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Archive for the ‘FAILs’ Category

I think I’ve stopped looking. I know, I didn’t expect it either. You’d think I might be happy about this, finally achieving my goal and being able to start testing the ‘It’ll happen when you’re not looking’ theory properly. But I’m not happy. In fact I think it’s nothing but a bad thing. A really bad thing.

Along with not looking for a man has come a significant feeling of not caring if I find one. This was supposed to be a good thing, a triumph even, but not caring feels like I’ve given up. In all honesty, I think I have given up.

It’s not a fun-and-shiny sort of given up – tra-la-la look at me, I’ve got a fabulous life and I’m not remotely bothered whether there’s a man in it. It’s more a won’t-find-a-man-because-men-don’t-exist sort of given up. I set out to stop looking around for men, to block them out of my mind, to cease expecting to meet someone interesting and I’ve achieved all of those things. At a price. The price of the gradual disappearance of hope.

It helps if you know my surname is Lemon

I'm not trying to juice myself, it's just a cry for help


I know that sounds a bit dramatic. Please don’t have images of me sitting fully clothed under a running shower, knees clutched to my chest, rocking back and forth. I don’t feel that way about it at all. I still have a lot going on, many things I’m happy about, great friends, fun plans, have the odd bugbear but don’t we all.

The hope that’s disappeared is not the kind of hope attached to my entire future; it’s specifically the kind of hope attached to boys and the meeting thereof. It’s the kind of hope that adds a little edge, a bit of buzz, a certain frisson to a night down the pub or an invite to a party or a sunbathe in the park or a meandering queue at the checkout. The sort of hope that whispers inside your mind, “There’s always a chance.” For me now, that voice has become an almost imperceptible but echoing “meh”.

All of the blocking, stopping, ceasing I’ve done over the past two months has gradually eliminated men from my consciousness like a very selective love-lobotomy. I still physically look at hot men but only in the same way as I’d look at them in photos or in a film or on TV. I just don’t mentally look at them, I’m not considering them if you like.

My looking at them isn’t interactive or participatory, it’s detached and observational – they’re on telly and I’m on my sofa, following the story but aware I can switch them off whenever I want. Little combinations of electricity and binary. Two-dimensional visuals with no real substance. Flat.

I feel a bit like I’m in a vacuum. A nice, safe little vacuum. That’s why this situation, this achievement of not looking, is so bad. It’s just so nothingy, so devoid of feeling, and if life is about anything, it’s about feeling. Happy, sad, giggly, tired, interested, shocked, amazed, confused, intrigued, afraid, titillated, lusty, excited, rampant, did I say titillated? I don’t want rollercoasters but I don’t want feet flat on the ground either.

Metaphors aside, hubba hubba

I don't care what you're selling in your little wet t-shirt, Franco, I'm not interested.


The feeling of boy-hope is missing; that edge, that buzz, that frisson is missed. Of course, the flipside of boy-hope is boy-disappointment, but feeling disappointment is still feeling something, and I’d take that over feeling meh at men being no more than fellow organisms to be dodged on pavements and ignored in bars.

I’m not really sure what to do with this little turn-up for my books. Is it just part of the experiment? A stage to be got through and soon I won’t notice it any more? Or is it the top end of a slippery slope? Is my disappearing boy-hope like a contagious disease that will take hold in other parts of my life?

Perhaps it’s normal and it’s just all the people who said “It’ll happen when you’re not looking” decided not to tell me this is how you feel when you really, actually, genuinely aren’t looking. No wonder you see so many pretty girls plumping for ugly boyfriends. Almost anything would better than feeling this kind of nothing – even feeling an ugger.

(*You win a point if you identify the song. You lose a point if you think I actually like the artist.)

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Axis of evil

If I had a religious bone in my hot little body I’d be hallelujahpraisethelording right now – London has had a weekend of sunshine. On both Saturday and Sunday, the sun came out for unbroken periods of anywhere up to 20 minutes and temperatures soared into double figures (mostly 15).

