Friday, 9 January 2009

Reflections on drink and disappointment...

Well, it’s Friday again – almost ten days into the new year already… Yesterday we had our Team (post-) Christmas Lunch. This was interesting, with some excellent (if rather meat oriented) tapas at a restaurant beside Richmond Station, a highly entertaining quiz (oddly enough, won by the team with one more member than the others!), and then drinks at a cellar bar near the bridge… A lot of drinks, and the inevitable accompanying frivolities of behaviour and conversation.

I am amazed at some of my colleagues’ alcohol capacity. I know I was the oldest person at the table, at least once we got to the bar, and I know I don’t drink as much as I did in my twenties, largely because nowadays a hangover isn’t a slightly delicate feeling for a few hours, but a two-day hell. But I have never gone in for those trick drinks, multi-coloured shots depth-bombed into lucozade and the like, that have to be downed all at one go while they are still frothing insanely. I certainly won’t be starting on them now, having smelled a few last night. Jägermeister in Red Bull looked like toxic waste and smelled of nail polish remover and cough mixture. Compared with that, my white rum and ginger ale is positively tame.

One small bit of news – sad in a way but useful for me to know. The conversation turned, as drunken ones tend to, to the subject of sex, and thence to “Who at Kew would you shag, if you could only have someone from Kew?” As the sayings go, there’s no accounting for taste, and it takes all sorts to people the world, and goodness knows some to-me odd preferences were expressed – but then, I don’t go for Older Men, or for the Power-is-a-turn-on thing. I happily named someone I’ve always thought terribly attractive; I know he knows it, and I know the interest isn’t mutual, so I didn’t see any harm in saying. Several people said “I know what you mean, yes, he’s nice-looking” and similar things – but then followed that with references to this person’s notorious promiscuity! So, since I always go into such things with my heart fair-and-square on my sleeve, and since the last thing I want is to be another notch on a well-worked bedpost, it is just as well that my interest wasn’t reciprocated. But it does sadden me to be reminded of how I tend always to be attracted to slightly unsavoury men. However much I console myself with ideas like “He can see you aren’t a person he could just bonk and leave, clearly he has too much respect for you”, etc, etc, the fact remains - I now know that a man who is practically the Whore of Kew turned me down! I am fat and plain with big feet and no-one will ever love me again. Probably explaining inosculation in a letter to a gentleman in County Armagh is as close as I’ll ever get to any kind of osculation any more. Sniff…

Men do mystify me at times, you know. I joined an online dating agency a while back, as an experiment, and have been fascinated to find that the same things are happening to me online that happen to me in the real, non-virtual world. I want to meet a guy who is intelligent, attractive (to me), and genuine. (This is not abnormal, incidentally. Almost every profile on the site is a variation on that theme…) I’d be a hypocrite if I said looks are unimportant – I want there to be a chance of some chemistry, and when I find someone seriously unattractive then that is, in all honesty, highly unlikely. I’ve fallen for someone for his personality alone before, but he wasn’t actually UNattractive, just not my usual “type”.

But on this website – well; I send messages to men who sound interesting and intelligent, and whose looks appeal to me, and they ignore me. Men old enough to be my father, and with faces like bulldogs, send messages to me. I read their profiles, and they sound like pleasant blokes, blokes my dad could have made friends with, but I am not looking for a man of my dad’s generation, and I am not looking for a man I find outright ugly. Sorry, boys. I may be fat and plain with big feet, etc, but I am not going to settle. Not to that extent.

I have a theory that I am Agnes Wickfield. For those who don’t read Victorian novels, she is the second wife of David Copperfield, who he eventually marries after the death of his idiotic but adored first wife Dora Spenlow. Dora is everything I am not. She is pretty, charming, delightful company, sweet-natured, dizzy, terribly spoilt, not very bright, very loving, and utterly hopeless with regard to all domestic matters and in the face of every minor difficulty of daily life. Agnes is intelligent, patient, sensible, mature, competent, honourable and good; and rather plain. David Copperfield is eventually liberated from his marriage to Dora by her dying from unmentionable (to Dickens) post-miscarriage complications. Time passes, he mourns, and finally he realises that (to put it crudely) his childhood friend Agnes is a far better bet, and he marries her and is very happy. I’m traducing a very great novel in this summary, by the way – my apologies to it and to all of you!

Anyway, my theory is that intelligent, sensitive men (and this is a brutal generalisation, so please do not write to me saying “I know one who isn’t like this!” – I know, everyone BAR ME knows one who isn’t like this – and you promptly grabbed and held on, didn’t you?!) – ahem - as I was saying - that intelligent, sensitive men tend to want, in their youth, women who they feel subconsciously are not their equals; women who are pretty, charming, delightful, not very bright, and all the rest of it. Nowadays they are not going to be deprived of their Doras after a few years in novelistic tragic-but-pure ways, because mercifully we live in the developed world and very few women die of post-miscarriage complications here nowadays. So they have to sweat it out until eventually in middle age they divorce, or get divorced by, Dora. And then a bit after that, when they’ve recovered their self-esteem, and begun to think “I really hate having to do the cooking everyday”, they start to look for another woman, and they notice that the quiet, rather plain ones are still around, and are better cooks and more domestically capable than Dora was, and probably less expensive to run, and they think “That’s what I want!”. Agnes Wickfield. Me.

So I’m a perfect Second Wife. Humph…

Waah, I’m in a whinge-y mood today.

Well, I don’t care. Maybe I’m meant to be single in this life.

I’ve just realised on re-reading the above that I have just indirectly announced myself to be “intelligent, patient, sensible, mature, competent, honourable and good”; a catalogue of virtues that would have had my maternal grandmother in forty fits. She did not believe in thinking well of oneself, and would have been deeply ashamed, not to mention disgusted, to have a grandchild of hers praise themselves so brazenly. I'm not at all sure I can really lay claim to any of those qualities except intelligence, anyway; pace, Grandma's ghost.

Just before Christmas, a guy I once went out with got in touch – I’d included him on a “round-robin” Christmas email message – and he sent me a delightful response, friendly and charming - and extremely flirtatious in tone. I thought about things (this lad broke my heart in small pieces about fifteen years ago, just to fill you in), and wrote back. I figured that if he was going to be flirtatious, even now, he had meant enough to me that I’d be a fool not to keep communications open at least, and try to meet him halfway. But I don’t do flirting; I am hopeless at it, always have been. So with my heart somewhat closer to my mouth than is physiologically comfortable I said how glad I was that we were still in touch, however erratically, and added that I have always regretted that we never managed to move any further than this tentative contact. And guess what? – he backed off as if I’d tried to bite him in the jugular. I wouldn’t mind – indeed I’d never have said anything so forward in the first place – if he hadn’t been so bally flirty to start with. O why did I bother? Now Tom know I still care about him, and although for some peculiar reason apparently he wants to flirt with me, he doesn’t want to do anything else – not even be in touch more regularly! Perhaps he was drunk when he wrote…

Which brings me back to last night. A good night, and a good laugh. I’m glad I didn’t drink any of the depth bombs, though.

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