Part 113: Convincing Yourself You Intimidate Them

fight

If I had an online dating profile, it would say this:

According to mirrors, I am perfectly proportioned – with a waspish waist and breasts about the size of big Seville oranges. I’ve got massive blue eye-balls, cropped hair and a small pointy nose. All of which combine to make me look not entirely unlike a human version of the cartoon fairy Tinkerbell. I’m solvent and sociable. I laugh all the time (but not in an annoying giggly way). I’m witty and cutting and clever and funny and, on good days, I commit random acts of kindness. For example, I once gave a tramp £20, when the sum total of my monetary wealth was £35. I also like sunsets, puppies, books and great big houses. Message me, if any of this takes your fancy.

And it would all be true.

I’m a catch.

But single men do not seem to have noticed this. Hence my regular, increasingly desperate, posts on this blog.

When I ask my friends why I am so often overlooked, stood up and ignored by the males of the species, they usually offer one of two responses: ‘I don’t know babe, you probably need to get out more. Have another whisky’ or, ‘it’s because you intimidate them. Men are scared of strong, beautiful, intelligent women. Fuck ‘em. Have another whisky.’

As much as it would flatter me to believe the latter of these two reassurances were true, I have a sneaking suspicion that my friends are talking bollocks – as they occasionally do, especially after whisky. Especially when I’m approaching the level of maudlin that requires curling into a ball, choking on self-pitying sobs and playing Usher’s ‘U Got it Bad’ on repeat.

My rudimentary understanding of evolution tells me that it would not make good sense – propagation of the species wise – if men were sexually intimidated by qualities that, in the wild, would ensure the survival of their offspring. (In addition to the above, I would definitely be able to maul death any predators who tried it on – using only my incisors and my bright red talons.)

But, if I accept what my intellect is telling me, the consequences are potentially dire. It would mean having to admit that I possess flaws, visible only to the male eye (and potentially to the female eye as well, if my suspicions are right and my friends really are lying) – which would mean undertaking the faff of discovering and addressing said flaws, so that I can get a boyfriend. Which, let’s admit it, is a thing neither you nor I really want. Think about it: I’d have to abandon this blog, immediately. And then what would you do on your lunch break? Or on the evening commute? Or first thing in the morning, when you wake up and just have to check these pages because I’m all you can think about?

Exactly.

And that’s why it’s been necessary to convince myself that my friends are correct. I do intimidate men. Of course I do – how could I not, have you seen me?

All the signs are there. The way they back off as soon as they realise that they might have to impress me, in real life, with wit and expensive cognac. The way they all – even the gay ones – make a beeline for the door as soon as I start on a monologue about how, yes, I attempt to read Simone de Beauvoir once a year, but that doesn’t mean I can’t engage with shallow popular culture (and don’t they think Pocahontas is definitely the best looking Disney princess? And isn’t it weird how, even though that’s the case, I’d still rather be Ariel?). The way they frequently approach me in bars and say, ‘you know, your mate is really good-looking’ – and how quite a few of them who I’d consider friends say things to me when we’re drunk (and, occasionally, when we’re sober) along the lines of, ‘I’d sleep with you Kate. but – fucking hell! – I don’t want to be your boyfriend.’

What other explanation could there be? I’ve looked in the mirror and deep inside my soul, and – it’s clear – all the men are gagging for me, but too are damn scared of rejection to act upon their instincts.

Ugh.

Who would even want to date a member of such a pathetic species?

Not me.

And that is why I’m single. Obviously.

*Image from photostock at freedigitalphotos.net.

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Part 112: Steaming Mugs of Hot Thick Tea

tea

This is how I like my tea: hot and steaming, in a great big mug. Milk. No sugar thanks babe, I’m sweet enough. I like it strong and so thick that the spoon stands up, like an erection*.

This is not an extended innuendo.