Thousands of Londonders whipped off to their flimsies and strutted about the city’s parks and commons, swilling mostly-warm Magners and decadently gobbing on strawberries (grown in Israel). Yes, Summer has arrived and it’s called Spring.

But I’m not here to talk about the weather – I’m here to bloody moan about it. And not just moan about its chill breeze pissing on the chips of my sundress-and-flipflops ensemble, no no no. I’m here to moan about it for a far bigger, far more obvious, far more important reason. I’m here to moan about what the weather is doing to men.

Yes, that’s right, men! Men who see fit to strip down to their floppy cotton shorts and their tight-fitting t-shirts; who don their sexy-face sunnies and their cute little caps; who cavort and rambunction with frisbees and balls, rippling their shoulders and flexing their biceps; who apologise with winks for wayward throws and have naughty little playfights during which they swear a bit and pretend to kick the living shih-tzus out of each other. It’s precisely this that the weather is doing to men and I’ve got a big goddamn problem with it.

Misery has become MEN emerging into the SUN wearing far fewer CLOTHES and putting on a SHOW of what can only be described as REALLY FRICKIN’ HOT FEMALE-ORIENTATED PORN! (Or what would be porn if porn-for-women really existed, and I mean really existed.) My not-looking life has just become a thousand times HARDER. A thousand times TANNED-ER, TONED-ER and HARDER. Am I shouting? GOOD! Does the Earth not know what it’s doing to me with all this tilting on its axis?!

Spin spin sugar

So that explains that then


I had, as a matter of fact, been doing really jolly well in the not-looking FAIL stakes. Numbers had been hovering between zero and two for a good fortnight. Very well done me! Only now they’ve bobbed back up again. Right back up. We’re probably talking a good half dozen a day since the middle of last week. And all because the sun has got his hat on and the men are coming out to play.

And it’s not just that the rising temps and beating rays encourage men to show more of themselves – as my friend Anna remarked just this sunny Saturday, there actually seem to be more of them out there. It’s like they’ve been hibernating all winter, curled up amongst straw in sturdy cardboard boxes like a creep (you couldn’t make it up) of George-the-Blue-Peter-tortoises, and now Yvette Fielding, Caron Keating and that ginger bloke with the daft glasses have come to reintroduce them into the big, bright world of women.

Wot no George?

George was unavailable for this pic as he was too busy getting his rocks off


I don’t mean to be mean but, well, actually, I do. I would be perfectly accepting of this seasonal exhibition of manflesh if I wasn’t the only human on earth prevented from buying a ringside seat. It’s just not fair in a stampy-foot, thumpy-fist, pouty-face, dishevelly-hair kind of way. Just. Not. Fair.

I want to lech and eye-up and observe and spectate and spy at from behind my dark glasses. Absolutely none of that is within my rules. Am I to stare blankly into space for the next 4 months? Am I to ignore the displays of gradually declothing manmeat as the weeks roll April into August? Am I to ignore my very basest female urges? Am I to miss out on all the freaking fun? Er, yes, apparently I am. It may be tortoise rutting season but I’m still in my box.

The only way I’ll get out of this cardboard prison, especially now that Keating’s no longer with us, is if some boy tortoise tempts me out with his limp lettuce. And given my entire life experience with men’s chat-up skillz, that is really, really, cataclysmically unfuckinglikely.

So, I’ve sort of thought of a little kind of plan. A bit of a mountain-to-Mohammad diversion, if you will. I can’t eye men up, I can’t giggle in their general direction, I can’t ask to borrow their bottle opener, I can’t flirt across their crowded frisbee circle. But I can catch their tactics and throw them back at them.

They wear shorter trousers, I wear shorter skirts. They wear tighter t-shirts, I wear tighter tops. They show more chest, I show more chest. They whip their tops off during a game of footie, I… don’t really like football, sorry.

But yes, you see where I’m heading here. As Henry Louis Mencken once said, “Temptation is an irresistible force at work on a moveable body.” And men have very moveable bodies, especially when there’s a football or a frisbee or a big pair of hooters to chase.

