Part 74: Not Getting Murdered

Being single, particularly if you live all alone in a not so salubrious district of a disadvantaged city, can be scary. After all, noises from the communal hallway at three am might turn out to be a mad man wielding a sharp dagger and strangly hands – although, ninety nine times out of a hundred, they end up being the creaking of an old boiler, or your next door neighbour dropping a kebab. Still, it’s easy to think, especially when your chintz bed covers start morphing into evil night demons, that a big strong man might make you safer. Or at least give you a bulk to hide behind should the demons want to get physical.

As ever though, allowing yourself to think easy is the first step on the long road to misery. Because you are definitely not safer if you have a lover in your house. At least, not if you’re a heterosexual woman. Unusually, I don’t even have to resort to hyperbole to make my point here, it’s literally true: having a man in your life means you are more – rather than less – likely to be prematurely slaughtered. Which makes the twenty minutes you spent crying into your Ben and Jerry’s because that strong backed cad from All Bar One failed to reply to your text message a total waste of time. (Not that I’m judging babe, we’ve all been there).

On no account should any single lady who is aware of the realities of the world dream about silken wedding garments, or complain to her friends that she hasn’t had sex for nearly a year. We should be thanking the fat Lord that we’ve thus far managed to sidestep the ghastly finale that is life’s climax for many coupled females.

In the UK two women a week are killed by partners or ex partners. Globally, the statistics are even more depressing. According to the UN, in Guatemala two women are killed each day by an intimate partner; in South Africa the number jumps to six. Even in the US of A (home of Disney and Jennifer Aniston) one third of women who are murdered are killed by their lovers. In 2007 twenty two women a day were murdered in India over dowry.

Most women reading this will have had some brush or other with masculine-shaped danger. Whether that shape looked liked the looming shadow of a boyfriend-scorned or the grabby fingers of a stranger at midnight makes no difference. I just hope the experience did what it needed to do and made you very very angry. Angry enough to wear tiny leather skirts and white t-shirts with no bra and then shout at men for staring at you in the street. Angry enough to swear at those e-harmony ads. We should be angry enough to take up kitchen knife arms and point them in the direction of anyone asking, ‘are you single, still?’

But even if you can’t raise yourself to righteous anger, even if you can’t quite give up on romance despite the bleak reality of the human landscape – it’s still worth remembering that a man is never going to be capable of making you safer. Even if he’s really nice. I mean, he might beat you to death while sleep-walking. Or get jumpy, mistake you for a burglar and shoot you in the head through the bathroom door.

These things happen.

But not if you’re singl. Statistically speaking.

Part 73: Temple Run 2

Unlike most of the pseudo bourgeoisie who now make up my social group, I have never had a ‘gap year’. The idea of taking an extended break from my life in order to embark on a colonial tour of the former empire (and some of the bits we didn’t get) always seemed distasteful to me. Even during the skunked out hydro years, when I once slept in someone else’s sick.

Mostly, I’m not sad to have missed out on this rite of passage. Although, the one thing that does rile me about my lack of youthful adventure is that I have far fewer exotic stories than most people of my age and social standing. This leaves me feeling slightly inadequate in new company. Which is why I usually turn up to parties drunk, sporting dresses that display too much cleavage.

I’m particularly perturbed by the fact that my sister – who, prior to her international sojourn, was not known as Britain’s best raconteur – has the most entertaining story ever; it involves watching people drink milk expressed from rats’ nipples in a temple in India. Tbh, I’m not sure how precise her version of that story is – in relation to reality – because she once told me that she tried crystal meth and took various hallucinogens on that trip. And if I know anything, I know this: hallucinogens are a very good way to improve a story. (Although I can’t say the same for crystal meth; for vanity reasons, and also supply ones, I have never tried that particular drug).

Luckily for me though, the iphone people have invented an app that has made the concept of foreign travel redundant, and given me some excellent stories, should my sis ever try to trump me with the rat one. For the past three weeks, I have spent approximately five hours a day navigating an exotic ruin by foot (and, on the occasions when I chance upon a cave, in a careering wooden cart); sometimes I have to do this while being pursued by a lumbering monkey eagle intent on ensuring my demise.

Obviously, this has all taken place virtually, via the medium of the popular smartphone game ‘Temple Run 2’, and so cannot, in any sense, be said to have actually happened to me. Except that it feels like it has – in fact, I don’t know why I used the past tense there, it feels like it is when it’s happening. The breath-snatching awe as I take a sharp right and glimpse hot mist rising off the mountains; that physical sensation of motion as I leap over rolling spikes and rushing rivers; the leaping despair in my stomach as I take a wrong turn and jump into the abyss.

In a way, it is happening to me – more completely than things that happen to people in real life, because, while it’s taking place, I’m also getting to observe it from an external perspective. This must have been how God experienced being Jesus. Which clearly makes Temple Run 2 experientially superior to spending a spaced out year in flea ridden youth hostels, smoking ganja with some college drop-out from Seattle who thinks he’s found the meaning of life.

