A (James) Blunt Message To A Subset Of Womankind: You Might Be Beautiful, But She Isn’t, I’m Not, And Your Manners Certainly Aren’t

Earlier on PooterGeek, Linda passed on a nice thing someone had said about me. Since I was invited a few days back to take my camera along and shoot a singles night, this seems a good time to respond at excessive length. [Sorry, Linda, this isn’t that long post about how wonderful you are.]

Despite Leasey’s repeated requests that I use this space to catalogue my diverse failures with women, Sex In The City-style, PooterGeek is famously a girlfriend-free zone (however you want to interpret that)—except on two occasions when my “no girlfriends” rule conflicted with my “always give attribution” rule and I had to credit ex-es. I am now about to write about some women who definitely aren’t girlfriends and do so without giving their names—so that’s okay.

One of the most boring questions I get these days—a close second after “So what do you do with your time?”—is: “So why are you (still) single?” It’s always women who ask me, which is ironic since it’s women who have the answer: “Because women won’t go out with me.” I mean that literally. If you want to know where all the good men are then I can tell you: We’re outside the bar you arranged to meet us in last week, reading your txtmsg explaining why you aren’t there.

Recently I received a grown-up rejection from a woman whom friends tried to fix me up with. Usually a woman my friends think I would find a perfect match has to sit in a special chair that accommodates her hunchback, spends dinner telling me about her psychiatric problems, and recoils in horror every time I make eye-contact with her. On this occasion she was intelligent and fun and good looking, so naturally she wasn’t interested. And she just said so: “Yeah, I might meet up for a coffee with him if he’s in town, but I just don’t fancy him.” This is a good thing, believe me. I’ll explain why soon, but first a theory of mine about a certain class of woman.

Boys, you know when a straight girl describes another girl as “beautiful”? Then, one day, you finally meet Woman B, whom Woman A is supposedly in aesthetic awe of, and you look her up and down and think, “Huh?” My theory about that is as follows. If Woman A is blonde and stick-thin with flat hair, Woman B will be a redhead with hips and cascading curls. If Woman A is a redhead with hips and cascading curls, Woman B will be an athletic brunette with a pageboy cut. This kind of admirer expresses her admiration for the “beauty” of another woman when the woman in question has what she hasn’t.

Further confirmation of my suspicion that some members of the opposite sex don’t know the meaning of that word came a few weeks back when a very pale woman I’d never met before that evening leaned over a pub table and said to me,”You have a beautiful face.” She spoke from the comfortable position of being drunk and spoken-for (and in the company of her beau) and I replied from my permanent state of cynicism about humanity: “If I’m so cute, how come I can’t get a date?” This isn’t false modesty: there was a time in my twenties when I was very pretty—pretty enough, for example, that a moderately famous bisexual writer approached me in broad daylight in Covent Garden and invited me back to his hotel to play with his recently bought massage oils. I was flattered, but politely declined.

2005, however, will live on in my memory as The Year Of The Timewaster. On at least seven occasions in that twelve months I met an attractive woman, had an interesting conversation or three with her, got her number, arranged to meet up with her and then received a txt msg cancellation hours or even minutes before the arranged rendezvous. The last time this happened to me, the woman in question blew out our meeting with an excuse that Wardytron described as being equivalent to: “I’m sorry I can’t come out. I have to contemplate the number seven tonight.”

The simplest and most plausible explanation for this pattern is that none of these women were that interested in me in the first place and agreed to meet with me out of politeness—leaving the question of exactly how polite it is to bail out at the last moment by Short Messaging Service. Another, rather less plausible, explanation is that these women were operating some Rules-type hard-to-get strategy, designed to test whether or not I was really interested. That is, by being spectacularly rude and avoiding me, they are actually signalling their interest—just like Nigella Lawson tried to make me jealous by marrying that Saatchi bloke.

