Everything is about power. Unless it’s about sex. In which case it’s still about power, mostly – although it is also frequently about unresolved issues with an emotionally or physically absent parent. Which I suppose is equally about power. Which just goes to prove the accuracy of my opening sentence. Perhaps I should have stopped there.
Some years ago, as I was lolling about on a leatherette bean-bag, drinking an ice-cold coke to stave off a hangover and bathing in the vibrations of conversations my friends were having around me, this guy who I occasionally got off with at house parties – and with whom I definitely desired more – and who was, for some reason, still in my house despite the fact the party had finished twelve hours before, said that he only wanted to date stupid girls.
I don’t know if he thought I was asleep, or comatose. He might well have intended for me to hear him. I can’t remember the conversational context from which this revelation emerged. But I do remember the precise sentence that tumbled out of his fat mouth, that cold Sunday afternoon. ‘I couldn’t be with someone cleverer than me.’ He said, as I had two simultaneous thoughts (‘you’ll have your work cut out for you babe’/ ‘so that’s why you’ve been ignoring my text messages’). And to be fair to him, he was true to his word. A year or so later my one-time love interest impregnated a lobotomised brunette, and the last time I saw them, they were dancing happily together at a wedding. Pleasingly, his hair had turned almost entirely grey. And not in a good way. He spotted me sipping gin, morose and alone, on a bar stool at the other side of the dance floor (if you are currently planning a wedding, I beg of you, do not invite your single friend without a plus one. She will not like you afterwards. Especially not if that wedding will mostly be attended by people she has slept with and their WAGs) and he smiled sweetly and stuck his middle finger up at me, in an obscene hand gesture that Americans call ‘flipping the bird’. I’m not sure why.
Even though this guy was obviously a non-starter for whom I harbour no residual affection, I keep returning to his words lately, as I try to work out why my love life is such an unremitting disaster.
I too tend to choose lovers who I feel intellectually superior to. I’m not saying this has worked out well. It hasn’t. And neither has it been a conscious choice, in that attraction is never a really a choice, if you mean it. But we are fucked up. Thus, somewhere in our subconscious, we know (and by ‘we’ I mean ‘me and my one-time lover’ – you, hopefully, are far more emotionally evolved than this. If not, I suggest therapy) that it is better to have the upper hand in a relationship – and if you haven’t got the upper hand through looks, or charisma, you might as well get it through intellect. And if you are stumped by all three of those avenues, you’ll find you can get it by being an unreliable fuckwit, because we all need to hold on to the controls, one way or another.
I like to be in control.
This is why you will likely never see me staring out from an Instagram picture, left hand thrust forward, face aglow with light refracting off a recently applied iridescent bronzer, diamond of questionable clarity on third finger, ‘the boy done good’ captioned below. Accepting a marriage proposal is, ultimately, a submissive act; to submit to marriage is to relinquish control to someone else’s wishes. It is to share the burden of life. And, although, at times, that sounds rather comforting, I do not understand how people do it without completely losing their minds.
To enter into a romantic relationship of any kind is the emotional equivalent of agreeing to ride in a car that will, at any moment, skid off-road and careen into a deep, void-like abyss. It is very unlikely you will survive intact – but nonetheless, it is thrilling. The uncertainty. The adrenaline rush. The beating of your just-healed heart. How does one do it and maintain a semblance of sanity? How does one do it and have a secure, satisfying life? How does one – and excuse me for extending this terrible metaphor, but it’s been a long day and I’m fragile and vulnerable and nobody’s paying for this shit – ensure that the driver is calm and experienced enough to steer you to safety, after the thrill of the ride?
I’m fucked if I know, babe. Red wine helps. As do cigarettes. Unfortunately.
(I’d like to add the following disclaimer to the above: I am on the first day of a very heavy period).
*The image above, from freedigitalphotos.net is called “Black Link Chain Shows Strength Security” by Stuart Miles. I don’t know what is either, but it captures something of how I feel right now – which is the point of an illustration, surely?