Archive for the ‘Not looking’ Category

Make mine a yes

I was on holiday in New York recently (ooh, get me, lahdeedah!) and it was fucking fantastic. I was there once before three years ago and then I loved it for its architecture, atmosphere, yellow cabs and cultures. This time I loved it for the ridiculous, mind-bending, giggle-making, eye-popping experiences it gave me.

I did things that if told about beforehand, I admit I would have said no to. With a heady mix of peer pressure and ignorance pummelling my brain, I said yes. And yes was good.

After a year in which, being bravely and exposingly honest for a moment, I’ve suffered and overcome the worst health of my life, this trip was a beautifully-timed lesson in remembering to step outside my norm, be more willing, cut the negatory – in short, do more.

But here’s the rub: I’m in the middle of an experiment which essentially involves me doing less – less looking, less ogling, less flirting, less eye-contacting, less chasing, less chatting, less enjoying. It’s all about saying no when all I really want to do is say yes. (Not to everything, mind. You know, in case someone on the interfuck wants to film me re-enacting some of Catherine the Great’s legendary manoeuvres in an isolated hut that once housed the Unabomber. Or something.)

Catherine the Great

Old Cath: She's got a Shetland pony under that frock.

I don’t want to be checking my behaviour every five minutes as the not-looking rules make me do. I want to say yes to all the good things, see where they take me, try out some world, do shizz. Jesus! I’m in danger of turning into Danny bloody Wallace but without the monobrow and meeja specs. (Not that I’d sniff at his book deals.)

Reaction to the announcement that I was thinking of stopping not-looking has been mostly of the lovely and pride-making “Oh, but I really enjoy reading your blog” kind. A couple of people have mocked how little of the full year I actually sustained it for. Well, here’s a revelation for you – I knew I’d never keep this gig up for 12 months. The writing, yes, I could easily do that; that wasn’t going to be the problem. But the not-looking? Hmmn…

I’d thought what would prevent me gestating my not-looking baby to full term was going to be the length of time it would take me to stop looking. I’d imagined it taking so many months to wean myself off the desire to look at men that I’d simply be defeated by the task. Shockingly – for me far more than for anyone else – I managed to stop within a matter of weeks. Hurray, right? No, not hurray. Not by a long chalk.

Very very very interesting chalk. Hugely interesting. Aren't you interested in it?

A long chalk. Sorry, this post didn't lend itself to images but I didn't want you to get bored.

The ‘achievement’ of not-looking has made me realise several things about me and my situation: I don’t like telling myself no; I don’t like restricting my movements; I don’t like keeping to stupid sodding rules; I don’t like holding back on learning about people because I can’t look at them, ask about them, have a little giggle-flirt with them; I don’t like preventing myself pushing the odd button and boundary; I don’t like staying in because I can’t be bothered; I don’t like wondering what might be; I don’t like missing out.

For the perspective not-looking has given me, I am absolutely, categorically, undeniably pleased I started out on this whole venture. But at this tranquil point at the end of a tremulous year, I think it’s time to stop doing things I don’t like and start doing things I do. Not-looking feels like a negative and I want a positive.

With that in mind, I’ll not leave you bereft. Soon I shall unveil a new plan. I hope you’ll like it. It shares a common idea but has a different way of looking at it. Intrigued? Good. Just not too much; it’s a lot of pressure for a little person.

You’ll have to wait while I get it all sorted out before I tell you what it is, though. Plus I really need to put some washing on. And clean my flat. Seriously, it’s a wreck. Embarrassing almost. Crumbs everywhere. Dust you can write your name in. It’s highly likely I’ll be out a lot more in the near future and it’s best I get it ship-shape while I can.

So until next time, if you see me looking I’m allowed now, ok? Yes.


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Last weekend I met a man and we talked until the sun came up. This is the prelude to a tale of sweeping romanticism, of unsure glances becoming hesitant approaches, of close brushes becoming deliberate touches, of hopeful rushes becoming certain kisses. This is the prelude to a tale that never played out, and it never played out because of me.

This man – code name George – was part of the group I was out at the pub with. His looks could be described as appealing, but on hearing talk that he had a girlfriend, I immediately placed him within the ‘I don’t cut lunch’ divider of my mental filing cabinet. I firmly believe there are enough men in this world that I don’t need to borrow someone else’s, so he became just another of the nice-to-meet-yous among the group, part of the lively social wallpaper and nothing more.

The night rolled on to its conclusion, with inevitable scrabbling for taxis or, in my case, the night bus (oh! unbridled joys) all the way from north to south London. Two boys in the group were taking the same route – George and a guy whose face and mannerisms were so similar to my longest-term ex it was almost disturbing. (That’s Wiseau-worthy detail, so don’t be disappointed if I never refer to it again.)