Producing the perfect cup of tea, every time, is one of my (numerous) talents. I have been complimented on my tea-making skills far more often than I’ve been complimented on anything else. Which might suggest my confidence in my looks, style, literary genius and sense of humour is misplaced – but then again, I have accrued enough wisdom to realise one should never take a compliment in bad faith, unless one wants to end up a paranoid, joyless old hag. And I don’t. So I’ll have that tea making accolade, thanks very much – and why yes, I do have lovely toes and delicious buttocks and, you’re correct, my eyes are, indeed, a most piercing shade of blue. Thanks for noticing.

I’ve been thinking about my tea-making abilities recently because I have been engaged in an effort to think positively about relationships. (It has been suggested to me that positivity is required unless I want to stay bitter, vindictive and sexless well into middle-age.) I have concentrated my efforts on remembering the important life-changing skills and experiences my romances have afforded me.

What I’ve come up with is tea.

Until I was nineteen, I had no idea about tea. My teenage boyfriend had taught me about UK garage music and oral sex, but when that relationship ended I was still happy to dip a tea bag into some milk and hot water and swallow it down with a grimace – not realising that tea was supposed to be a pleasure as well as a refreshment it was de rigueur to consume on one’s fifteen minute break, if one was English. And then, strutting my stuff as a Holiday Inn waitress, dressed in an exceptionally flattering uniform of black trousers and a neon orange polyester shirt with the name of the hotel restaurant embossed down one side, in flocked felt, I met a new bloke. He had a certain South East London charm, a ripped body and was just damaged enough to appear sensitive and vulnerable, and therefore appealing to a woman who was still young, and drawn to emotional danger, and who had not had her heart broken yet.

He didn’t know about much (for example, until he met me he’d never watched an episode of Coronation Street all the way through, or read a book by Nick Hornby, or been beaten at poker by a girl), but he knew about making tea. And, as is common with men who feel they’ve established expertise in a craft, he was utterly confident in his own aptitude and utterly certain he had something to teach everyone else. ‘Alright, I’ll have a cup’, he’d concede, if you’d offer him one, ‘but leave the tea bag in.’

‘Leave the tea bag in,’ was his way of letting you know that he didn’t trust you, so far as tea was concerned. So far as tea was concerned, he didn’t trust anyone. I even heard him say ‘leave the tea bag in’ to his own Nan one time, which left me feeling vindicated – although it did not stop the recurrent urge I had to punch him in the face whenever he said the words to me.

But I digress.

The point I’m trying to make is that relationships do teach you things (e.g. now, I always leave the tea bag in until the tea is properly ready). It is foolish to regret experiences that have left you better able to navigate the world and equipped you with such prowess in everyday tasks that strangers are moved to offer you unsolicited compliments, on a regular basis.

And yet…

I haven’t quite convinced myself. As I write about the life-changing skills and experiences that relationships have afforded me, a feeling of repulsion strikes my mind. I’m like a tortoise who tentatively creeps out from his shell after a period of hibernation, only to be knocked sideways by blasts of wind from an unexpected cold snap and retreat immediately back inside going, ‘fuck this, I’ll sleep through until next year’.

Relationships are crap aren’t they? People in them – after the second year when the initial flush of lust has worn off – are usually either boring or miserable or prone to philandering, or all three.

If single life might be metaphorically depicted as a bird, spread-winged, soaring precariously over a mountain top, then long-term hetero-normative commitment (I’m going for it with the animal imagery here) is an obese, neutered Tom Cat, paralysed and rotting to death on a cheap wing-backed velveteen arm-chair, while repeats of Jeremy Kyle play back-to-back on ITV2.

Looks like I better return to the drawing board if I’m going to achieve that positivity. If you’d like to help me along, tips, hints and stories of romantic bliss from your own fabulous lives are most welcome.

It’s nearly Christmas after all, and – contrarian that I am – I could do with a fling to see me through.

*Nothing like the tea in the image. Which is actually an image of coffee, by Idea go, because that’s all freedigitalphotos.net had.

