Thursday, 29 April 2010

In which size matters

It’s a very small world. Anyone who’s played the Six Degrees of Separation game knows that (if you’re interested: Jack Nicholson in four; the Bahraini royal family in three; Ron Jeremy in two. Go figure).

The phenomenon was brought to my attention recently whilst chatting to a guy with whom I’d scheduled a date.

In the inevitable ‘what we do to keep us in shoes (me) / posh suits (him)’ conversation, I suddenly realised that not only had he heard of Small But Perfectly Formed Agency (which, when you know quite how Small it is, is impressive in itself), he’s friends with someone who used to work there. In fact, he was at university with, and on the same course as, the very gal I replaced; whose seat in the office I occupy; and whose email I occasionally get by accident. Just to labour the point, she and I even have freakishly similar names, much to the huge, initial confusion of some clients (ah, the joys of working in PR and sounding like I do - ie, exactly like everyone else). A small world indeed.

The recent Commissioning Ball at Renowned Military Academy was the other location in which I was reminded of the size of, if not the world, the middle classes, at least.

In an academy packed to the rafters with young, newly commissioned officers and their friends, somehow I ended the night talking to one of the few men there wearing a dinner jacket rather than mess dress.

He was sweet, and charming, confessing to having spotted me earlier in the evening, but having been too shy to come and say hello (which don't like to think about too closely: given that there were several female military types there, I’m not thrilled by the thought that I was one of the more intimidating women in the room).

Clearly it was the extra champagne he‘d had by the end of the night that had given him the courage not only to approach my fearsome self but to ask for my number too. Which he did, after we’d had a relatively lengthy conversation in which we discovered rather a lot in common.

Because, despite being at a military function, with people from all over the world, I’d managed to find the - presumably - sole person who had been brought up in the same town that I was; who’d attended the school just down the road; whose sister had been at the school I attended; who’s now in comms; who happens to work for a company just five minutes from my office. With my recent luck, I half expected him to tell me we were either related, or that we'd already dated and called it off as a bad job. (He didn't.)

But, as slightly unnerving as it might be to contemplate that the world’s such a small place, I’m looking on the bright side: the world’s not yet so small that any more than one odd man is attempting to chat girls up through the medium of porn.

Monday, 26 April 2010

In which men in uniform play their cards in rather peculiar fashion

Any day the component parts of which include champagne (lots of), the opportunity to wear hot shoes (multiple pairs) and men in uniform (as many as you can shake a stick at) is likely to be a day I enjoy.

Which is just as well, as that was what was on offer at Renowned Military Academy when I went to see Speckled Lad commission into the Army.

Barring a slight hosiery issue and the non-starting car, the day started fabulously, with a couple of hours spent in the brisk spring sunshine watching strapping young men, all decked out in their finest, shiniest blues, marching up and down the parade square.

Of course, as impressive as it is that the Adjutant can get his horse to climb steps, the real event of the day was the Commissioning Ball.

Roulette, a fairground, dodgems, several hundred bars and a marquee decorated to look like its ceiling was covered in thousands of tiny stars were the backdrop for a truly fabulous night.

We were a fair way into the night when, whilst sitting at a table to give my feet five minutes’ rest from the day’s second pair of skyscraper heels, a new officer came up to me and asked me to dance.

He was tall, and attractive in that way that everyone in the room that night seemed to be. Mess dress, whilst leaving exceptionally little to the imagination to such an extent that a fair few boys were suffering from VBL (visible boxer lines), does add a whole new level of loveliness.

There was a little terrible dancing before one of his friends came up and tapped him on the shoulder. A good ten minutes followed in which I was interrogated in a manner of which the secret service would have been proud whilst it was ascertained that I was not, contrary to the rumour apparently circulating, Captain W---’s sister, and that it was okay to be flirting with me.

Drinks, dodgems and a little more dancing later, and Brand New Officer was brushing my hair away from my face.

“So, can I take you for lunch sometime?”

“Um, yes - that’d be nice,” I said slightly distracted, thinking that it should be compulsory for all men to wear mess dress, at all times.

“Can I give you my number?”

“I don’t have my phone with me,” I said, having left my clutch in the possession of one of Speckled Lad’s friends, also still resting her feet.

“Oh, don't worry, I have a card,” Brand New Officer said, reaching into his jacket.

Huh, I thought, slightly surprised. That’s rather organised and forward-thinking for an Army type.

He pulled his hand out of his inside pocket, and did indeed bring out a card. A playing a card. A six of hearts, in fact. A six of hearts on which he’d written his number in biro. But not just any six of hearts with his number on it in biro: a six of hearts from a pornographic deck illustrated with pictures of deeply unattractive, naked men displaying vile moustaches and viler penises.

