narcotics I mentioned in the opening paragraph. The second is to only pursue relationships with people you don’t really fancy, who will hand over the power by loving you more than you love them. The third is to stay single and pursue a hobby, which, when the inevitable tedium occurs, you will be able to trade for a more interesting option without causing or being subject to heartbreak.**

It should be obvious that I want you to select option three.

It’s literally common sense.

Although, before taking my advice and applying it to your life, you might want to bear in mind that I am potentially broken inside.

*I have since learned that she’s Scottish. But I had no way of knowing that at the time.

**There is, it occurs to me, a fourth option, which involves rejecting monogamy and embracing what is commonly referred to as an ‘open’ relationship. I am not liberal enough to offer this option in the main body of my argument, but I offer it as footnote – just in case you are liberal enough to feel like using it.

Part 70: Sleeping in Other People’s Beds

Even though there are few things more deliciously agreeable than returning to the chintzy comfort of your very own pillows after a long, hard day at the metaphorical coalface one of the many perks of single life is the frequency with which you get to stay overnight in beds that are not your very own. Don’t panic, I’m not referring to the tedious inevitability of casual sex in the life of the long term single here (although I forgive you if you thought that, I suppose it is suggested in this week’s title). What I am referring to is the freedom you have as a single person to sleep over, as a platonic guest, at the homes of friends and casual acquaintances, when the party’s over and your battery’s died and you’ve missed the last bus.

There is nothing like being an overnight guest in someone else’s house. It’s an everyday adventure that never gets old. The fragrance of just-laundered sheets – if you’re lucky and get the guest room; the perplexing firmity of a different mattress; the spooky vivid dreams; that moment when you wake up and have absolutely no idea where your are or how you got there; the unsettling shape of the furniture in the inky darkness (is that a hat-stand or a murderer holding his breath and standing very still?); and sometimes, the reassuring dead weight of your friend or casual acquaintance curled in the foetal position, exhaling peaceful sighs that lull you into the kind of intimate relaxation you used to hope that sex would deliver – if they don’t have a guest room and you have to bunk down with them.

I love accepting the offer of tea in the morning; declining toast (I can rarely stomach food before midday); supping the hot, milky thickness as light streams through the slats of the original wooden shutters – restored to former glory with a slick of whitest paint; witnessing the sleep-crushed faces of friends who always do their very best to appear attractive in public. I love that tiny moment of heartbreak, the dipping sensation in the pit of my stomach, like a swallow wind-diving, as I say good-bye. The clunk of a front door, shutting me out. I love making my way home in the dusty morning sunshine – wearing last night’s party frock, tottering on sparkling heels; a smear of scarlet lipstick and crazy punk hair, the palpable promise of potential alive on the breath of the air.

Sadly though, the regularity with which one is able to stay over at friends’ houses declines with age after peaking somewhere around the mid-twenties – before everyone gets proper jobs and ambition fuelled by the looming spectre of rising unemployment rates and a triple-dip recession. Of course, the ability to frequent the beds of friends and near strangers is further restricted once you have committed to a serious relationship – by which I mean one where there is a property that contains a bed you share with a (real or common-law) spouse, and/or children. This is reason enough to avoid serious relationships, which, as far as I can surmise, have nowhere near as many moments of everyday wonder as does a spontaneous overnight stay in someone else’s home.

Still, despite my warnings, one day that potential riding on the breath of the wind will materialise into something tangible. You’ll meet a tall, dark chisel-jawed cad who’ll know about religion and find you sexually alluring. He’ll invite you out to listen to jazz music at a club with red velvet bar stools and teeny candles on the mottled mahogany table-tops and touch your leg just above the knee when he’s consumed enough whisky to stave off fear of rejection. And there’ll be the faintest spark and a moment of relief, like ‘ahh! this is it’, before you kiss him. And that will also be wonderful; at least until the excitement of access to regular intercourse and the company of a human person you don’t find physically repulsive has worn off. At which point, you’ll be alright, because you can always leave your lover. And anyway, friends are doubly likely to invite you to stay over when you’re lonely and shattered of soul.

You see, there’s always a silver lining.