I wasn’t bothered about boy bands as a teenager. They weren’t really my vibe. I can’t recall exactly what my vibe was, if I’m honest. You’ll have to ask someone who smoked fewer drugs. If I was into anything it was fuelling my antagonism with weed and whisky, and avoiding questions about the state of my virginity. So I didn’t know about Abz Love, the rapper from 90s boy band 5ive, until recently, when I watched a documentary called Abz on the Farm, in which he moves to a smallholding with his girlfriend, Vicky. (Vicky, by the way, is utterly delightful. She has thick, black luxury hair, pouty lips and the deep, husky voice I once hoped smoking would help me develop. She is the kind of woman I wanted to be when I grew up, but who I am, sadly, nothing like. I’m I trying my hardest not to hate Vicky. It isn’t working.)
If I had known about Abz, back in the late 90s when he was a thing, I would definitely have been into boy bands. I’d have fancied him, no question of a doubt. Abz was everything I was looking for in a man at that point – and indeed, he has a lot of the qualities I’d be after now, if I were in the market for a lover, which I am, as ever, ambivalent about.
Abz is good-looking in a wiry, ‘street’, way – with boundless, youthful enthusiasm, despite being in his late 30s. He’s proper working class London and speaks in that Anglicised Jamaican Patois that was fashionable on the streets of Plumstead, circa 1998. He’s witty, but he wears that wit lightly (see, for example, the brilliant Abz on the Farm scene where he asks a magician who has just pulled an egg from thin air whether his tricks are ‘all egg based.’ No. Seriously. It’s funnier than it sounds). And he’s honest, kind, able to express his emotions in an unambiguous manner and, crucially, willing to laugh at himself.
When I look back, I can see the glimmer of Abz in the embers of quite a few of my romantic choices. My first boyfriend, for example, spoke in an Anglicised Patois. But you couldn’t totally buy into his ‘street’ persona because he lived in a book-lined town house and his dad occasionally woke us up by playing Chopin on the piano they kept in their dining room. And while my subsequent few dalliances were most certainly working class, they somewhat ruptured my affections through a combination of dishonesty, backing off whenever I showed too much interest and requesting that I wore clothes which hid my cleavage. I also had an extended fling with a rapper, but as he was unable to express his emotions in anything other than indifference that too went nowhere. He also used the words ‘I respect you’ far too often for them to have been true.
Thus, I remain single. And even if Abz were available, I doubt he’d be interested. Because, as my mate Joe and a cab driver who recently dropped me off at work pointed out, my main problem – romance wise – is that I have educated myself out of the dating market I once operated in. Even the most open-minded of men are after a moron – or, at the very least, someone they can feel superior to. ‘Of course you’re going to struggle’, Joe told me, ‘all the girls I know with PhDs are single. Or married to men with PhDs.’ Which is a problem, because men with PhDs tend not to iron their daywear and take life far to seriously for marriage with them to be an option. No self-respecting woman wants to spend her evenings with a middle class white man bleating on about Marx. It’s not sexy. And even if I do find one I can get on board with, I face a further hurdle, because, as my cab driver reminded me, educated men don’t want to date PhDs either, even if those PhDs are in Drama. ‘Silly mistake.’ Said the cab driver, about my doctorate. ‘Men don’t want an educated wife. Too much trouble.’
Abz – the first man who’s caught my eye in any notable sense since the advent of this blog (although there was another one who emerged from the shrubbery in Mile End park early yesterday morning, so maybe this is the start of something) – serves as a timely reminder, then, that the choices we make limit our choices. Not that that’s necessarily a bad thing. As I said I remain ambivalent about dating. Mostly, I’m starting to think we should just chuck all the straight men on a bonfire, and celebrate by dancing naked, sipping champagne and eating truffle dusted strawberries. Not Abz though, I’ll let him work the incinerator. And he can occasionally touch me, sexually, so long as Vicky doesn’t mind.