Opinions amongst the gals have since been split between it being nose-wrinklingly sleazy that he came prepared with such specimens, and it being hysterical that he came prepared with such specimens.

I’m reserving judgement. But not calling.

Friday, 23 April 2010

In which luck ain't no lady

I’m coming to the conclusion that my deeply-held belief that I have horrible luck with men might instead just be a self-fulfilling prophecy.

It’s something I tend to say in rather blasé fashion, with a wave of the hand and a sup of the gin, and it’s always just been how I consider the status quo. Grass is green. Gin is tasty. I have terrible luck with men.

But maybe that’s not how it works.

Maybe it’s rather more hippy-drippy and karmic than that. Maybe it’s only because I believe I have such bad luck that it seems to keep happening.

Hi Blonde, came a text from The Athlete a week or so after his return from Japan. Just wanted to let you know that I had a really great time on our date and it would have been great to see you again but I’ve actually started seeing a girl who was on the trip with us and I wanted to tell you as I don’t like messing girls around. Maybe see you for drinks soon with Old Friend? :)
A chap doing the honourable thing and telling me the score - good news. This is what we’re after. This is also where dating multiple men comes into its own - it’s then far less grievous when one falls off the grid. Off course, his dropping off the grid isn’t ideal, given he was a rather promising candidate. Again Lady Luck seems determined to get her wicked way.

And then, in a case of ‘I really didn’t think this was going to happen again’, I had a call from Game Boy, asking to call it a day as he’s not over the ex. Yup - in case exes hadn’t been quite irritating enough this year, they’re back.

To GB’s credit, this time the situation wasn’t quite the same as the last one - I was fully aware that there was a fairly recent and long-term ex so, although disappointing, it didn’t come as a total surprise.

What most irks me is that it was, in a way, so unsurprising. Because I would rather hope that the chances are small of one guy after another being still attached to the ex, even if that’s not apparently the case, it’s entirely in keeping with my general pattern of luck.

Maybe there’d be a turn-up for the books if I started to tell myself, in true hippy-drippy, and - if I’m honest - totally unlikely fashion, that my track record with men is, in fact, fabulous. Maybe then, my circumstances would change. Maybe I should tell myself that, actually, there have been numerous triumphs. That I’ve dated some successful, wealthy and attractive men.

Actually that last one’s true - it’s just that he happened to be gay.

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

In which we're just good friends

It is one of life’s great irritations that we’re not able to choose the people we’re attracted to.

This was my second thought upon recently receiving a text, late one afternoon, from Boy Whose Job in the City I Don’t Understand.

I’m taking you out for dinner. Pick somewhere. I’ll pick you up at yours at half seven.
My first thought was to give silent thanks for his resignation from a large investment bank, and the three month notice period in which he’s doing nothing (on full pay) until he goes to another bank to do something else I don’t understand, but for more money. It means he’s wont to do things like whisking me off for dinner. Hurrah for (his) temporary unemployment.

Whilst on the train back home, pondering the variety of local and awesome country gastropubs, I considered that Boy Who… would probably make fabulous boyfriend material.

He’s hugely intelligent and switched on, and able to hold a decent discussion on just about any topic you’d care to throw at him (and many you wouldn’t).

He’s one of the very few people who can make me laugh until my face hurts and my eyes stream.

He’s quietly but wholly gentlemanly - on a group trip to the Lakes, it was Boy Whose… who hung back during the long walks whenever we came to a patch that was tricky to navigate, lending an arm to ensure that the gals didn’t end up arse over tit in a river.

He’s about to take a large step upwards on a career path that he loves, and is paid handsomely for (he’s exchanging contracts on a flat for which he’s paid twice the price that I did for my whole house).

And whilst, if there are girls around to cook and organise and generally ensure life runs to plan he’ll let them whilst he busies himself playing computer games, he’s on hand to deliver several bear-hugs a day, just because.

I also imagine he must be quite good in the sack because, whilst of average attractiveness, Boy Whose… previous girlfriend but one was a 6’ leggy Columbian with bee-stung lips, whose hotness knew no bounds. She was so hot, we gals weren’t even jealous, merely in awe.

He is, even despite his habit of buying deeply - and increasingly - ridiculous sports cars, what would in horsey terms be considered “a good all-rounder”.

And yet, despite all that, there’s little I can do to convince my brain that Boy Whose… is anything other than one of my dearest, bestest friends. In some ways, I’m glad: I’ve known the guy for some 14 years, and I would never want anything to take away one of my stalwart boys, always around to liven up a dinner party, or get paralysingly drunk with.

