Part 178: Excitement

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My friend’s sister is getting married and we’re all just fucking sick about it. It’s not jealousy, for once — we really do think she is making a terrible, terrible mistake. I mean, she can’t be thinking straight. There must be some serious denial at play here. Certainly, there is evidence of recklessness — such as how she’s thrown caution to the wind by having his name tattooed on her body in several places, although they’ve not even been dating for a year. (In case you’re unclear, my stance on people getting the names of their lovers or children tattooed on their body is best summed up by a line my brother said to me last year, when I told him my new boyfriend had his son’s name tattooed on his hand: ‘Why, in case he forgets it?’ Although, I do know a woman who has her dead dog’s name tattooed on her forearm and I feel that tips over the precipice of mawkish into brilliant, so it’s a fine line.)

This guy, the friend’s sister’s fiancé, has all manner of warning signs flashing in neon colours all over his personality. He has spent his adult life in and out of prison, he is controlling and violent, he belongs to a polyamorous swingers circle*, he lives in the box room of his elderly mother’s terraced house (the bloke is in his fifties), he is not physically attractive, in either the conventional or unconventional sense. And while I am all for living differently, there is a point at which one must draw a line; a point at which someone’s disregard for social norms morphs into sociopathy. This guy, the fiancé, has reached that point.

‘What does she see in him?’ I asked my friend, when she told me about the impending marriage and her fears for how it would unfold. (Badly.)
‘I dunno,’ she shrugged. ‘She says he’s exciting.’

And I rolled my eyes, cracked a wry smile and thought: ‘Ah! That old chestnut.’

For which of us hasn’t been intoxicated by the ostensible excitement offered by a selfish cad, with regard only for his dick and his ego? Which of us hasn’t felt the sharp, twisted pang of maltreatment and mistaken it for longing? It is easy to confuse unkindness with excitement when your life is a grey series of snapshots: a montage in which you push a vacuum cleaner around the flat, buy discounted three-packs of sellotape from WH Smith and check the Facebook profiles of girls you went to school with, who always seem to be doing very well, thankyouverymuch, if Facebook profile pictures are reliable measures of wellbeing, which they very probably are not.

Excitement is the great big booby trap lying in wait for single women — and, let’s be honest, married women too. It snaps up around our ankles, ensnaring us in its grip. If we’re not careful we very soon end up ragged and strung out, chain-smoking by the river, stress lines criss-crossing deep grooves into our faces — and I’ll just remind you, if you’re still tempted, that the sex rarely holds up after the first month or so. So just beware of that darling, when you feel bad about yourself over Christmas.

It feels good to have finally relieved myself of the need for ‘excitement’, after many years being seduced by its pull.

Not that it’s all good news.

The big story I bring you this week, from the coal-face of dating, is that boring straightforward men can also be massively selfish, egotistical and disappointing. Just because they are a bit geeky and loserish and have fashioned a persona that foregrounds kindness, it does not mean they are truly kind, dynamic, selfless people in real life. In fact, the thing I have learned, lately, is that when people tell you they are kind they are usually only doing it so you won’t shout at them when they act like a prick. Kindness in this scenario acts as a kind of mudguard, in the same way indifference does with your common or garden variety arsehole.

‘So what do you like about him?’ My friend (the one the one whose sister is currently lost to the mists of excitement) asked me, when I described a recent lover, who I thought, perhaps, had the potential to father my children, if only he’d stop being so evasive and dull.
‘He’s gentle,’ I replied.
Now it was my friend’s turn to roll her eyes. ‘Gentle in bed, or gentle, like, picking up a hedgehog?’
‘Gentle with a hedgehog.’
‘Ah that’s nice babe,’ she said, ‘But he’s also boring and a liar. You don’t really want him. You’ll go off the idea.’

And she was right.

It turns out kindness is just as good a cover for sociopathy as excitement, in the kind of guy who didn’t lose his virginity until five or six years after most of his mates. Fuck. Now I remember why I went for the excitement, once upon a time.

Oh well, as Damien Marley once said: Life is a thing when you learn you learn you grow.

