Sometimes I wonder if I’ve learned anything since I was at school, when I used to fall madly in love with any guy who showed a vague interest, before desperately wishing I knew how to act on it.
Then I remember how it was, and that being young was difficult, stressful, and quite, quite absurd.
I haven’t arranged a guest blog for this week – sorry about that. In lieu, please enjoy this extract from my own diary, circa 1998. In it, I am trying to explain the complex emotional dynamic in my group of slightly nerdy, oh-so-romantic friends.
“I think the barista fancies me,” he explained as we wandered towards the coffee shop. “She’s quite flirty, you know?”
Yeah. I know. I know a million guys who are convinced that the barista in their regular coffee shop fancies them. They pop in of a morning, freshly showered and ready for work, and order their usual from someone who knows how to make it. That loving ritual of giving and receiving hot drink adds an extra tinge of flirtiness to an otherwise mundane transaction. A simple ‘how are you?’ can be transformed into a declaration of playful lust.
“No, she doesn’t fancy you,” I told him, twattishly. “Everyone thinks the barista is flirting with them – they teach them how to do it in barista school.”
“Yeah,” a twitch of something that looks like relief on his face. “You’re probably right.”
I’ve always hated the phrase ‘my other half’ – it implies a lack of completeness about me. That I, on my own, am never quite full or rounded. Not quite enough.
I hate ‘him indoors,’ which implies the kind of comfortable, settled domesticity that I’ve never really felt with anyone.
I’m ambivalent about ‘boyfriend’ and ‘partner’ feels too grown up.
I panic at the thought of a ‘husband.’
‘Boy’ is becoming tired, and not a natural descriptor for someone in their 30s.
Says ‘girl’ on the net. At the age of 30.
‘Mate’ is either too pally or too like an Attenborough documentary, depending on how you interpret it.
‘Lover’ makes me cringe.
Some days he’s my guy, my dude. That dickhead. And often he’s a twat.
But maybe my obsession with the lack of a proper word belies what the actual problem is with any of these statements: the ‘my’ that comes at the front of them.
No one is ever mine, of course.
I rarely stop loving someone just because I’ve stopped fucking them. The end of a sexual relationship doesn’t always mean the end of a relationship altogether. In all likelihood we were friends before our genitals ever touched. Whether it was a one-off shag, a short-but-sweet playtime, or a long-term commitment, there’s something we’ve shared that I’ll be gutted to let go of.
I’m feeling a bit wistful and nostalgic at the moment, to tell the truth. An article I wrote for The Debrief, in which I had to contact a bunch of my exes and get them to give me sex reviews, left me reeling. As I made a list of people, trying to work out who to ask, I found myself overwhelmed by how many people I’ve shagged that I’m still on ‘hey can I ask you a random question?’ terms with.