It’s vastly irritating, because to fall into something other than friendship would probably be so easy. But then, since when has that been a fitting description of my life?

Monday, 19 April 2010

In which I am a hypocrite in the matter of public displays of affection

Under the surface and in the right circumstances, I’m actually quite a soppy romantic. I love nothing better than the small acts of kindness that show how much one person cares for another. An unexpected Post-It note with a few words of love, left on the back of a bedroom door, has been known to go down far better in my world than any big, showy gifts.

Despite this, I have always and forever maintained that public displays of affection are unnecessary, irritating, and frankly a bit gross. Which, for people forced to watch them, they are. No one enjoys being subjected to two strangers fawning over each other, prodding and pawing (well, they might, but that’s a whole other topic of faint revulsion).

It’s faintly forgivable if the both halves of the couple in question are in their teens, and have yet to learn any better. That doesn’t make it pleasant to be on a train back home in the evening along with a pair of teenagers who’re making the most of being able to slobber all over each other before going home to their respective parents - but it is understandable.

But when both parties are somewhat older, and in the realms of should-know-better, there’s not really any excuse. And I have no excuse for being someone with apparently such little self-control that I’ve recently indulged in an activity that makes me feel slightly queasy when I’m on the other side.

My first date with the Nut ended with us snogging like teenagers in a smart bar in town. A recent date with Game Boy ended with us doing much the same in his club, before doing it on public transport (thinking about it, it’s not even a hugely recent phenomenon: I did exactly the same thing once or twice when seeing Minor Sleb, before deciding it was a bad idea in public).

Because, when you’re caught up in the moment, you’re either not bothered by the fellow drinkers or commuters shooting filthy looks at you from adjacent seats, or you’re so wrapped up with desire that you forget that the rest of the world, let alone a few disapproving types, exist at all.

Looking at the picture as a whole, it appears that I’m a person who’s happy to criticise behaviour that I don’t like when I see it in others, and then indulge in it myself when it suits. To counter which hypocrisy, I could do one of two things: either stop capitulating to my inner teenager, and conduct myself with some sense of decorum when out and about; or stop being so bloody grumpy about other people so enjoying their relationship that they can’t keep their hands off each other.

Of course in reality, I’m going to do neither: it’s only a dilemma that I find myself confronted with when on a really good date, or a step or two into a promising dalliance. Which isn’t something that happens often enough to make me reconsider my blatant hypocrisy. Sorry.

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

In which I contemplate what's in a name

Not having a Christian name that’s easily given to diminution, other than by a childhood friend’s Mexican mother who stuck ‘ita’ on the end of everything, I’ve never really been one for the nicknames. The closest I’ve come was Long Term Ex insisting on chopping my name in half, but he was the only person ever to have got away with it; and Old Friend calling me “Miss Blonde” when he answers my calls, which is oddly intimate in a formal sort of way.

But over the past couple of years, there does seem to have been a vast increase amongst my friends in the use of diminutive terms of endearment for each other.

For my part, I’ve clearly been swallowed wholeheartedly into the PR bubble.

“Did you just call me love?” Best Mate said on the phone the other day, her tone the one reserved specially for unreliable workmen and her horse when he’s being daft.

“Yikes. Sorry about that. Clearly talking to too many fashion journos these days.” (Who, just as an aside, come in two flavours: the sweetest people on the planet vs. those with such an over-inflated sense of their own self-importance you want to bash them over the head with a sandal boot and tell them it’s a bloody fashion spread, not a Pulitzer-winning piece of prose that’ll change the face of investigative journalism. Both types also constitute the only people in the world who sign off their professional emails with kisses.)

And I'm not the only one who's adopted shorthand rather than actually using names.

Speckled Lad often addresses me as “lovely”, whether verbally or in writing; although sweet, it isn’t really accurate.

When I'm not trying to piss her off, I call Best Mate by her first initial - something I picked up from spending an inordinate amount of time with her family (to her father, I’m “the other daughter”).

Long Term Ex’s mother is, and always has been, fond of “Blonde, darling”, but that’s what hailing from very grand families and finishing school in Switzerland will do for you.

Minor Celeb was a "babe" man - yuck.

Sports Nut was a fan of “trouble”, which is probably accurate, and “treacle”, which literally isn't.

Game Boy is the only person I've ever known to call me "lass", but only in writing, which is probably wise: given his decidedly un-Northern accent, I don't know that he'd be able to pull it off in speech.