Part 111: Texting

texting

Often, when you’re single, friends, family members and women you’ve just met down the pub will ask about your romantic preferences – either because they’re tedious busybodies or (not that these two things are mutually exclusive) because they’re hatching a misguided matchmaking plan; a plan they imagine will culminate in you having sexual intercourse with an unattractive acquaintance and thanking them for it.

Ha!

You’ll have to forgive these people. They have carved depressing conformist lives for themselves. Beige day-wear. Commuting in order to work 9-5 in an office or a school or a factory. Mortgages. All inclusive holidays. Monthly donations to Greenpeace. A baby conceived within a loving union during a sustained period of financial and emotional stability. A pasty overweight lover who will, sooner or later, leave them or die – at which point they’ll feel so bereft that they’ll join Plenty of Fish and find an identikit replacement.

They’ll want to know how you feel about height (taller than me), age (28-35), sex (male), race (whatevs man, I’m easy), eye colour (see previous), musculature (ripped), penis size (large, duh) and musical genre (whatevs man, I’m easy*). They’ll ask about dream first dates (not bothered, so long as there’s whisky), your promiscuity (not that easy), feelings on marriage (arrraaaghhhhh! Ffs! ARGH! etc.), babies (fat ones, please) and pets (I want a dog. Now). What they will fail to ask – because they are too vapid and drunk on cheap white wine and conservative popular culture to realise its importance – is where you stand on voices.

Voices are where it’s at, romance wise.

I just love me a voice. Particularly if its accent is regional. (So long as that region is not located in the West Midlands).

Yes, there’s that old proverb about the eyes being the window to the soul, and, while I agree that eyes are most pretty – even on psychopaths – I also know that, like all proverbs, the eye one is, frankly, bollocks.

The voice is the window to the soul.

Voice is the sound that breath makes when you give it personality. Which makes the voice the most pretty of all the bodily things – even though you can’t see it.

When, through the cracks in my memory, I recall boyfriends and one-night-stands and intense, all-consuming crushes of old, voices are what remain. Faces and races and eyes and musculature and penis size and musical tastes blur into an indistinguishable haze – which is why, when an ex-lover appears in my dreams, I won’t recognise him until he speaks.

Because of my ardour for vocal contact, modern methods of flirtation are mostly disappointing. Twenty-first century flirtation consists, primarily (at least for the under 30s – a group of which I am still, just about, representative), of text-based communications. Received on phones and apps and social networking forums and, occasionally, via email.

Endless disembodied words that, without sound and only rarely with alliteration or metaphor to animate them, sit dead on the screen like corpses.

How am I supposed to fall in love if I don’t know how his breath catches, lightly, at the back of his throat, right before he laughs? If those delicious lispy ‘s’s’ that happen when he pluralises stay silent – while the redundant apostrophes and exclamation marks he peppers throughout his informal correspondence sit on the page, stark and all too visible? How can I be sexually attracted to a person when it takes him more than three hours to reply to my witty, flattering text message with a witty, flattering comeback? When I can’t even hear him say my name?

Text – when typed and sent digitally for the purposes of intimate one-to-one communication (as opposed to the text one finds in books or on blogs or in handwritten in love-notes, which I am still down with) – is dull and impersonal. Yet, it can offer flashes of fulfillment and arousal. It’s like when crazy Americans have affairs in Second Life – in that, while it’s titillating and exciting and occasionally wont to cause swarms of metaphorical butterflies to beat their wings in your stomach, it’s not really real.

It is just the illusion of intimacy, a fantasy of potential that keeps you from finding the real thing.

You can tell precisely nothing from a textual exchange. It is very easy to lie and deceive and evade in this medium. To feign enthusiasm or indifference. To casually disregard promises that didn’t mean anything anyway because they were only written down.

