Part 84: Rejection


There’s this woman I know. She occasionally reads this blog so I’m going to hide her identity by giving her green eyes, black hair and six feet of height. I’ll make her rake thin with no boobs, freckles, a snub nose and pillowy lips that look purple even without lipstick. Or maybe I’m double bluffing and she really looks like that. You’ll never know.

This woman – I’ll call her Jo – is one of those people who radiates a general air of being good fun. She’s interested in other people, pretty in a non-threatening way and she’s also really funny (I don’t quite understand how because she never swears or says horrid things about other people).

The first time I met her I knew I wanted to be her friend. For a while I was. She came over for dinner and we went bowling and out to bars where we drank sour white wine and whisky. We exchanged sex stories and heartbreak stories and watched classic movies at the cinema and, even now, we tell each other we look gorgeous whenever we meet – in spite of the fact that, in reality, we almost always look washed out and tired and wear crumpled old bag lady clothes because we can’t be arsed to use an iron.

Recently though, for reasons that she has avoided making clear to me, Jo has decided I’m not the type of person she wants to spend social time with.

She’s done it subtly – by forgetting to invite me to things, missing my phone calls, taking ages to reply to text messages and, when I suggest going for a drink, saying she’s sorry but she’s busy or she’s tired or she’s promised her boyfriend they’ll snuggle in bed and watch Twin Peaks this weekend.

I know, what a bitch right?

Mind you, I can’t say I blame Jo for rejecting my friendship. My brother (he’s really called Joe, incidentally) once told me that if I wasn’t me and I met myself I’d totally hate my personality. He wasn’t being cruel – he hasn’t got it in him – he was stating the obvious. I’ve got a lot of the character traits I deplore in others. I’m vain, temperamental, blunt to the point of rudeness and I never fucking stop talking. I swear all the time, call everyone ‘babes’, smoke other peoples’ fags, shout at waiters and wear dresses that reveal both legs and cleavage to weddings and serious meetings at work. I write a blog. I ‘borrow’ money from my parents and never pay it back. I get so drunk at parties that I accost strangers and tell them the same story over and over again, or else I corner them and cry about being all alone. Or else I fall asleep on a couple of chairs I’ve fashioned into a makeshift bed.

So, Jo’s rejection isn’t surprising to me – it feels inevitable, in a way. And it’s not like I’m heartbroken because a) I was only mates with her for a few months and b) I’ve still got friends who, bafflingly, find my company amusing and delightful.

It’s just that Jo’s rejection reminds me, right as I’m beginning to think that I might like to have sex again, that rejection does not feel good. Romance is pretty much made of solid rejection. Especially after your early twenties when all the attractive and unfussy have paired off leaving a pool of flawed, desperate daters who are after either perfection or sex without commitment and are unwilling to settle for anything less.

Ugh. It’s all so difficult. And right now – on the second day of a particularly brutal menstrual period, eating a Weight Watchers yoghurt I’ve stolen from my house-mate’s shelf in the fridge, my self-esteem the size of a little baby mouse, staring at a phone with five unanswered text messages, contemplating creating an online dating profile that reads: I WANT BABIES – I have no confidence that I will be able to cope with inevitable romantic rejection at all. Unless I’m the one doing the rejecting – though I’m going to have to learn to flirt and start wearing a lot more make up if that is ever going to be a realistic possibility.

*Image by pakorn at

Part 83: Music

You know the Leonard Cohen song, ‘Hallelujah’? Yes, you do, that Alexandra off the X-factor released it as a single after her spectacular win in 2008, which caused all the nerdy little music purists to get their knickers in a twist because Jeff Buckley once released a less commercial cover and – until the nerdy purists launched a campaign against the X-factor version – hardly anyone knew about it.

Alex had loads of candles in her video. (Did Jeff Buckley? Probably not. I bet he didn’t even have a video.)

Anyway, I mention ‘Hallelujah’ here because I always wonder if Cohen wrote that song for me. I mean, he probably didn’t because I’ve never met the bloke, but still – there’s this one line that really sums me up. It goes, ‘you don’t really care for music, do you?’

‘That’s correct Len,’ I want to say whenever I hear it, ‘I don’t, really. Although I will make an exception for this song and 90’s gangsta rap. And, alright, if you really push me, Madonna’s Immaculate Collection and “Cocaine Blues” by Johnny Cash.’