And Guards Man, in his bizarre and inimitable way, calls everyone - male, female, old friend, new acquaintance (though hopefully not his commanding officer) - “Big Man”. Weird, but it works for him.

I'm not sure what sort of person all these monikers, taken together, suggest that I am. It's probably best not to think about it too deeply. But so long as it's not the type of person who ends all their emails with multiple kisses, I'm probably not too bothered.

Monday, 12 April 2010

In which I refuse to be distracted

Men are a species unto themselves. That’s nothing new. But today’s particular wee gripe pertains to the fact that the ones in my life seem to have some kind of sixth sense when it comes to attempts to jeopardise my dating schedule.

I was making my way into town for an eagerly anticipated first date with a guy about whom you’ve not yet heard (to a large degree, it’ll probably stay that way - he reads the blog. There’s only so much interweb scrutiny I’ll subject the chap to) when I was subject to a barrage of attention from various other male specimens in my life.

Hey, how’s life? Came the text from Long Term Ex. What’re you up to for Easter? Are you going to be at home? I’ve just finished a round of nights - bloody exhausted! x

I’ve not spoken to LTE in months, and not seen him in twice as long. I’ve both spoken to, and seen, his mother far more frequently and recently, not to mention a scheduled visit to his great-great uncle (who just so happens to have a deeply desirable address just moments from Small but Perfectly Formed Agency). Quite why LTE chose that particular moment to message, only the cosmos knows.

Then, thanks to the beauty of technology and the fact that I’ve now succumbed to the iPhone (and yes: portable Google Maps has changed my life), I was alerted to the fact that I’d also received an email that morning from The Yank, with whom email contact has been rather more frequent since he dropped out of US politics. In London for a few days with the new job, he suggested grabbing dinner.

I’ve not seen TY since… ooh, probably about 2007, so it’s not like we don’t have a bit to catch up on, but again: timing.

And then, wholly out of the blue, a message from Military Gal, hovering somewhere above War Zone:

Guards Man due to land home today. Don’t have his number. Pls call him and send love. Almost there now - just waiting to land in camp. See you in 6 months (tanned). Xxx
Which, of course, I didn’t do. On a non-selfish note, I rather think the last thing anyone would want after seven months in a war zone, fresh out of 24 hours’ ‘decompression’ in Cyprus (don’t get me started on the Army’s idea of after-care. It winds me up rather), would be to hear me wittering about… well, anything, actually. And on a selfish one, I had enough to think about, what with worrying about whether Date would notice that one of my newly-painted nails had a teeny tiny cat hair stuck in it (smooth, no?) to be able to process proper news about hand-to-hand combat.

So boys - any suggestions? What is it that makes you lot able to sniff out precisely the moment that people in whom you’ve previously been interested have dates with other men? Or do you just enjoy being difficult?

Whatever it is, please get rid of it, because at best, it’s slightly unnerving. At worst, it makes me think you’re channelling your inner stalker, and that’s not a happy thought for anyone. Let alone those of us whose idea of being able to run their life doesn’t even amount to whisker-free nails.

Thursday, 8 April 2010

In which I'm kissed by someone I shouldn't be, and I overuse parentheses

Much as I like to rail against the fact, I am sometimes a walking PR cliché.

Clutching a large skinny latte, I rolled into the office one recent morning at 9.45am (with permission, I hasten to add: that is my boss’ idea of a very late start) to spend an unproductive day at my desk battling a monster champagne hangover following a client’s awards party the previous evening. Yes, I am duly embarrassed.

The evening had been far more fun than I’d been expecting (not saying much, given my initial expectations). Liver Bird and I had trekked out to a large country house hotel the previous afternoon, clutching party shoes and the vain hope that we’d be stuck on a semi-decent table.

Checking in with the hundreds of people apparently crucial to the running of our client’s operation, Liver Bird hissed at me as we watched women schlep large dresses up the stairs: “I’m going to be massively underdressed! Did you see her?! She’s brought a full bloody ballgown!" I maintain that this is always going to be a problem when one issues an invitation where the dress code is: Black tie / Cocktail dress / Evening dress. It serves merely to confuse, and have people turning up in everything from fairly standard LBDs to - sadly, I kid you not - something that could have passed for an attempt at a bad wedding dress.

Thankfully, LB and I had pitched it somewhere in the middle with glossy knee-length numbers and having showered and tarted up, we made our way down to the champagne reception to mingle with our client and a whole raft of people we’ve never met before and will probably never meet again. Having been told by the MD that we “must be the PRs! You look like you spend your lives drinking champagne!” (don't get me started), we took our seats at Table 2 (Manolo knows how that happened) with the CEO and a couple of the managers of the brand’s venues.