The Rules system supposedly guarantees any woman who follows it religiously will find a husband within a matter of months. Its recipe of calculated indifference and evasiveness is, in fact, the perfect way to bag a stalker and any woman who adopts it shouldn’t be surprised if she ends up marrying an axe-murderer. Girls, if any of you out there are daft enough to play this game can you see that it might undermine decades of campaigning to rewrite “‘No’ means ‘no'” as: “”No’ means ‘Yes, but only if you keep harassing me'”?

There’s a reason why the government is having to spend money on crass advertisements explaining what consent is: for a large chunk of the population an evening of acute alcohol poisoning is now a Good Night Out and their best hope of any kind of physical intimacy. If you want a compelling argument for Eastern systems of arranged marriage, just pop down your local high street on a weekend evening and watch corporal mergers and acquisitions activity taking place under the Anglo-Saxon model.

My proved lack of pulling power aside, the “cryptic signalling” theory can’t be ruled out entirely. Many British women have no idea about incentives. They claim that they want British men to be more romantic, but do they do anything to reward romantic behaviour? (This question is based on the still-common Cosmopolitan belief that sex is not about mutual pleasure, but a form of payment—for providing goods, status, accommodation or reassurance—or a means of manipulation.) Let’s imagine a British man has to choose between writing a love sonnet for a woman or getting her drunk and groping her at the office Christmas party. Which course do you think would be more likely to lead to his colleagues laughing at him for the duration of his contract with the firm and which one is more likely to get him laid?

The most extreme example of twisted relationship reasoning I ever encountered presented itself one afternoon when a woman quizzed me (as a representative of the male sex) about why her sleeping with Man B, the best friend of Man A, had failed to persuade Man A that she really wanted him instead. What kind of logic do they teach on Venus? If men operated like this we’d pop into an Audi dealership, buy a TT, and take it for a spin past the Porsche showroom in the hope that the guy selling that Boxster we’d rather be driving would get jealous, jump into the car, and chase us off the forecourt back home.

If I say I’m going to call a woman, I call her. If I don’t, I probably won’t. I don’t do one-night stands, but I know that some men like to collect notches on their bedposts; still more women like to collect frustrated admirers. Even unemployed, I’m just a little too busy for that now, so would the next interesting woman I meet either behave as graciously and honestly as my fellow dinner-party guest or practise the following form of words in advance of our falsely promising encounter: “Please leave me alone, Mr Strange Slaphead Geek. I am not interested in your over-polished story about the day your dreadlocks got caught in the lid of the ultracentrifuge and I would rather pluck my nose hairs with a blunt pair of tweezers than accompany you on a further evening of such tedium.”

I know I’m not a minger, but being good-looking is about as much use to a man in the thirtysomething dating game as being rich is to a woman. Once, as an experiment, I placed two ads on the Guardian‘s telephone singles service: identical apart from one alluding to my comfortable salary and the one-bedroom flat in London I was renting with it. Which one did those supposedly spiritual, widely-travelled, sensitive, well-read, intellectual, anti-capitalist Guardian-reader girls respond more enthusiastically to? I think you can guess. But surely turning up on a date—there’s a word that strikes terror into the heart of any Englishwoman—shouldn’t be about setting up a joint bank account with the future father of your children; it should be about a flirtatious evening out that doesn’t involve losing consciousness in the toilets at an 80s disco before staggering home with some random and having lousy unsafe sex.

So, girls, you’re mystified by (suspicious of?) my single status? Well, it’s not for the want of trying. I’m a big boy now and I’m not offended or puzzled when a woman simply turns me down. The thing that mystifies me is the txtmsg tango.


  1. Posted 28Mar06 at 10:52 | Permalink

    Actually, this sounded like my life till a couple of months ago!

    Laughed a lot.

    At what you said, not your misfortune obviously. I’m not a total git. :-)

    Will see if we can find you a date…Bloggers to the rescue!!!

  2. Posted 28Mar06 at 11:19 | Permalink

    Here you go Damian!



    Best of luck!

  3. Posted 28Mar06 at 11:24 | Permalink

    Holy shit, Kerron. Thanks and everything, but I’m not quite that desperate—yet.