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So here it is. I know you’ve all been avidly waiting for this bad boy, what with my last Excel effort being of such incredibly high quality. The kind of quality that would make an audit partner weep, as used to happen when I myself was an equally top-quality auditor…

A fortnight of FAILs

Look at the peaks on that


You might have been thinking: “It’s a little blurry, Alex.” I can assure you it’s not blurry, you just need new glasses. You don’t wear glasses? Well, there’s your problem then, isn’t it.

And, yes, well, some of you may have thought there’s a little “air” between the caption and the graph itself. This is not a quality issue either, no no no. This is what one calls “giving it space”. I’m sure my graphic designer friends could attest to the importance of this characteristic in any layout. Yes, that’s right, my design skills are as impeccable as my audit skills. I am truly multi-facetedly talential. I’m also words with good.

ALL RIGHT! I know, it’s terrible. I’ll only do them monthly from now and save you the eye-ache. Just think of this as endearing, would you, and let’s move on.

Oh and I just spotted an erroneous 15th day. Fuck it. Here’s how the graph should have looked in full, glorious MSPaint technicolour.

Excel muppetry

They gave me letters after my name for this sort of shit

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I may only have been at this not-looking game for a couple of weeks but already I consider myself somewhat of an expert. In the past, I felt I was proficient, even skilled, in the art of visual (and let’s not deny, physical) seduction, but I think my new-found talents surpass even that. In such a short time, remarkable.

But, as with my proficient – nay skilled – visual – nay physical – seduction techniques, I can’t possibly keep them to myself. So herein lies the definitive, expert, tried-and-tested, empirically-backed guide to How Not To Look.

Level 1 not-looking – Stare into the sky or at the ground
Caution should be exercised in known areas of high population density, eg. London, or areas of high poop density, eg. anywhere within a one-mile radius of chavs who own any form (legal or illegal) of pitbull/bull terrier/Staffy, eg. London. The odds are not in my favour here. Those employing entry-level tactics should also be aware of the double-whammy sky-staring-bird-poop problem. It’s a blessing I no longer work near Trafalgar Square, let me tell you.

Level 2 not-looking – Blur the eyes
I have to say, the world is a far more beautiful place when you take the edges off everything and everyone. It’s much like having several pints inside you but without the overwhelming need to wee fourteen times an hour and then eat cheesy chips. However, the practice has given rise to the unique question: “Is that a man or a lamppost?” The bruise on my right bozonka knows the answer.

Level 3 not-looking – Ignore everyone
This one works a treat if you find your eyes easily caught. Very effective. Everyone either thinks you’re aloof, rude, Mr Magoo myopic or hates you, but you’ve got to consider that a price worth paying for zero FAILs, right? I can’t tell you the number of friends and acquaintances I’ve walked straight past in the last couple of weeks. I’m not being figurative, I can’t. But the way I see it, true friends would understand. They’d be reading my bloody blog for a start.

Level 4 not-looking – Not heads but shoulders, knees and toes
I’ve found my gaze is most often drawn into looking when I spot a potential hunk of hot in my peripheral vision. It’s almost a reflex reaction to zap my eyeballs up to their face. I’ve developed the technique of locking onto another part of their anatomy instead. Unfortunately, under this experiment, crotches, asses and chests are ruled out. Too obviously associated with the look of attraction. Knees, though, they’re safe. As are feet. Arms, too. Anywhere that isn’t naturally associated with eyeing up. Not shoulders, really. Too close to the face. And too hot. I just included that in the title because the song wouldn’t have worked without it.

Level 5 not-looking – Fix your gaze on ugly and/or old feckers
There are some right fuggers and grandpas about town who thought they were in there with a hot little piece of ass this week. (That’s me, by the way.) And why not? They’re helping me avoid fails left, right and centre. I’m helping them stave off a severe attack of the lonelies/the nursing home. It’s a mutually beneficial, symbiotic relationship. Some might call it parasitic. I might call them wrong. And married to a fugger whose head’s too easily turned.