Dinner and speeches progressed in fairly standard fashion (with the exception of my presenting an award - wasn’t expecting that), and the wine was flowing as I nattered away inanely to the frankly ridiculously good-looking Irish man on my right (seriously: no one needs cheekbones like that).

After supper, Liver Bird and I escaped to the bar to be plied with much booze by Chiselled Irishman and his peers. The hours swam by, and the bubbly continued to flow freely until there were all sorts of anecdotes spilling about grandees of the British stage and screen, much laughter and rather too much flirting. Having removed Chiselled Irishman’s hand from my waist as subtly as I could muster, I motioned to LB - by this point on the dance floor with a senior director who’s paid enough to know better - that I was going to bed.

“I’ll walk you up,” a low, lilting voice said in my ear.

We wandered up a couple of flights of stairs, until we came to my door.

“Hey, I’ve had a great night.” He leant in - I assumed to kiss me on the cheek. Except that didn't seem to be what he had in mind.

It took a couple of second to process the fact that Irish’s lips were pressed against mine, and his hand had moved to the back of my neck.

"Mmph!" I said pushing him away at the chest, the champagne fuzz clearing enough to know that this was a Very Bad Idea. "No."

"But I really like you." (Ah, booze: making people say things they don't mean since time immemorial.) "Can I have your number?"

"No, really, it's..."

"Ah, no, I’m being stupid - I already have it." I had rather counted on his being drunk enough not to remember that, because I’m his press officer, he already has access to all my contact details. No such luck. With which, he kissed me on the forehead, and made his way to his room.

And so, as I sat at my desk the following day, halfway through a burrito that constituted a futile attempt to feel more human, my battle with my self-dissatisfaction seemed no more successful than that with my hangover.

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

In which I date an overachiever

I had some, I think understandable, reservations about meeting The Athlete: being set up on a date by Old Friend is, as I've found, fraught with danger. However, OF finally seems to have grasped the concept that I’m more than capable of finding my own thoroughly unsuitable men, and it’s the non-gittish ones I have trouble tracking down.

And so, one Friday evening, I made my way to the Café Boheme in Soho to see whether The Athlete was as nice in person as he is on paper.

Which, pleasantly surprisingly, he is.

On my way now, my text said, as I made my way from the pub where I’d had a quick post-work drink with Hot Flyer Boy. To avoid any awkward I-have-no-idea-what-you-look-like incidents, am in full-length coat, pink scarf and embarrassingly scruffy blonde hair. Sorry about that.
“You don’t look scruffy at all,” a 6’2”, attractive blonde guy said to me, smiling (and fibbing), as I blustered in through the door. “Come on, I’ve got us a table.”

And there followed a really rather good evening. It wasn’t the great first date that I had with the Sports Nut, but it definitely wasn’t the night of deep and depressing mediocrity that I had with Lawyer (?) from Bar, either. There was no immediate, “must have you now” chemistry but, given the people I’ve had that with in recent years, and has been considered, that's not necessarily a deal-breaker.

With a background in civil engineering, The Athlete is, unsurprisingly, far less 'meeja' than SN (he gave me a totally blank look when I mentioned Twitter in passing; possibly No Bad Thing), but then he is also just a bit more (if you’ll forgive the Mitfordism) PLU.

He’s single, straight and as far as I can tell, doesn’t have a fetish for the coke (yes, kids - I’ve now added that to the things I’d like in a partner, given previous experiences. Not too much to ask, one might think). He’s well-mannered, and funny. He’s not yet thirty, owns his own home, and passes the “eaten alive by friends” test.

He’s bright, and ambitious: currently doing an MBA, he has two scholarships to one of the country’s most prestigious programmes, and an internship lined up for the summer. He’s looking to go into managament consultancy which shows, admittedly, a lack of imagination, but very good future earning potential.

And, something that I’ve not come across in anyone for rather a long time, The Athlete is also agreeably modest.

Discussing weekend plans, he talked about hitting the gym: “I, er, I do a bit of sport competitively, so I’m training at the moment.”

Having been told by Old Friend that The Athlete was an ex-GB triathlete, I pushed for a little more information.

“Yeah, well, I’ve got into triathlons recently, they’re a lot of fun. I was on the GB decathlon team a while ago, but I've decided triathlons are more my thing.”

Wow. Overachiever extraordinaire.

And so, when he gets back from his trip to Japan in three weeks’ time, I think I’ll probably catch up with him again. Not that I’ll admit that to Old Friend: there’s a supper at Le Gavroche at stake.

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