*I try not to judge, but can I just say: if you are so broken inside and frightened of intimacy that you cannot love another person without adding a third, forth or even a fifth party into the sexual mix, then you have no business being in relationships at all. Get some therapy. Join us when you’re whole again.

**Is it inappropriate to use a picture of a baby I found on google to illustrate a this blog? Have I mentioned that I want a baby very, very badly and it’s leading me to make some questionable choices? Can you save me from this hell? Can you? Babes, can you? Please?

Part 92: Bad Boys

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Of all the sordid, self-destructive things I do on a regular basis – even though I really should know better – the one that is worst for my soul and self-esteem is this: looking up the biographies of women I admire on the internet. Learning the age, education and romantic histories of successful females has never led me down a positive path, mental-health wise. This is because I have been socially conditioned to find other people’s achievements threatening and, as a result – or as an unfortunate coincidence – I am prone to jealousy and bitterness. Emotions I am working hard to eradicate using therapy, religion and books about gratitude. I’m not sure what’ll be left of my personality once all the spite has gone – I’ll probably be just another bland blonde with manicured tootsies benignly congratulating people on their engagements and leaving parties before I cause offence. But still, perhaps I’ll be happy and motivated and engaging in sex with good looking men. Instead of sitting alone in my parents’ house, wearing my mum’s old dressing-gown, watching back to back 30 Rock and wondering why Liz Lemon has both a better career and a more exciting romantic life than I do (answer: because she’s fictional).

This week I have mainly been conducting internet researches into the life and times of Tina Fey and feeling bad about myself in comparison. I want to be her right down to the weight problems and the scar on the face from a childhood trauma (wait! I actually have a scar on my face from a – albeit less dramatic – childhood trauma. I’m already halfway there!). The only thing about being Tina Fey that has caused me consternation – apart from the fact that I am unlikely to achieve a similar level of wealth and success in this lifetime – is her attitude towards men. She is into nice ones – you know, ones that avoid confrontation, tell you the whole truth about where they’ve spent the night, love you in an uncomplicated fashion and have a penchant for cardigans. I cannot get on board with this and I am fairly confident it will lead to my downfall.

As ever, Tina Fey is right (the bitch). There is everything to be said for fancying men who are kind and who will co-pilot your journey through this life without resorting to deliberate cruelty or selfish and wanton acts of lust that are likely to cause heartbreak. It’s just that I cannot fancy nice men, no matter how hard I try. Niceness is not sexy. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for supressed rage, nonchalance and emotional ambiguity.

It’s not my fault. I can’t help finding an air of violence and instability unspeakably sexy. Or liking that bad boys have exactly the right mix of arrogance and insecurity that results in them never making the fatal mistake of telling you what you mean to them. I’m trying to think of other redeeming features – they usually have smouldering good looks, for example – however, I’m finding it difficult. Attraction is more of a chemical thing. I’m drawn to other people’s darkness because, I suppose, I’m overflowing with my own and I need to put it somewhere where it is unlikely to be noticed.

This has not worked out well. As I hope the contents of this blog have made obvious.

Things need to change. I’ve known this for some time and I know it all the more now Tina Fey has reminded me.

Mind you, I forced myself to go on dates with a couple of nice men, before I gave up romantic aspirations to concentrate on writing this blog and my PhD (and, I might as well be honest, so I could stay indoors and watch sitcoms undisturbed), and that didn’t work out particularly well either.

Recently, I’ve been considering nunnery as a viable alternative to romance – because, frankly, I find the idea of devoting my life to a God I’m struggling to believe in one hundred percent more sexy than the thought of shagging a bloke in a cardigan who makes me tea in the morning and tells me I’m beautiful. A period of nunnery* would also liven up my own biography no end.

And I wouldn’t need to worry about bad boys, because, as I understand it, nuns don’t have sex. No matter how smouldering the damaged young men seeking their counsel.

My God.

I need to invest in a better therapist.

And, possibly, get out more.

*I’ve used nunnery as a verb here. I don’t know if one can do that, legitimately, and I’m not sure how much I care. I do care that you know that I know I’ve done it though – hence this footnote.

*Image from freedigtalphotos.net