  4. Posted 28Mar06 at 12:21 | Permalink

    You say that now…


  5. Posted 28Mar06 at 13:19 | Permalink

    Fantastic post, and I’m sure I’m not alone in hearing the ringing of bells. I admire your candour, sir. The classic formula, of course, is that to get a girlfriend, you have to have a girlfriend. It’s the Dating Catch 22.

    When I was single, I had a lot of the same trouble as you. As soon as I hooked up, it was easy. And it works the other way, too: it’s much easier to pull a woman who already has a boyfriend. It’s surprising how many people turn out to be looking for a better option. So, at a push, have a word with one of your closest female friends and ask her to pretend to be your girlfriend!

    Another problem I identified in my single years was that I wasn’t meeting the right women because I wasn’t going to the right places. I never quite cracked the “arty” type, but I did discover that you do meet a lot of nice women if you take a course — part- or full-time — in something that interests you at least a little bit.

  6. Posted 28Mar06 at 13:23 | Permalink

    Nope. Still baffled.

  7. Posted 28Mar06 at 15:11 | Permalink

    Linda’s bafflement is understandable (as are expressions of sympathy from fellow sufferers) but what’s needed is concerted action.

    In that context, I’m happy to endorse Kerron’s attempts to find a date for Damian – even if he’s “not quite that desperate—yet.” Experience suggests that by the time you’re desperate enough to take action, it’s already too late to do anything about it.

    Pre-emptive dating – the only solution.

  8. Posted 28Mar06 at 16:37 | Permalink

    “Pre-emptive dating – the only solution.”

    George, despite my neo-conservative leanings, I must disagree: in today’s delicately balanced, highly factionalized conflict zones, bilateral dating is the way forward—you know: dating where you show up and so does the other person.

  9. stubby
    Posted 28Mar06 at 17:26 | Permalink

    British chicks are crazy. Drunk, and crazy.

  10. Posted 28Mar06 at 19:01 | Permalink

    I’m not looking for a drunk and crazy lady for Damian but I will take requests if you like. I didn’t realise he was going to be all choosy about this. ;-)

    So far the only semi offer I have is from a guy. But I think he is looking for an endorsement that he is more worthy (desperate) a case than Damian. :-)

    So if you want to go on a crazy date with Damian (you know the sort where you both turn up and actually talk to each other) then let me know.*

    (*No, this does not mean I am acting as Damian’s pimp under the Government’s new Prostitution Guidelines – but thanks for your concern.)

  11. Fudge
    Posted 28Mar06 at 18:08 | Permalink

    You’re better off out of it, PG. Just think: everytime you receive a last minute cancellation, that’s another evening you’ve been spared of having to politely listen to some self-obsessed woman rant on about—well, herself.

    There’s no need for sympathy; people should be in awe of your hassle-free lifestyle.

    (And, on a different matter: yes, I’ve cracked. Well, I actually cracked on Monday. Alright, alright—I cracked on Sunday*. Geez, what’s with the third degree?!)

    * By “Sunday”, I mean Saturday.

  12. Posted 28Mar06 at 20:31 | Permalink

    Whew…I had completely blocked that “getting-stood-up-at-the-last-minute” thing from my memory. I always found it bizarre about English women. It happened to me three times in a two week period. Bad memories come flooding back…And I just wanted someone to come out for dinner so that I wouldn’t look sad sitting on my own in a decent restaurant.

    Yes, I am convinced that if it wasn’t for alcohol, the English would not procreate; it’s impossible to get into a woman’s pants, otherwise!

    (Speaking as a Yank happily married to an English Rose he had met at a party he had crashed.)

  13. Posted 28Mar06 at 23:01 | Permalink

    I, like Linda, am surprised that you don’t have hundreds of girls banging down your door. (Or perhaps the ones who bang down your door are not the ones you want. That is, sadly, almost always the way.) Put it this way: I think I only met two cute and charismatic boys last year, and you were one of them.

