So far, I’ve written about the funny side of this experiment of mine. The last few days have made me think more and more about the – let’s not call it serious – the less funny side. I’ve poked fun at my inability to stop myself getting a good daily eyeful of man-talent, I’ve mocked my admission of congential perving, I’ve taken the piss out of the slutty tactics I employ in attracting bar service. But there’s more to me than comedy, lechery and boobs – I’ve got feelings, too, you know.
My friend Berit made a smart point when I told her about this little project and the rules I’d set myself. We were discussing what looking really means and she said it’s not so much the act of looking directly at people, or looking out for people to look at, which is the subject of my experiment; it’s more the expectation the looker holds in their mind when they do the looking. Or the making eye contact. Or the flirting, the chatting up, the meerkatting, the accepting invites with ulterior motives or the internet dating.
Welllll helloooooo laydeeeez!
But I’m not sure what my levels of expectation are. I know I’m not desperate for a boyfriend. If I were, I would have one tomorrow, and he would be fat, ugly and stupid, with the creative impulses of a cardboard box and the personality of a wizened parsnip. There’s no shortage of them and they’d certainly want to get into this hot dish.
I also know I’m not desperate to meet Mr Mazing. If I were, I’d be turning every fat, ugly, boring, thick, wrinkled parsnip into the man-apple of my mind’s eye. While I’m certainly open to giving chaps a chance and seeing where things go, in the past year I’ve called it a day on more close-but-not-quites than those I’ve thought way-hey!! about. There’s no denying, though, that I am on the look-out for a Mr Mazing. (I don’t say my Mr Mazing because I don’t believe in The One – why is a diatribe for another time maybe.)
Really, the only definite aim I can have for myself in this project is to stop looking for Mr Mazing altogether. Some of the rules I’ve set may seem reasonable in this pursuit, some may seem trivial. I mean, throughout any given day, we each make eye contact with any number of different people, most of them not big, hot hunks of manmeat – to stop doing that might seem silly. But my thinking was that regular, small adjustments would effect an overall greater change. Little acorns, mighty oaks, that sort of thing. Only it turns out the smaller changes are actually the hardest to make.
First off, there’s the whole thing of trying not to do something in fact making you far more likely to do it, or at least think about doing it. For example, if I tell you not to think about Ann Widdecombe naked except for sequinned nipple tassles and a heart-shaped merkin, all you’ll think about is Ann Widdecome naked except for sequinned nipple tassles and a heart-shaped merkin. (Yep, I nearly vommed too.)
Penny for your thoughts
It’s become partly the same for me. Not frequent visions of Widders in her birthday suit, but thinking about not looking at men is increasing the number of times I actually Iook. I’m having to reprimand myself for looking, or stop myself from looking, or dart my eyes away to avoid looking, so many times that I can’t genuinely believe I ever used to look this much before.
Secondly, there’s the possible influence of knowing I can’t look that’s leading me down the path of temptation towards the forbidden fruit of looking. Thirdly, there’s the fact that by reprimand or prevention, I’m drawing attention to the very act of looking in a way I never used to. Back in the good old days, the before-not-looking days, I would mindlessly gaze around rooms and tubes and streets hoping my eyes would light upon some tummy-wibble-inducing male specimen. Now I’m doing it mindfully while trying, mindfully, not to do it. And failing. A lot.
I said at the start about this being like a smackhead coming off crack or a fattie coming off biscuits. I meant it as a joke. With hindsight I see it’s a very hard reality. And this is only week two. I gave myself a year for this experiment because I wanted to be fair to the theory, give it a real airing and see if it holds up, avoid as many accusations of bias or sabotage as possible. But sitting here now, I’d be really surprised if I can keep going for a whole month, let alone 12. Not looking is a surprisingly exhausting activity.
Not looking also has unexpected knock-on effects on my general feelings. In trying to avoid looking at faces, I’ve looked at the ground a lot more. There’s a theory that, when someone looks down, they go inside their own mind either to understand a concept or listen to their internal voice. One positive side-effect of looking down has been greater avoidance of dog shit, but a more negative one has been far greater exercising of my little internal monologue. I am very bored of the sound of my own over-thinking voice right now.
Gratuitous placement of wibble-inducing manmeat
There’s also the issue of overcoming the fear of not looking. As I said, I’m not parsnip-desperate but I do want to find someone. Sooner would be better, of course, but I’d like to think the wait for Mr Mazing will seem worth it in the end. I only wish I knew when that end is due to come.
My response to the lack of clear timetabling is to keep myself occupied with the search. Taking away that distraction has left me twitching in its vacuum. What if I don’t notice the lingering look of a fellow tube-traveller? What if I miss out because I don’t drag myself to that party? What if Mr eMazing passes me by because I’m not touting myself on the interbob? To sit here doing nothing about a situation I’d like to change is not my usual style. It feels a little like fiddling while Rome burns – Rome burning being the coupling-up of all the non-parsnips: the sausages, the charcuterie, the manmeat that I believe is still out there.
People counter this fear of mine by trotting out the old “if it’s meant to be…” defence. Unfortunately, this doesn’t wash with me – as well as not believing in The One, I don’t believe in fate. That’s my barbecue-lighting humanist side. It leaves me thinking that if I’m not looking, it’s not going to happen. This is as much a test of a theory as it is a test of will.
So yes, while all these things float around my head, I’m also conscious of the fact I need to keep these chronicles entertaining. You and me, we can’t be just about having fun, but we can’t be just about getting serious either. So, I’ve decided, each time I look or break any other of my rules, I’m going to hit myself around the chops with a wizened parsnip. Not only will it remind me of what I’m not missing, it’ll also inject some comedy back into proceedings. And right now, I need to remember both the time I’ve wasted on bad root vegetables and the importance of living on the lighter side of lovelife sometimes.
Read Full Post »