George rainbow

You'd not think him a big drinker to look at him

As our journey meandered, lurched and dragged its way to our alighting stop, George asked what booze I was stockpiling. Gin, I said, just gin. He invited himself to mine. I made various loaded comments about his girlfriend: wasn’t she expecting him, wouldn’t she worry where he was, shouldn’t he really just go to her house? He said it was fine and, since I already knew this was going nowhere for me and I felt I’d have no problem maintaining my resolve, gins at mine it was.

Suffice to say, nothing happened. We actually did just talk and drink gin, which when it’s 4am and you’ve already had a skinful is really not advisable, let me tell you. Then, sometime later, I became concerned by the blue-tinged light glowing around the edges of the window blinds. Some kind of alien invasion out in the car park? No, daylight. We’d stayed up chatting until dawn.

It was poetic and fun and indulgent and foolish (or at least the three hefty gins and 5am popcorn were). It could have been romantic, but it wasn’t. Things could have happened, but they didn’t. I could have overcome my resolve, been the bad person, had me some fun – when he asked “How big is your bed?” I was pretty sure the option was there. But no, despite the Hogarthian amounts of gin coursing through my veins, I chose to play it safe, protect my interests, risk nothing.

While I am perfectly happy with the decision I made not to let the booze take over, the whole episode did make me realise that not-looking is forcefully keeping me in a very safe place. I’m like the Anne fucking Frank of the man-hunting world, having the bookcase wedged tight across my love-life by the benevolently not-looking Miep Gies. Sure, it’s a safe place to be but (ignoring the minor death-camp hiccup in this otherwise blinding analogy) I really am missing out on rather a lot.

Not-looking is conducive to risk-aversion. (Golly, doesn’t that sound thesis-worthy.) It’s a pretty passive pastime: it involves me waiting for men to make the moves; it requires me to do nothing other than sit back and wait for something to happen. At the best of times, I am fundamentally shit at waiting, so in that respect I take my hat off to not-looking for its good influence. But, and this is a big BUT (though perky, womanly, firm yet malleable), by remaining passive there is so much I’m missing out on.

The principle of risk and return is an oft-observed and well-documented truism. Risk very little and your return is maintained dignity with a small side order of what-might-have-beens. Risk a lot and your return will be a pot-luck main course of either soul-creasing regret or winner-takes-all elation.

Risk goat

Are you a horny fucking goat?

I’ve droned on recently, quite a lot, about how things, men, life, have seemed to become dull, boring and two-dimensional. Now I realise a big reason for that is my lack of risk-taking in the love game. I’d grown used to the highs and lows and the dabbles with hopes, to the attractings and repellings and the gambles with chance. After 15-20 years of that in my life, it’s hard to give up. And the thing is, I don’t want to.

When you put yourself out there in the search for love, ask the question and wait for the response, of course there’s a chance the answer will smack you in the face like the pavement-hovering wing mirror of a passing bus. That’s the price we all pay for the chance to play for the jackpot. But by taking the safe route and not-looking on the sidelines, you’ll always wonder what the answer was going to be – a far bigger price in my book.

We’ve all suffered some heart-smooshes, all chanced our arms and had them swiftly Nelsonised, but none of us was dispatched by Belsen typhus as a result. Not even Miss Havisham, though that whole sitting in a wedding dress for 40-odd years thing was prrreetttty frrreakkky.

The fact is, it’s fun. Asking, hearing, going woopty-doo!! or fucking-ugly-cunt-thick-shit-never-liked-’em-anyway-not-good-enough-for-me. All of the asks – the unsure glances, hesitant approaches, close brushes, deliberate touches and hopeful rushes – they’re all as colourful and three-dimensional as the answers they receive. And life, like art, is there to make you feel. Even if what you feel is the hangover of a pisshead in the middle of a Hogarth etching.

Which is why I think I’m giving up. Not-looking, that is. Not gin-drinking. Hell no. I heart the gin.

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3D’s company

Something I’ve discovered from not looking is that I’ve become objective about the men I see, meet and talk to in a way I never was when I was actively looking. But this change – from partisan participant to independent observer – is a true double-edged sword.

On one edge, I no longer see potential in just anyone; there has to be something quite compelling about a man. And for me, compelling means much more than looks now that the visual element has been downgraded. He has to be interesting and outgoing and smart and funny – in essence, he has to have a personality. This edge of the sword is the good one; it’s saving me from wasting my time on beautiful unsuitables.

But on the other edge, I no longer see potential in anyone at all. Because I have to wait to be drawn into eye contact or invited into conversation, it’s down to men to catch my attention. Their personalities aren’t brought into relief by my expectation, flirtation or flattery; they have to do it themselves. And so far, none of them has managed.

No men I’ve met since I’ve stopped looking have seemed to have much depth to them. As I said before, in general they now seem a bit two-dimensional. Scathing I know, but someone has to be pretty special (not in a window-licking way) to pique my interest. Needless to say, this edge of the sword is the bad one; it’s making me bored.