I want to return to a world where he calls you to arrange the first date. Or one where you can call him without it appearing as though you’re a total nutcase. A world where you hear the nerves in that half-second before he says ‘hello’ and relax, because you know that he isn’t fucking about.

Texting is for vapid, moronic soulless clones who formulate the appearance of personality using old sitcom scripts and emoticons. Who fashion ambiguous displays of intimacy by tapping the ‘x’ button.

This is not what I want from a lover.

I want a phone call. I want a night out with a real human who’ll speak words to me, touch my bare leg under the table and occasionally pay for dinner. I want to feel his breath in my ear, whispering promises that he’ll have to keep.

But this is 2013. And that is too much to ask.

Which might be why I’m single.

But then again, who knows?

*Not heavy metal though. Or Techno.

*image by adamr at freedigitalphotos.net

Part 110: Neck Tattoos

tattoo

Several years ago – in Essex, at a family party in a Mexican restaurant where, after you’d eaten, you were serenaded with an off-key version of Isn’t she Lovely, sung by a Stevie Wonder impersonator in a Rasta wig – I noticed my cousin had, on her shoulder, a small black inking. It was new. It was, roughly, two inches square. It had the same basic shape-form as the characters you see on menus at Chinese takeaways.

‘Oh,’ I said to her (I’d had a few glasses of wine and I was having regular sex during this period of my life, so I cannot guarantee I said it without an undertone of smug condescension), ‘You’ve had a tattoo.’

She looked at her shoulder, and, sensing danger, back at me with the hard, psychopath stare she has perfected for occasions when confrontation is imminent.

‘Yeah.’

‘What does it say?’

‘Kung Fu.’

‘Why Kung Fu?’

She shrugged. And then said, in a tone of voice that indicated more questions would not be welcome, ‘Because I liked it.’

A few weeks later, my boyfriend of the moment came home, proudly peeling back his shirt sleeves to reveal upper arms scarred with a lurid, terrifying set of crudely drawn pictures. Pictures that looked as though they were from those temporary tattoo transfer kits you get free with kids comics. Soon after, he started behaving like a total wanker.

My experiences suggest that tattoos are an externalisation of damage that should, on the whole, remain bottled up until one can afford to exercise it with therapy.

I am not a fan.

I certainly do not wish to permanently ink an image onto my silken skin, with a needle. This is mainly because I am very satisfied with my naked body. There’s not a Chinese character nor a whimsical sketch of a busty mermaid that would improve it. And, although I know the same can’t be said for women everywhere – and although I firmly believe that one’s own body is one’s own business – I do have questions about the self-esteem and sanity of any person who voluntarily scars themselves with a picture, or a phrase translated into a script they can’t understand, or, worst of all, an ‘inspirational’ quotation they have read on the internet, pasted over a photograph of old people laughing at sunset.

But, last Thursday, during a trip to the cinema – where I watched Jake Gyllenhaal pretending to be a twitchy detective who solved horrifying crimes, very slowly – I realised an alarming thing, a thing that runs contrary to every life lesson I have learned thus far. Neck tattoos are well sexy.

I see a man with a neck tattoo and an instinctive flame alights in my libido. By which I mean: I want to lick them. I want to lick their delicious, veiny necks and then their torsos and I want to have them lick mine in a sensual, tender way that the word ‘lick’ does not fully encapsulate.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned about lust, however, it is this: I should never trust my instincts.

Entering into a sexual romance with somebody who has a tattoo on what should, by rights, remain an anonymous plinth for the face is unwise. Good things – by which I mean kindness, stability and fat likkle babies who won’t grow up to develop compulsive hoarding tendencies – are not likely to result from sex with a person who has a neck tattoo.

I know this and yet in my brain there is a screenshot of Jake Gyllenhaal’s Prisoners neck and, over the top of it, the instruction: LICK.

It is most perplexing. You would think logic would be able to take on this kind of primal response to ostentatious displays of unhinged masculinity and win. You would think evolution would have intervened and shut down the libidos of women whose tastes are so questionable.