Having given it approximately twelve seconds consideration, I’m absolutely certain that Temple Run 2 will improve your chances with the opposite sex (or the same sex, if you like). Fortunately however, it is not possible to simultaneously maintain both a romantic relationship and a virtual adventure inside Temple Run’s world. Not if you in intend to take either of those things seriously. There’s not enough leisure time during the average weekend to both have sex and collect enough coins to complete the Midas Touch (and which one of those things will get you closer to that two gem bonus promised on completion of level 9? Exactly).  

Of course, no one can sustain addiction to a game forever. But look on the bright side: once you tire of the temple you’ll have some excellent stories to regale your date with on that next awkward rendezvous. Although, you might want to work on placing those stories in a real-world narrative; a vital tactic should you wish to avoid sounding like a crazed saddo (this is especially important if you decide you might want to have sex with your date at some future point. Which is unlikely. But still).

Part 72: ‘For Better or For Worse’

There are, as I’ve mentioned in the past, many (many) of the conventions of marriage that are both perplexing and repellent to me (not the dress though, I’m down with the dress; I’m very happy to accompany any brides to be to the dress shop and pull the requisite ‘awed’ face as they adorn layers of starched silk – being invited on such outings is one of the few perks of being an adult woman). This means that, on a day to day basis, I dismiss the notion of marriage as insane; secretly pitying anyone daft enough to buy into such an outdated, sexist and conservative lifestyle choice and immediately relegating any newly married people who are not related to me to the outer ring of my social circle.

Recently however, I’ve been giving marriage some serious thought. This is not because there have been any significant romantic events that have forced me to reconsider my bitter ideology, but because I’ve spent most of January wrapped in a blanket watching Rom Coms and stuffing chocolate in my mouth to stave off the winter blues.Thus, in the past month, I have had to watch approximately six hundred fictional wedding ceremonies.

Filmic wedding ceremonies are a lot more enjoyable than real ones – which I usually spend either ensuring that the monologue beginning ‘have you all gone fucking mental?’ stays inside my brain; thinking about the vintage of the wine I’ll be allowed to binge on later; or forcing the fake smile to remain glued to my elfin face in case any photos should reveal me as a miserable, twisted wedding scowler*. Because movie weddings are so much more enjoyable, I have, for the first time, begun to pay attention to the words spoken in the (conventional Christian) ‘vows’. And I have noticed that there is a point during the wedding ceremony at which the couple must solemnly promise to stay together ‘for better or for worse’.

Of course, I knew that these words happened long before I binged on cheesy Hollywood hits – somewhere in the auto-recall mechanism of my consciousness I have stored all the words to the traditional marriage vows (along with all the words to the following albums: The Slim Shady LP, Spice World, Ready to Die and S Club). But, until Meryl Streep uttered them during It’s Complicated, I’d not given any critical consideration to what the words ‘for better or for worse’ actually mean.

What I’ve subsequently realised is this: all over the land millions of people have literally and legally promised – in front of assembled friends and family – that they will stay in their relationship even if it makes them completely miserable at some point in the future. I can only presume – judging by divorce rates and the great big beaming smiles on the faces in the wedding photos currently assaulting my social networks – that pretty much everyone utters these vows in absolute ignorance.   

I don’t know about you, but all my life’s activity (bar the alcohol/fags/drugs based stuff) is hinged on the premise that today’s choices will result in a better tomorrow. I can’t think of a single thing I have ever done with the full knowledge that should it unexpectedly turn out to make my life worse I’ll have to stick it out to maintain face or break a legal promise in order get my life back on track again.

I mean, how low does a person’s self esteem have to be that they would sacrifice their own psychological well-being to fulfil pointless expectations conceived of by ancient men attempting to protect their wealth and absorbed into culture via the dangerous medium of ‘tradition’? I’ll tell you how low: very.

But, as I’ve already pointed out, it’s not low self esteem that propels most people into marriage. It’s idiocy, sentimentality and blind faith. Think about it – no one you’re likely to envy enters into matrimony expecting that they are actually going to have to live up to the ‘for worse’ part of the bargain. They all think they’ll be the ‘for better’ ones.That’s why they spend lots of money throwing a wedding and then try to rub their unification in your face at every possible juncture: by referring to themselves as ‘we’, publicising intimate family photos and arriving at social events looking both smug and, simultaneously, less fabulous than they did before they married.  

This is my response to such optimism: lol.

It should be a massive warning to those considering a Holy union that even God (or God’s scribe or whoever) admits there is, at best, 50/50 chance of life long commitment turning out to be more crap than it sounds. I’m not a gambler, but if I was I’d be less than willing than stake my metaphorical dollar on those odds. Because this is the future if you do: a life where you are duty bound to weather the storms created by others, a life where you might have to bite your tongue at a sexist/racist remark made by someone else’s elderly relative, a life where – should you lock eyes with a human specimen that makes your soul burn – you’ll have to decline spontaneous sexual encounters or cause heartache, a life where some ageing cad gets to refer to you as his ‘wife’ (bleurgh). A life where, depending on your choice of spouse, you might have to allow Match of the Day to play on your telly.

That sounds a lot like obligation to me. Which is, I suppose, why the government need to incentivise it via tax breaks.

Fuck that. Choose life my friends. Choose single life.

*Alright, I do also sometimes cry at the loveliness. But only when I’m hormonal.