Saturday, 26 March 2016

'You're a 10, and he's a 2' and other well meaning lies your friends will tell you when you're 'back on the market.'

I dunno if you'd heard (and I mean, you have, because I mention it frequently), but it wasn't my choice to be single. However, a matter of months have passed and in the interest of remembering that my ex is not the only person on the planet and also of not becoming a hard hearted, jaded, cynical ice queen, I have put myself back on said market. With a little encouragement from my harem of supportive friends.
I was in dire need of this support, because, alone, I was very lost indeed. I thought I was doing well if I made eye contact with a stranger on the tube.
It started out innocently enough: a suggestion of a single friend that I might get on with.
'You both like books!' one of my gal pals squealed with glee as she showed me a selection of his carefully curated profile pictures. 'And he's tall.' (That all important criteria, that seems to swallow any other unattractive qualities, such as emotional unavailability and a contagious skin disease.)
'Okay...' I said, already terrified.
'He has a weird relationship with food though.'
'And I think he's a little bit autistic.'
'Just a tiny bit!
'I don't think-'
'He's a really nice guy though!'
This phrase was repeated endless times as she listed all manner of other inappropriate matches for me, of which some she seemed to fancy herself and some seemed destined to die alone. Somehow, almost completely against my will, she talked me into giving autistic overeater a chance.
'It won't be some weird thing. I'll just invite him to my party and you'll be there too, and we'll just SEE WHAT HAPPENS.'
Nothing happened because he couldn't make it due to a suspected nervous breakdown.
I didn't lose much sleep over that one. She's still keeping an eye out for me.

Another one of my friends took me out to Shoreditch a lot post breakup. I assumedly like boys from Shoreditch. Not sure where this idea came from, but that's what had been decided. She got fucked out her face, made up a dance routine based almost exclusively on pretending she was underwater, and did laps of the bar to find suitable bachelors for me. I had no say in this whatsoever. She came back triumphantly ten minutes later to tell me that she'd given my number to 'Adam from New York' who was in town for the weekend. He joined us at our table, was perfectly charming, and we all proceeded to bond over endless games of Heads Up. His hand was a bit snakey, and had to be slapped away a couple of times, but nothing major. Until we got outside and he whispered seductively in my ear, 'I'm half Jamaican, you know. I could really stretch you out.' I so wish I was joking. I grabbed my friends, ran for the hills (the kebab shop) and my matchmaker friend's still apologising now.
To make it up to me, she told me that I should have a fun French fling with her best friend from home. He was undoubtedly attractive, sounded eligible and had also been shown pictures of me and not been displeased. It was perfect.
'So, he's not planning on coming to England for a while. But if you visit next summer I'll definitely introduce you!'
I can't do much with 'if's and the summer's a very long way away. We chalked that one down to a 'probably not worth the hassle.' She is also keeping both eyes peeled for me.

My third mismatch was suggested by someone who should know better. She knows what I like and she's been on the scene long enough to have witnessed my varied arc of love interests in all its glory.
She was so proud of herself when she showed me a photo of the boy she had in mind. It was her boyfriend's best friend.
'We can double date!' she said.
'Christ,' I said.
'You'll love him!' she said.
I didn't.
She couldn't understand why I wasn't into it.
'He looks just like your ex! Look, he's even got the same shirt. And he's a teacher!'
Sound logic. If I was trying to go out with my ex again. But I'm not. That would be psychotic and I'm not Rachel in Friends, dating Russ.
Also, all the qualities I liked in my ex don't necessarily translate into general qualities I'm looking for in anyone.
I refused to comply. She still brings him up from time to time. R.I.P. Russ.

I sometimes let my friends reply to messages from boys on my behalf. P fucking lives for evenings in with my phone. If I dare to reach for it back she gets scratchy and screechy, so I've learnt it's easier to just leave her to it. I'll hear her cackling to herself and just quietly despair. She gives compliments that she herself would like to receive, but that unsuspecting boys in their 20s don't quite know what to do with.
'I like your COS aesthetic!' she typed frantically to one such critter.
'Ah thanks,' he said, because what the fuck else could he say?
'Do you know what COS is?' she said, unsatisfied with his lack of enthusiasm.
'If you mean the store then yeah.'
'I get the feeling you're not really digging me though,' she said, and looked around at me, both thumbs up, proud of the work she'd done.
He never text us back again.
She absolutely delights in general trolling. If she deems someone a 'dumb-dumb' she will openly mock them.
'Hi hun x' someone once dared to say.
'Hi hunni x' she text back.
'Wat u been up to?'
'Not much babes, u? x' she typed back and laughed like a drain.
'Just been the match. Wat u do at weekend?' This sent her over the edge.
'Chill at home. What u do?' she text, just so pleased with herself.
'Sweet! Same :)' he said. Harmless enough.
'(Smiley poo emoticon)(Bride emoticon)(Sassy flamenco dancer emoticon)(Crying emoticon)(Plane emoticon)' P text him, with no apparent relation to anything else that'd been said.
I glared at her. She winked back.
'He won't even think it's weird. Watch,' she said to me.
Sure enough, he text back straightaway. One word: 'lol.'
She raised her eyebrows, triumphant.
'Delete his number,' I said.  