No such luck.

I am going to have to step in and stop this shit on evolution’s behalf. My animal desires cannot be allowed to continue, unchallenged. Thus I will chain myself to the sofa and watch back to back episodes of Pointless until such a time as I can be trusted to enter the world of functioning sexual adults again. It is the only option.

*Image from eonline.com. If you own it and want me to remove it I will. I won’t give you money though. I haven’t got any.

Part 109: A Conflict Deep Within Me

yellow wood

When coupled friends and acquaintances tell me about the more spectacular, ‘milestone’, moments of their domestic drudgery (engagements, pregnancies, house purchases) I experience a perplexing onslaught of physical sensations: a heavy, tugging numbness located in the region of my abdomen Eastern mystics call the ‘centre’ (three inches below the belly button, three inches inside the body – like where you feel fear, and good sex), the muscles of my face pull taut, my skin starts to itch and my throat contracts, slowly, as though it were a vice crushing a rising scream.

The other night, after yet more ‘good news’ had filtered through my social networks and into my ear-hole, I became so distressed by these symptoms that I Skyped Tom – who is my go-to man in twisted emotional crises*.

‘I just don’t know,’ I sobbed at him, ‘whether I am insanely jealous or whether I find stories of other peoples’ relationship triumphs so boring that I want to tear my face off with my fingernails.’

‘Oh babes,’ he said, (that’s what he calls me. Don’t judge him, I like it), ‘I think you’ve got a conflict deep within you.’

And I was like: ‘FUCKING YES! I have got a conflict deep within me’.

A conflict I need to resolve sharpish if I want to experience contentment again in my lifetime (and, as I have a policy of total honesty here, I should probably tell you that I’m not sure I do).

On the one hand, I want a future that looks like this:

A masculine husband with a working-class accent and a well paid job, who plays football and, sometimes, golf with my Dad. A husband who was once a caddish rogue but who has changed his ways so he can make babies with me; babies with fat little hands and massive, trusting eyes. I’d like to stay at home – we’ll have a house with a garden in Sussex or South London – and write novels and cook wholesome meals. On Saturdays my husband and I will host barbeques and attend dinner parties with other coupled parents, and on Sundays we’ll go over to my Mum and Dad’s for a roast and a good bottle of red. At night I’ll watch my children sleeping. And every day I’ll feel the kind of smug satisfaction such a lifestyle is bound to induce.

On the other hand, the following is also appealing:

Total independence, broken up by occasional fleeting flings that leave me bereft, but in a fabulous, dramatic way. I want to write novels, but also blogs and important, serious academic books about society. I will be world-renowned in the literary and academic fields I work across. I will be considered ‘important’, by people other than my friends and family. I will travel to engage in charitable deeds. I will own properties – apartments, always, with outdoor space for entertaining and sun-lounging – in cities across the world, including one in LA so I can see Tom more often. I will spend as little time as possible with heterosexual couples, particularly ones with small children. My company will be in such demand that my name will feature at the top of guest lists across the world. At weekends I will drink champagne and wear skin-tight leopard print. I will laugh every day and every day shall be an adventure.

As we know, life is short. One cannot live out all the fantasies one conjures in one’s mind. One must choose a future and work methodically towards it, or else one will flounder in the shallow pool of the present, like a breathless fish.

But I am unable to choose.

I am like the character in that Robert Frost poem, standing in a yellow wood, at the fork of two twisted paths. Long I stood. Really: long. Making my way, tentatively, down one path and then turning back because: oh God what if it all goes wrong!

But, as Tom reminded me, life is going to happen anyway. I might as well just choose a fucking path and let it lead me where it will. And, as I’m already on it, I might as well take the one less travelled by.

Even if I do have to travel it without regular sexual intercourse. And even if it looks like it might not lead me to either of my dream futures.

Meh.

Life is not easy.

*Because he makes me feel better, not because he has experiential expertise in this area.