I used to have this friend who would always, without fail, begin our conversations by asking whether I had ‘met a man yet’. She didn’t want to know about one-night stands, or unwise trysts with moronic ex-boyfriends or drunken text messages I might or might not have sent my sister’s old housemate. Those were things she thoroughly disapproved of. She would shake news of them from her consciousness with a judgemental wince and turn to more wholesome matters, such as the baby she hoped one day to have, and the other baby, that she wanted me to have concurrently.
She wasn’t really bothered about my brilliant progress at work, or my fabulous holiday on the lake, or the Peruvian restaurant I had recently discovered in deepest, darkest Shoreditch, which, by the way, makes the most perfect pisco sours. (Although, to be fair, she was always willing to compliment even the most unflattering haircut.)
My friend only wanted to know whether I had met ‘the one’, by which she meant the ideal romantic partner, whom I could love and marry and breed with, in the manner of an uncomplicated, heteronormative nightmare.
The answer was always, ‘no’. And the response was always stoical pity. She’d smile bracingly and tilt her head, as though I were bravely relaying news of a terminal cancer diagnosis. Which really fucking pissed me off seeing as how her life was hardly a thing to envy, what with the job she hated and the retinue of needy, vacuous friends, and the ongoing health problems.
Not that I’m bitter.
The thing my friend always failed to realise was that a relationship is just one panel in life’s complicated tapestry. And no matter how fortunate you are, there will always be at least one panel that looks as though it has been stitched by a vengeful, drunken madman.
If you have happened upon a hot, straightforward husband with a massive penis and a jawline to slice cured meats with, that is excellent news. No doubt you will place your love life at the centre of your existence – because come on, who the fuck wouldn’t. But some of us will have better breasts than you, or bigger houses, or mothers who love us, and we will place those at the centre, and they will look just as lovely. You can’t have it all, so you just have to enjoy the bits that are working out, and face the bits that aren’t with good humour and well-mixed cocktails.
And if you are lucky enough that your work and your family, your health and your love life, your friends and your finances and your holiday plans are all in order (in which case, what are you doing here babe?): be humble, and grateful too. Because the one thing I can guarantee is that there will always be something unexpected, lurking around the corner, waiting to fuck it all up. You might, for example, emigrate to China with your long-term boyfriend, and your mutual friends might congratulate you for ‘following your dream hun’. But when you get there he might spend the entire adventure sending secret, sexually charged, increasingly deranged missives to his ex-girlfriend — who he’s probably still in love with, although what it would take for him to admit it is anybody’s guess. Then again, maybe he’s just a cunt. Either way you’ll both die twisted and unfulfilled, if it carries on like this. For example.
The good news, of course, is that even though we can’t have it all — even though there will inevitably be a looming shit-storm waiting to capsize your entire ship, there is also bound to be a silver lining. An expertly crafted centimetre of the tapestry that was likely sewn by God, on one of his benevolent days. You might not have a faithful boyfriend, or a baby, or any money in the bank. But at the very least you’ll have a bottle of super-strength cider and cold, hard slab of pavement where you can lay your tired bones. Which is something. And any something is worth holding on to in a world that is more or less indifferent to your suffering.
As ever I’m advising that you, like me, look on the bright side. (Yesterday for instance, I was told by an inebriated homeless man that my jumper looked ‘wicked’. And this made my day, what with the homeless rarely bestowing sartorial compliments on passersby). And, as ever, I’m asking that the single among you consider asking me out, because I’ve just read back over this post and I definitely need to get laid.
*Image is from freedigitalphotos.net, it’s “Building And Car With Stitch Style On Fabric Background” by basketman. Or as I like to call it, ‘life’s tapestry’, you get me?