  14. Posted 28Mar06 at 23:35 | Permalink

    Thank you, Jackie.

    Between the appeals for help appearing on other blogs and the increasing impression that my original post was some kind fishing operation, this is all getting horribly out of control.

    Obviously I’m not at it like a rabbit, but I’m still a happy bunny, people.

  15. beth
    Posted 29Mar06 at 00:06 | Permalink

    Makes no sense to me either. What do women want?

  16. alex
    Posted 29Mar06 at 05:05 | Permalink

    I sympathise. But, if anything, it may be even worse over here in the US (and that’s with the supposed advantage of possessing a “cute” accent). I have no interest in “improving” a girl, why do I have to be a bloody “project” for her?

    On the other hand, am I correct in thinking that the majority of your irritating experiences were suffered in Cambridge? And Cambridge is, though lovely, a barking-mad-rather-too-close-to-Norfolk kind of place.

    Hell, I don’t know. All a damn mystery. I texting to say “sorry, my dog ate my dress” worse than not turning up at all? Moot, I’d say.

    I give up.

  17. Ilana
    Posted 29Mar06 at 07:47 | Permalink

    A cute male friend of mine just escaped from several years of bad date hell. He was about to give up, at age 42. Then he met somebody he really likes. It only takes one.

  18. Posted 29Mar06 at 10:37 | Permalink

    You’re speaking for England, Geek.
    One well-known woman once told me: “women don’t want men who are good-looking and intelligent – they want ones they feel comfortable with.” I guess she’s representative.
    And don’t think being rich helps. I tried that in my early 30s, with no success.

  19. Posted 29Mar06 at 17:04 | Permalink

    Absolutely true story, this – in July 2001 I finished a two-month relationship that I should have strangled more or less at birth (alarm bells have never jangled so loudly quite so early). That night, in a moment of almost certainly drink-induced insanity, I placed an ad on a free online dating site – I can’t for the life of me remember what I wrote, but it was almost certainly bitter and sarcastic.

    The next morning I woke up, thought better of it, and deleted the evidence – but when I checked my e-mail I found I’d already had a reply. So I thought “what the hell” and emailed back. We turned out to have exactly the same sense of humour. After a week of two or three emails a day we switched to the phone. A week after that we met face to face. By October I’d moved in with her, by early November we were engaged – and last year we celebrated both our third wedding anniversary and the birth of our second child. (I also got the perfect job only a few months after we met: there’s no obvious connection, but I suspect a vastly sunnier and more optimistic outlook on life in general probably didn’t hurt).

    But I can’t even begin to imagine the odds against us meeting – basically, they’d have been nonexistent if it hadn’t been for that moment of madness (and not just mine…).

  20. another pootergeek fan
    Posted 29Mar06 at 19:35 | Permalink

    I can tell you hand on heart, judging you purely by your blog and your ‘grown up’ picture , I would go out on a date with you in a flash if I didn’t already have a boyfriend. I don’t need a special chair for a hunch and I read the Guardian (well, most days)and I’m really quite okay to look at too.

    I gave up on men in South Africa and moved to London 7 years ago, determined to stay single. A year later I met my man from Colombia – another improbable union!

    Despite your really good article, it still remains a mystery to me why the girls aren’t banging your door down, but I’m sure as soon as you’re not looking, some really lucky girl is going to become a big part of your life.

  21. Sarah W
    Posted 29Mar06 at 22:46 | Permalink

    Could you be struggling with women because they think you’re gay? Obviously I don’t know what you sound like (or move like) but from your picture you look very neat and clean. Very presentable. You know, nice. A bit, er, gay. It might be why the moderately famous bisexual author made a play for you. Just a thought…

  22. beth
    Posted 30Mar06 at 02:10 | Permalink

    I met my husband online as well–just don’t ask which site!!

  23. SpiderMonkey
    Posted 30Mar06 at 12:37 | Permalink

    I can’t even remember how I ended up with this page open, but I must remark that, in spite of your lack of success at dating, your writing is very entertaining. Welcome to my bookmarks folder.