Level 6 not-looking – Lezz it up
A recent revelation and a most welcome one. Instead of looking at manhot, why don’t I look at girlhot? I don’t know why I didn’t see it before, quite frankly. It’s so obvious. There’s some real lady talent out there, and not just in the mirror. In general, women make more effort with their appearances, wear tighter clothes and, let’s face it, are better looking. Why shouldn’t I take full advantage? Plus there’s the almost universal rule that guys are never as hot as their girlfriends, so why waste my looking time on the second-class citizen of a relationship?

When all else not-looking fails – Stay in
A zero FAILs tally on Saturday attests to the validity of this method. I didn’t leave my flat, I read several chapters of my book, I made some scones, I wrote a long and heartfelt post for this most amazing of blogs, I listened to as many CDs as I could find in their cases (four), I got a little bit drunk on a nice Chablis, I didn’t look at a single man. Or an attached one. It works! The only problem in using this technique is that, well, I really don’t think anyone else can be as good company as I am. You may well get bored with yourself. And if you’re a guy and you’re trying this, we know where that’ll end… At least blindness will mean you won’t have a problem not looking any more.

So there you have it. I can’t see where anyone could go wrong with clear, informative, helpful and wise tips such as these. Or rather, I couldn’t see where anyone could go wrong if it wasn’t for the gargantuan catalogue of FAILs I’ve racked up in the past few weeks. God, if I only fancied old gimmers, I wouldn’t have a problem at all.

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Vital statistics: p/e 07.03.10

For all those both of you that asked, here’s a geeky Excel-generated graph plotting my first week’s FAILs. Don’t tell me I’m not good to you.

FAILs graph

Is that a green graph or a ski slope at the Vancouver Olympics?


I’ve not used that function since I waved a two-fingered goodbye to the audit nearly 18 months ago. I just hope you understand how dirty I feel now. And not a good kind of dirty, like the kind of dirty I feel eyeing up fit men. Now that I miss. I’ll never miss inventing 314 different ticks in 3 colours of biro or nodding “Yes, that’s fine” at the client’s 14th version of the same fucking balance sheet.

But anyway, time I got on with that post about bending refining my rules. Enjoy, stats fans!

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Not a sausage

After a short absence – the reason for which is about to become abundantly clear – here is the Situation Report.

Day 3: FAILs 8. A good improvement.
Day 4: FAILs 7. Not bad, considering I was down the pub.
Day 5: FAILs 5. Good, considering I was down the pub.
Day 6: FAILs 3. Very good, considering I was down the pub.
Day 7: FAILs 8. I was down the pub. Hungover. I gave up trying. Sorry about that.

All FAILs were breaches of Rules 1 or 4. Just for a change.

I’m getting much, much better at behaving myself. Well, if you ignore Day 7’s performance and the fact that I’ve been George Besting my liver for most of the week. (And seemingly obliterating the brain cells responsible for my writing abilities, so apologies now.) There’s a downward trend in the fails market and wins are on the up, as they’d say on Wall Street in between pocketing government bail-outs and receiving their redundancy notices.

Take Friday night’s pub visit. (That’s Day 5 if you can’t be arsed to do the math; right now I couldn’t.) I’ve lived in London more than four years and in all that time I’ve never borne witness to such a high-grade sausage fest. A wall-to-wall boycarpet so unusual in its richness and beauty it attracted comment from all of my female friends. And yet only two of Day 5’s five fails actually happened at Pub Saucisson. A remarkable feat for a carnivore like me, given the amount of butcher’s-hookable meat hovering at the edges of my field of vision.

Meat feast

Ooh la la!


Even as I left the pub, I spied with my little peripheral eye the shape of a tall, lean hunk of charcuterie just outside the door – and I didn’t so much as dance my eyeballs towards his face. I even completely blanked my male workmate who was waiting on the pavement next to him. WIN! That’s right, ignoring my friends now makes me a great success.

