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.