The matches I organise all by myself are no less of a shambles, don't get it twisted. I get it wrong even more than they do. One boy I was speaking to had suspected alcohol/drugs dependency/AIDs and would only ever suggest coffees or walks. The less said about him the better.
There was the guy who was trying to be my boyfriend after two dates. He will go down in history as the boy who went out to buy me breakfast and came back with two types of Tropicana: one with bits, one without, because he didn't know what I liked. I don't know why, but this caused mass hysteria.
'What a sociopath!' each and every one of my friends said when I told them.
He also made me dippy eggs and soldiers and watched me eat them without having any himself. But that's a story for another time.
It's worth mentioning the fact that my friends also couldn't stomach the fact that he was completely bald but with the biggest beard any of us had ever seen. He was no Common though. 'Pubey' was the general consensus. I stopped texting him back the day he lost his job. An unhappy coincidence. And not my proudest moment.

It's not all doom and gloom though. I found myself a promising one. Just so promising. We had five and a half excellent dates and I started to think that everything was going to be fine. There are fun boys with unusual faces that will make me snort laugh and suggest normal dates at bars and that will make me feel safe enough that I won't have to keep my phone clutched in my hand under the table all night, finger hovered over my ringtone in case I have to pretend that someone's calling and I have to urgently leave! Or so I thought.
He got weird. Fast. He disclosed that he'd gone through every single one of my Instagram photos and knew things about me that I'd never told him. He took me to a gig and didn't talk to me until it was over. He took a piss on my doorstep in some kind of weird dirty protest and then admitted to it the next day with something close to pride. All my friends without exception hated this one. Comments ranged from 'he has a triangle head' to the simple 'SICK'. One of the girls physically recoiled in horror when I showed her a picture of him and then apologised profusely, saying, 'honestly, I just wasn't expecting it.'

For now I'm going to be a good sport and keep my well meaning, lying friends vicariously entertained with all my disastrous mismatches. Safe in the knowledge that there are definitely a few fun boys with unusual faces that will make me snort laugh and suggest normal dates at bars out there somewhere. They can't all be fucking awful, can they...? 

Friday, 11 March 2016

You're having a baby and I'm still a baby myself (or why we should never compare ourselves to our peers when we're all completely different entities with diverse hopes and plans and timelines)