Other notable wins include: skipping a party I didn’t want to go to even though it was hosted by my two male neighbours, thus implying a high likelihood of sausages on sticks (Rule 6); and returning the conversation of two very good-looking men – one known to me, one stranger on a train – without a single flirt-giggle, lash-flutter or surreptitious cleavage-squeeze (Rule 2). That, my friends, is progress.

But, as I mentioned in my last post, the black and white world of my not-looking rules has been increasingly encroached upon by the grey areas associated with real-life application. Some pretty important questions concerning the rigidity and/or stretchiness of certain rules have popped up and they demand answers. I’m just going to have to wait until I’m not hungover before I can give them to you. I promise it’ll be bumper (ish). That ok? Thanks.

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Day One down and I can exclusively reveal that I didn’t fail in my task. Until 10.45. That’s AM. It’s even less impressive when you consider I didn’t leave my flat until 10.35. And the only two people I crossed paths with in that 10-minute interlude were well above pensionable age.

Situation Report Day One: FAIL.
In fact, Situation Report Day One: multiple FAILs.

First there was Mr 10.45am. He walked through the door of the doctor’s surgery [oh, nothing serious, but thanks for asking] just after me. Out of the corner of my eye I spied his height and build, and my internal computertron logged him under “just my type”. Confirmation of that status required a scan of his face. I looked up towards it. It looked back at me. And… eye contact initiated. Rule 1 broken. FAIL.

Doctor seen, time to head to the office. I knew my first Tube ride under the new regime would take an iron will and a steady gaze. I lacked both. Two more Rule 1 breakages in the six stops (a mere 12 minutes) between home station and work. FAIL and FAIL. Three fails and I’ve been roaming amongst civilisation for less than an hour. If this performance goes towards my naughty-or-nice quotient this year, I’ll be fondling an empty stocking on Christmas morning.

After an abysmal early showing, I was determined to be Santa’s good girl on the walk between station and office. All five minutes of it. And you know what? I did it. Not one look. Go me! In fact, not looking even made the stroll more pleasant because I didn’t have to avoid appearing patronising or cold-hearted as I passed the Big Issue seller without purchase. I just ignored him, looked straight ahead, el blanko, not so much as a “No, thanks”. How good am I?!

Now, into the office. As any of my female colleagues would attest, where I work you can pretty much guarantee my head will easily go for an entire month without being turned, never mind 10 minutes. I thought I’d be ok. I thought I’d be safe. I thought wrong. Noone had prepared me for the challenge that was… New IT Boy. (Yeah, so, I like me a bit of geek. I’m not alone.)

As I innocently filled my teacup at the drinks machine, he moved into my peripheral vision. The right sort of height. The right sort of build (well, if I fed him a couple of pies). The internal computertron fizzed to life. I looked him up. I looked him down. He didn’t look at me but BLAM! I was rumbled mid-meerkat by my workmate. An outright breach of Rule 4. FAIL.

In total, I notched up another two fails on the Tube home – one meerkat, one brazen eye-contact-triple-toe-loop; and one fail at the supermarket – our (now) old friend eye contact. I knew this would be hard, I just didn’t realise how hard; or rather, I just didn’t realise I was such a dirty old woman. Call me gawpface-lechmonger, why don’t you.

However, I’m going to let myself off. Not because that’s the easy route or I promise to start again tomorrow or I’ll try harder next time or it’ll make me feel better about my unstoppable inclination to give chaps the visual once-over. I’m letting myself off because I’m in this for the long haul; like a smackhead coming off crack, like a fattie coming off biscuits, like Gordon Brown coming off bullying.

It would be too much to expect a sudden change of behaviour, to suffocate my apparently hard-wired lechery with a dollop of cold turkey. But I promise to improve and, as such, I will be keeping a regular tally of my fail rates. There won’t be nun-like miracles but there will be a noticeable, downward trend. Even if you don’t understand, I know Gordon would – it’s like that with his popularity.

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