After one of the busiest Friday nights I’ve had in a long time, I was sitting on my sofa in the small hours recently having terrible trouble keeping my eyes open.
At the other end, apparently taking absolutely none of the hints that I’d quite like him to leave so I could go to bed, was a man I’d not seen in 10 years before we’d run into each other on the last train out of London a couple of hours earlier.
We’d chatted on the train journey, and then he’d walked me home from the station before lingering on the doorstep until, out of a sheer lack of ideas, I invited him in for a 2am cup of tea (I know. No good deed goes unpunished).
We’d done the usual what we’re up to; where we’re working; why he had a large bump on his forehead that he was nursing with ice from a paper cup chats (overenthusiastic goodbye from a colleague at the Christmas party, apparently). At about 3am, on the second mug of coffee (or, in my case and truly rock ‘n’ roll, Home Counties fashion, a second mug of decaffeinated Earl Grey), the conversation turned to love lives.
“Yeah, I’ve been married just over a year now,” he said, taking a gulp of coffee. “I’ve just bought her a couple of kittens to stop her getting ahead of herself. What about you? Partner?”
“Nope,” I said, shaking my head. “Just me.”
Auld Acquaintance frowned and tilted his head at me. “Really? What, so you’re not married?”
“Heh, no. That’s what I meant by ‘just me’.” I looked at him slightly askance, and warmed my cold, tired hands around the cup.
“Oh. So, you’ve not got a long-term boyfriend, or anything?”
“No, I’ve just come out of a thing, actually.”
“I’d far rather be by myself than in a relationship that’s not right.”
“Huh. Ok then.”
It was getting wearing. None too subtly, I changed the subject to something hopefully less likely to make me cross. Like Piers Morgan. But, some minutes later…
“So, why don’t you have a boyfriend? We need to sort out your love life.”
No, really. And, hang on a cotton-pickin’ minute there, buster.
Why? And sort out? And WE?!
Ignoring the fact that I don’t happen to think that being in a relationship is a marker of success, I’d go so far as to say that even if I did, having a decent career and owning one’s own home in one’s mid-twenties probably doesn’t define a person as a total failure; or that subjecting someone to such a line of questioning at 3am when they’ve invited you into their home and fed you coffee is downright rude, WHY DO PEOPLE THINK THAT’S AN ACCEPTABLE QUESTION?! (And, actually, one that’s surprisingly difficult to brush off without resorting to the Bridget answer of “because underneath my clothes my body is entirely covered in SCALES!”)
I wouldn’t dream of turning to a married man at a party and asking why exactly he and his wife didn’t have children, and were they only sprogless because he was firing blanks (mainly because I tend not to be allowed to talk to married men at parties, but the sentiment’s still true).
Thankfully I managed to restrain myself from asking him the same question as I extricated him from the sofa at 4am and threw him out into the darkness, where frankly he can stay for the next 10 years, or until he learns some manners, whichever comes sooner.
7 hours ago