    Did you catch this article in the Guardian recently? http://books.guardian.co.uk/extracts/story/0,,1733547,00.html
    Seems there are others who sympathise with a man’s lot in the dating game and some of them are female!

  24. Queen Catherine of Russia
    Posted 30Mar06 at 14:40 | Permalink

    Actually one of the things that I can’t understand is the number of relationships that begin via emails or the internet and gradually creep up to becoming fully fledged real relationships (usually simultaneously ending another pre-existing real relationship in a “vive la roi” style).

    There must be something very compelling about strangers. I know at least 4 people whose marriages or other long term relationships have collapsed catastrophically in favour of an attraction to somebody they’ve never actually met but who somehow understands them much better than their former real partner.

    Maybe ideal partners are more to do with how well we get on projecting something of ourselves onto a candidate than anything else. Perhaps we’re all very adept at filling the gaps in the character of a stranger with rose tinted fluff. Another variant of the thinking that the other man’s grass is greener maybe.

    Seriously though, it is a very strange, very modern phenomenon that strikes me as being unnaturally common.

  25. Posted 31Mar06 at 07:54 | Permalink

    Seriously though, it is a very strange, very modern phenomenon that strikes me as being unnaturally common.

    I think it’s all perfectly normal. When people fall in love over the internet, they get to know each other first, like the person’s character (assuming both parties are being honest, of course), see a photo or two, and then fall in love.

    In the offline world, usually people fall into bed first then spend the next 10 years trying to get to know each other.

  26. Posted 31Mar06 at 10:52 | Permalink

    Still no enquiries btw. :-/

  27. Posted 31Mar06 at 16:17 | Permalink


    A friend of mine killed a bit of time on some dating chat boards one evening to take the piss out of the sad losers. His piss-taking back-fired horribly when a woman who was on there doing exactly the same thing as him suddenly married him.

  28. Posted 31Mar06 at 22:12 | Permalink

    And Cambridge is, though lovely, a barking-mad-rather-too-close-to-Norfolk kind of place.

    Hey, Alex, leave Norfolk alone. Dating capital of Europe. Farmers by the dozen.

  29. Posted 02Apr06 at 23:34 | Permalink

    A friend of mine once told me that consumption of anti-depressants was higher per capita in Norwich than it was in New York. I doubt it is true, but as a Suffolk lad I’m gonna keep on telling it anyway…

  30. Tommo
    Posted 27Nov10 at 12:19 | Permalink

    I have to laugh at this because I ve experienced very similar myself. I m not an alpha-male (I suspect you aren’t either) but I am honest, courteous, funny, hardworking and reasonably successful (just not very good-looking haha). It was always very frustrating for me (in my twenties) that I had laidabout, unemployed, still-live-with-their-parents, friends who had women falling at their feet, while I couldn’t get a date to save my life.
    That being said keep the faith brother, I ve still no idea what my current squeeze sees in me (she’s gorgeous) but sure what the hell I ll take what I can get.
    Part of it might have been that I decided to grow my hair (slaphead for 10+ years), seriously the shaved head thing is just too polarizing.

2 Trackbacks

  1. By Tim Worstall on 28Mar06 at 11:28

    Internet Dating…

    The Pootergeek takes to his blog to discuss and complain about dating, Englishwomen the of. An extremely wise idea really, certainly worked for this bloke. Although he did damage his back on a trip to Paris. On the train, so…

  2. […] My txtmsg tango essay sent my sitemeter mental. At least five different blogs linked here. But, as usual with a PooterGeek “event” post, lots of people completely missed the point. It wasn’t heartfelt. Very little on this site ever is. If you want to peer into my tortured soul, people, you’re looking through the wrong window. It was cynical, ironic, chippy, mocking, self-mocking; everything here is. I wasn’t looking for a date; I don’t need one; I’d very much like one (or several). I wasn’t complaining that nobody loves me; plenty of people do—God bless ‘em. […]

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