Don’t get me wrong, readers, music is pretty hard to avoid and I don’t actively mind it. It can even be fun – like Britney Spears’ ‘Radar’ and that song about smashing car windows when your lover’s been unfaithful that Mercedes sang in Glee. Some of Tracy Chapman’s lyrics make me cry.

And when we have a family party I sing ‘Harper Valley PTA’ with my siblings doing the backing vocals. I’m not heartless. It’s just, this is the thing: when I’m listening to music I prefer the words to the melodic noises, and also, I don’t define myself by it.

As teenager I was not an ‘indie’* or, the only alternative at my school, an urban RnB diva with anger management issues and South East London swagger. (We didn’t call it swagger then, we called it attitude, but that doesn’t offer the requisite alliterative humour I was trying to achieve in the previous sentence.)

Although I could bear the Cranberries and even quite liked Usher, Jennifer Lopez and that song ‘Case of the Ex’, they featured more as background concerns for me.

Music was not the main event – it was the soundtrack to the feature film of my youth**. It was the mood – the atmosphere in the club, the colour of my friend’s jealousy, the memory of fleeting kisses with youths who tasted of pineapple Bacardi Breezer and wore jeans, loafers and Ben Sherman shirts. Or, more often, it was being switched off because it was annoying.

I’ve never listened to a Top 40 chart show on the radio of my own volition – in fact the only time I ever listen to the radio is when someone else is driving me to a place in their car.

Okay, I do like to have hip-hop playing when I do housework, but I totally fail to understand why anyone pays to hear music played live. Surely it’s always better on a CD or iPod or similar – where technical processes have edited out the bum notes and you can listen in the privacy of your living room instead of in public with many tens or, sometimes, hundreds or even thousands of people singing along and drowning out the sound of the professional performer you have paid to listen to?

As we’re on the subject of live music, I’d also like to say this: I swear, one of the only joyous things about approaching one’s 30s (without a lover, children, any money or assets to speak of) is that it becomes acceptable to refuse invitations to music festivals.

To be honest, I don’t know why anyone who has been to a music festival with me once bothers to invite me again. It’s an environment – loud screamy music, the outdoors, broken showers, other peoples’ poo sticking up in mountainous peaks from rancid portaloo basins, warm cider, mud, friends of friends overdosing on Miaow Miaow – that brings out the very worst in me.

I just sulk and cower in my tent until whoever has driven me there is ready to go home. I don’t know why I’ve said ‘yes’ to attending more than one. I suppose I was hoping music festivals would be like sex and get better with practice. I was wrong.

Like everything, not really caring for music has romantic consequences. For example, almost every online dating site has a quiz bit where they ask you what music you’re into. And all the hot blokes list stuff like, ‘gigging, guitar, Glastonbury’ under ‘interests’. Even in the real world an alarming amount of eligible, proper adult bachelors try to engage you in discussions about bands and albums and clubs and send you links on SoundCloud to songs they’ve written in their bedrooms.

All this makes me scared that, if I were to start dating, I would be forcibly made to engage with music as though I were some kind of ‘fan’.


Is that clear? Is there anyone left who wants to date me now I’ve revealed this fairly unattractive character trait? I mean, I know there wasn’t anyone who wanted to date me before I revealed it, but think about it: the girl in that Leonard Cohen song sounds quite hot, if a bit fucked up. And she’s just like me.

*I think this was the 90s version of the ‘emo’. (Do people still say ‘emo’, or is that passé now as well?)

**When I was about 15 I thought that ‘The Soundtrack to My Youth’ would be a brilliant title for my memoirs. I still think it’s quite excellent – snappy and you can see it appealing, commercially, to quite a big cross-section of the consumer public. However, it does rather imply that the contents of the memoir would feature music more heavily than would actually be the case. It would mainly feature stories about me getting drunk and saying embarrassing things to strangers and elderly members of my extended family. Which is why no one has offered to publish it. Yet. However, I am feeling benevolent and loving and generous so if you are currently writing a music-based memoir and are struggling for a title feel free to steal mine. Seriously, have it. (I would like a credit in the acknowledgements though.)