Part 157: Power

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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?

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Part 156: Standards

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I was mooching around my new hometown the other day, scraping my heels along the pavement and making suggestive eye contact with hot passers-by, when I overheard two (very) posh young women, draped in Egyptian cotton and gladiator sandals (I’m presuming they were on their way to a toga party, having not yet learned that fancy dress is undignified – but we can forgive them, they were under 25) discussing the dating game – as all young women are wont to do from time to time, regardless of wealth or social class.

‘My number one rule,’ said the first girl, flicking her heavy, honey-coloured hair over her shoulder and running her tongue suggestively over her perfect, even teeth, ‘is never date a man with change in his pockets.’

‘Of course, darling,’ laughed her mate, who had the same honey-blonde hair and straight, ice-white smile. ‘That’s cardinal.’

And off they traipsed, presumably to fuck men who only pay with £50 notes or a Coutts Silk card.

I’ve been thinking about these young women quite a bit this past week. As I age (imperceptibly to the human eye, but with an alarming inner-acceleration that means I feel somewhere in my late 40s, despite having barely cleared a third decade), I often come over all maternal and worldly whenever I hear younger women discussing their love lives. If there is anything to be said for a decade of being single, it is that it gives one significant experience from which to offer romantic advice. And from my perspective as a more mature lady – who has definitely, if not exclusively, dated men with change in their pockets – I want to say this to any young women who might be reading: darlings, don’t dismiss a man out of hand because of trivial, surface concerns, such as whether he has a job, or career prospects, or any money to speak of (if you have reached the age of 26 and are still looking for someone else to complete you in a financial and social status sense, you are going to end up very miserable, somewhere along the line). Yes, he might carry change in his pockets, but he might also have a massive dick. Or incredible cheek-bones. Or he might enjoy watching 30 Rock on a Saturday morning, and then having sex with you, very slowly, before going home. There are things in life other than money. And if I have learned one thing I have learned that he’ll always have something to compensate for his perceived flaws. Because humans are complex and surprising and capable of wonders that might not be immediately obvious, especially if you begin by dowsing them with your social prejudices.

Weighing oneself down with invisible ‘standards’ by which to evaluate potential love interests is very unwise. Romantic partners are not a corporate hotel chain. Rigid conformity to arbitrary social and cultural mores is not an indication of anything at all, expect, possibly, blandness. Yes, you’ll want him hygienic, and yes you must, of course exit, at all costs, at the first sign of any violent or abusive behaviour – however hard that might be. But your only other criteria should be whether he turns you on and how promptly he answers text messages (there is a very delicate balance between too soon and too late. Artistry in this regard must not be underrated.)

This is why, to my mind, internet dating is a flawed concept. The notion that a man might, with the tick of a box, dismiss me because I’m shorter than 5’5, wear my hair in a pixie crop and list ‘theatre’ under ‘hobbies and interests’, is enough to make me suspicious of the whole game. As if the corporatisation of our base desires wasn’t off-putting enough, all by itself.

Chemistry is the thing – and timing. And if turns out terribly, at least, with change in his pockets, he’ll have bus fare home.

*Image called something like ‘British Coins’ from freedigitalphotos.net, as usual. (Am I the only one who credits my photo sources? Should I be doing this? Might I get sued if I stop? This is a concern now that I have a little money to speak of – although my income from the blog remains, happily, zero.)