Me and my girlfriends send each other a LOT of screenshots. We have a Facebook group imaginatively called 'the love message' and it sees all kinds of action. It is relentless, arguably one of the most time consuming commitments in my life. You can have one evening away from your phone (you know, to live your life or whatever) and by the time you've checked it six hours later you have 256 delirious messages to catch up on: one of you's had a pregnancy scare, another one's struggling over what brand of biscuits to take into work and another's flirted with, and since abandoned, the idea of getting a bob (these examples are only very slightly exaggerated.) Amidst these dramatic declarations, often all in capitals, you will find dozens of the inescapable 'ugly baby pics'. Let me start by saying that no babies are ugly; they are all, of course, tiny miracles. BUT that doesn't mean that they are quite as cute as you think they are when you're uploading a picture of them taking a shit, smashing banana all over their heads or screaming. Your mum would love to see those pictures, your partner would probably want to frame them and scatter them artfully around his office, your very own 'love message' would coo over them endlessly, but me? I could live without them.
Don't get me wrong, I am beyond sure that there is an equivalent 'love message' out there somewhere that sends screenshots of my constant stream of book cover photos and oversharing Facebook statuses, declaring to their friends 'what a boring cunt!' But that's okay. I am well aware that my ramblings won't be to everyone's tastes, just as some people's statuses aren't to mine. Gemma (name changed. I know no Gemmas), who I haven't spoken to in real life since year 10, yes your 'other half' is a 'star' for running you a bath and making a shepherd's pie from scratch while you were working a late shift but tell him, don't tell me.
I'm getting sidetracked, and the real point I'm trying to make isn't really about Gemma and her bubble baths.
Everyone feel free to express yourselves! I certainly do.
The real issue is that we should never look at these posts and compare our own lives with everyone else's. THIS IS VERY, VERY DANGEROUS AND DESTRUCTIVE AND UNHEALTHY.
I just turned 25 and have next to nothing in place by traditional (and my nonna's) standards. I've almost definitely had something of a quarter life crisis (see previous post where I talk of drinking gallons of wine and crying a lot on the sofa). I am unexpectedly newly single (can I still say 'newly' six months on? I think I can), in a job I quite like but don't plan on doing for the rest of my life, and renting a place that drains around 80% of my income. I will be renting for a long time (possibly forever?) and that makes me sad for a number of reasons, but mainly because I really have my eye on so much stellar furniture and there are quite a few pictures that I'd actually like to hang on a wall with a nail one day. But that's fine too.
We are all different, my friends, and I am not panicked in the slightest about my situation. Why should I be? My great grandmother lived to 105, and that is an unspeakable amount of years to fill. If I tick everything off in the first quarter, what am I going to fill my time with for all the rest of the long years?
I don't eat quite as well as my great grandmother and the air I breathe is nowhere near as clean, so I might not still have 80 years in me, but I hope to have SOME, and I want to do everything in due course. I have reason to believe that I will never be this young again, and I'm often not very youthful in my chosen activities as it is. I already stay in 4-5 (sometimes 6) nights a week and if I were to have a young family I'd be far too tempted to just stay in all 7 nights. All I need is an excuse and I'm staying in. But I don't WANT to be old before my time. I want to be old when I'm old.
Some people do want to do it all now though and that. is. okay. If all you've ever dreamed of is being a homeowner and you can afford to be, do it! Prune your roses, hang your drapes, pay your council tax! Live your dream!
If you've been dreaming of having a baby since you were a baby yourself, stop taking the pill, put some spirulina in your smoothie, pop them out like there's no tomorrow!
Thankfully I'm surrounded by people with very diverse timelines and for that I am SO GRATEFUL. My mother had her first and only child (me) at the arguably mature age of 36. She is the best mum I've ever had or met. That is not necessarily an objective viewpoint but she just is.
My ex employer had her baby boy through IVF at 40 and once confided in me that she still thought she had him too early.
One of my 'love message' girls got married late last year. I would never have predicted that she'd be the first, her husband is quite a bit older, and yet I do not for a second doubt that both of them got married at precisely the right time for them. I was ecstatic for them, but I never wished it was me (I don't mean me marrying her husband, obviously, I just mean getting married in general.)
Maybe I'll get married, maybe I won't, but it's not on the horizon, and I'm glad about that.
I am definitely not having any babies for a while. Not on purpose anyway. Fuck. Touching wood everywhere as I type that. I want them, I want loads actually. But not yet. I'm still far too selfish to dedicate my life to another soul, and I still have many childless boxes I want to tick off my to-do list.
I'm toying with the idea of going back to school. I had a brief moment of panic where I thought, 'stop being ridiculous, you're too old to go back to education!' But then I got a hold of myself and realised that 'too old' is a made up concept. If I don't get in, it won't be because I'm too old. That's almost definitely against the law. If I don't get in, it'll be for one of two reasons:
1. I haven't applied
2. I'm not good enough
My cousin did her masters at 30, my dad got his at night school in his mid 30s. There's a cherished photo we have of him, balding, in his cap and gown and he looks as proud as punch. They weren't too old.
My housemate loves his job and will stay in it for as long as he can. I could not do his job. I'm yet to 'love' any job I've done. He thinks it's hilarious, but I can't help thinking that no matter what job I do I'd probably realistically always rather be doing something else, like reading or lying in bed or trying on clothes in Cos. You know, fun, non-work things.
Maybe that also comes with time. I'm waiting patiently.
One of my friends has just emigrated. Scratch that, two of my friends have emigrated. One of them really wanted to, one of them would much rather have stayed in London. Both sets of Facebook photos will be just as stunning; behind the lens the stories are very different. YOU CANNOT TELL WHAT IS REALLY GOING ON IN PEOPLE'S MINDS AND HOMES FROM WHAT THEY CHOOSE TO DISCLOSE ONLINE.
If I were to post about the minutiae of my real every day life, my statuses would look like this:

Sitting on the couch, staring into space, every now and then coming back to life to change the song. The playlist is Ciara and Amerie and Usher and I'm doing a bit of a dance but could similarly do a bit of a cry.

Wondering whether I can get away with not washing my hair for another day if I scrape my forelock out the way and use that last little bit of Batiste.

Feeling a bit anxious that my salmon's going to go off before I have a chance to eat it.

Scrolling through someone I used to go to nursery with's mum's cousin's Facebook profile with no real idea of what I'm looking for or why I care.

Scratching my elbow.

Having quite a mediocre day. Nothing to report.

You get the idea. Real life is often pretty boring. This is why we mustn't get caught up in checking what other people are doing. They're liars. They're truth stretchers, deceivers, cover-uppers. If they have a house and a kid and a live-in lover, they're probably looking at you with your nights out and disposable income and Zara spending sprees and thinking, 'fuck, that's the life.'
Meanwhile, you have freedom and travel and no roots, and you're probably looking at them, the settled souls, and thinking, 'eugh, if only.'
So stop scrolling and envying and calculating how long you've got left to get everything together, or the time you'll have to wait before you're free again, and enjoy the stage you're at right now. Right this second.
You'll be nostalgic about it one day when you've got a bun in the oven and a toddler tugging at your hand and a pot-bellied husband in your previously uncluttered bed. You know you will.
This weekend the 'love message' are coming en masse to my overpriced rented flat in London for an out of control drug fuelled party (read frozen pizzas, a tame night out, prosecco and topping and tailing on the sofa). One of us is a homeowner, one of us is a wife, one of us has recently graduated and got her first office job, and one of us is me. And in all our various life stages, every last one of us has our moments of panic and insecurity, and guess what? We're all completely fine!