Perhaps it was always a case of two dimensions, even before this not-looking experiment started, but I was looking too hard to notice. Perhaps it was only my initiation, input or investment into someone that highlighted their depth, facets and colour, and generated a genuine interest in me. To put it simply, I am their third dimension.

My own personality – the things I say, the jokes I make, the eyelashes I bat – is what brings someone else’s personality to the fore. It makes sense really. It could well apply to friendships too. If I made no effort to spark up conversations, engage the other person, entertain them, make them enjoy talking to me, I wouldn’t like the people I like and have the friends I have.

If we find matches in friendship like that, surely we find matches in love like that too. And does that maybe say that not looking is not going to work?

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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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Holler out your Sunday praises, followers! My mission is turning a corner. I think I’m converting to the teachings of the gods of Not Looking. In a heathen sense, of course.

The final scores for the week are a few hours off being on the doors but, seeing as I’m home alone now, I think it’s safe to announce that FAIL numbers are down. Consistently down. Not quite zero yet – this is still me, remember – but they’re not hovering far off it. None too bad when you consider the lofty heights my fail-rates have been known to reach.

Now I appear to be through the worst fail-wise, I’ve seen the good side, the up side, the Monty Python bright side, to my venture. While I’m going about my business and looking at far fewer men, I’m beginning to notice far more men looking at me.

Whereas, under normal operation, I figured I attracted looks from men because I was the one who stared at them first, now I know that anyone I spy out of the corner of my eye who is looking at me is, well, looking at me. Looking at me. Looking at me! Trust me, this is quite the turn-up. And here’s why.

Despite regular witterings about my hotness, which imply a general comfort with my appearance (if not borderline narcissism), it may come as some surprise to know that this comfort is by no means steadfast. For all the times I say I’m hot there are as many, if not twice as many, times I believe I’m not.

This is typical girl shit, obviously, although I believe men are just as likely to wrestle (in a manly heteroerotic way) with these thoughts themselves. They just don’t mention them as much as women. In this respect, and hopefully very few others given my gender, I’m like a man: I don’t really talk about my physical dislikes all that often.

I’m pretty sure my friends would agree I don’t discuss them much. Except this one. They know about this one. This one I mention quite regularly, especially when attempting to buy trousers. Funnily enough, it’s also shared with men:

(I’m not really that into basketball though. Or after a girl that looked good so I would call her. A boy, yes, that’d be nice. I’ll definitely take the rabbit in the hat, however. Magic!)

I probably come across as quite comfortable with my appearance: I wear tight tops, low necklines, short skirts and bum-hugger jeans. Sometimes I’ll catch my reflection in the mirror and think, “Hell, yeah, I’d do ya!”.

But then a split second later, I’ll slip into minute-inspection mode and pick metaphorical holes in any number of perceived flaws. I’ll tell you even the clothes I wear are chosen because having child height with hourglass curves requires the definition of separate anatomical parts in order to avoid having the silhouette of a teapot. My ability to think myself attractive is high; my ability to believe myself attractive is not.

It’s probably true of a lot of people, and now to them I would recommend following my not-looking lead. Not because they might be on the hunt and, patronising beyond patronising, “it’ll happen when they’re not looking”, but because of the by-product. If I’m anything to go by, you’ll experience an increased noticing of genuine looks from actual men – it’s the next best thing to a confidence boost in a can.

When I first noticed this phenomenon, I was mildly disturbed by it. All those stary, stary men, what did they want with me? Why are they looking at me and, when I return their look (legitimately and within the rules), looking sheepishly away? Have a I got something stuck to my face? Have I – horror of horrors! – developed a tache of some sort? What on earth are they playing at?

And then I realised. They’re eyeing me up. They’re checking me out. They’re trying to engage me in their own little Rule 1 FAIL (not that anyone else actually lives under these ridiculous rules). Well get a load of me. I am Miss Fancy McFanciablepants and I am out and proud. All those years I’ve spent meerkat neck extending, pupils darting, eyes locking meant I was too busy looking to notice being looked at. All this time, I should have been leaving the man-mountain to come to Mohammed. (Remind me to draw a cartoon of that.)

I don’t know if this is the first indication that not looking might, in fact, work. Firstly, it’s too early and there’s not enough volume of evidence. Secondly, just as many men could have been looking at me before, I just didn’t notice it myself. And thirdly, a look isn’t worth much in the finding-Mr-Mazing stakes – I need digits and dates, people. But until such time as that happens, I’ll take this opportunity for another me-orientated terrible musical interlude:

(I am totally the nun.)

Still, this new phase is a step in the right direction, plus I’m already enjoying the fruits of my not-labour: one young chap I noticed eyeballing me at the park today got a seductive lip-lick-hip-swing combo for his ocular efforts. Bless him. He didn’t get a look, though. Not my type. He should’ve been a little bit taller.

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