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.
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.