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.)
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.
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.