Wednesday, 29 September 2010

In which there are facial hair faux pas in the offing

It was a recent tweet from the lovely boys at Blokely* that reminded me that, as we hurtle rapidly towards the end of the year (a fact I’m in total denial about), the thing of beauty (and I use the term advisedly) that is Movember is almost upon us.

For those unfamiliar, Movember is a charity event that encourages men to grow moustaches throughout the month of November to raise money for prostate cancer charities.

Whilst I absolutely cannot fault the cause, I do admit to having a slight issue with the aesthetics – and I know I’m not alone.

As a gal of pale (and interesting…? We can but hope) hue, you’d be forgiven for thinking that I might be a fan of a clean-shaven chap. After all, I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve gone into the office, or popped round to The Mother’s, only to send prayers every which way that no one will notice the scratchy pink rash over my chin and the tip of my nose where evidence remains that I was indulging in kissing stubbly boys with hussy-like enthusiasm anything up to 56 hours before.

And yet I firmly believe, Army officers in their Number Ones notwithstanding, that all boys are hotter with stubble.

I’m not alone: a quick straw poll of the girls has shown it’s a popular opinion. But, of course, for facial hair to be hot, it has to be right.

It’s the weekend and I can’t be bothered to shave shadow ticks boxes for almost every girl I know. Sitting here now, I can’t think of anyone who’s ever said they prefer their boys clean-shaven. I defy you all to find any man on the planet who doesn’t look better on an unshaven Sunday than he does on a smart Monday morning.

Even beards, to some extent, can be rather attractive. For the baby-faced, a short, well-kept beard can add an air of worldliness and maturity (“although I do always wonder,” said PolitiGal when The Metrosexual’s came up in conversation some weeks ago, “whether they’re just hiding a weak chin”). Of course, much more than that and you’re straying dangerously close to ancient Lib Dem territory – add a pair of sandals and you’ll be mistaken for a vegetarian hippy, or David Bellamy, in no time.

(A good test to tell when your beard’s getting a little on the long side? When goes more ginger than any other colour, as all men’s inevitably seem to, it’s time to get the strimmer out. Boy in the City Whose Job I Don’t Understand refused to shave for the entirety of his three months’ recent gardening leave. The result? Orange and scary.)

And then, in its many forms as Movember reminds us, there’s the moustache.

I’m sorry chaps, but they look good on no one. Tom Selleck might just be the one man in history who’s ever successfully carried one off, but even he looks hotter without.

So, whilst you’re all doing your bit for a good cause, bear in mind your poor, suffering wife/girlfriend/flatmate. It’s not that she doesn’t love you, or admire what you’re doing. It’s just that she’d rather you kept the handlebars on your bike than your face.

*full disclosure: I witter on there, too, so I would say they’re lovely. But they are. My witterings are mainly about dates and dumping people. Y’know, in case you’re interested.

Monday, 27 September 2010

In which I attempt a grown-up approach

“So, how many dates have you been on recently?” Best Mate said, as we caught up over margaritas to discuss holidays (mine), new jobs (hers) and boys (all and sundry).

“Hmm,” I said, doing a quick mental calculation and coming to the conclusion that maths has never been my strong point. “Several.”

I reeled off names and scores out of ten as we discussed their relative merits and lack thereof.

“I must say, you don’t sound terribly excited about any of them,” she said.

“Well, none of them has inspired The Crazy,” I agreed, referring to that bizarre state we girls find ourselves in when faced with the fact that we really quite like someone: suddenly becoming utterly irrational, over-emotional harpies with no self-control. “But then, that’s probably no bad thing.”

It’s a conclusion I’ve already reached: that boys who inspire The Crazy aren’t, possibly counter-intuitively, the ones I actually want to be dating. This year - and, to be honest, previous years - have seen my heart do teeny little freefalls towards somewhere dangerous, only to be bruised in the process.

And so, from here on in, I’m going to be a little more realistic - nay, grown-up, about things.

I’m adopting a policy of not writing men off too quickly (bar the obvious no-hopers) before I’ve given them a real chance.

“I mean, charisma is all well and good,” I said, “but the trouble with being magnetically drawn to ‘em is that so is every other woman this side of the Watford Gap - as we well know. And frankly, I’m tired of being the awful cliché…”

“We’re all it, though,” Best Mate chipped in, reassuringly. “We all fall for them: the bad ones. Even if they don’t seem that bad to begin with. They’re the magnetic ones, and they’re fanciable.”

“Well, not any more,” I said. “I’m going to be sensible. Somewhere out there, there’s a perfectly suitable boy who’s just not been given a chance due to his lack of previous arseholeish behaviour. And if that means working my way through a few until I come across one who’s not bastardly, but not entirely hopeless either, then so be it. I mean, a girl’s got to eat. I may as well do so with a few nice men.”

And so it continues: a diary peppered with dates with boys who don’t seem capable of doing any lasting damage. Sensible and grown-up reigns. For now.

Monday, 20 September 2010

In which I go on a terrible, terrible date and eat my words

Some months ago, having sat through an evening of incredible mediocrity in the lovely Café Boheme with Lawyer (?) from Bar, I said I’d rather have a bad date than a mediocre one. Those words have come back to bite me - firmly, leaving teeth marks - on the arse. And, having spent an evening in the company of a man with so few redeeming features I was tempted to give up dating altogether and just acquire more cats, I take those words back.

Once one’s been on a certain number of dates, one learns a few tips and tricks that help sort the wheat from the chaff, and the chaff from the no-hopers. And if he takes you to a chain pub, rammed with bankers and estate agents in slightly shiny suits, you know you’re not on to a winner.

So it’s unsurprising that, as I stood recently in a pub of the above description in London Bridge, I had a definite sense of foreboding.

Sending a text to inform of my uncharacteristic punctuality, I asked Chap in Question what he was drinking. I expected a reply that would tell me wait, and he’d get the first round (equality be damned: some things are just good manners) or - at the very least - some kind of generic pint. When the reply bounced back of single vodka and diet coke please!, I considered my options and very nearly left then and there.

And I wish I had, because what followed was a litany of terrible.

Having given the matter some serious consideration as Best Mate and I contemplated margaritas, I’m still at a loss to work out which of his features was least redeeming.

I don’t know whether it was his first anecdote about still being hungover from his previous night out at a ‘hot burlesque place’; his declaration that Russell Brand’s autobiography was the last great book he read; his assertion that he’s deeply interested in food and drink, and seriously into his music, yet his preferred wine is Chardonnay, and favourite band Keane.

Whether it was the fact that, despite being in his early thirties, he’s so far from being grown up as it’s possible to be without physically being in aisle two at Toys Я Us; whether it’s that he’s exceptionally proud of owning a house without being house-proud (seriously: how does anyone go eight months without owning anything to sit on?); that he thinks a wine rack containing four whole bottles (presumably of Chardonnay) is the pinnacle of sophistication.

Whether it was his total awe at having been to a black tie event at Christmas (spoken of with such fascination, I think it might have been the first time he ever put on a dinner jacket); his wonder at an upcoming work project of mine that’ll involve a couple of celebrities as if I’d mentioned I’d be working with a Nobel laureate; his embarrassment at partaking in any activities that he deemed ‘geeky’ (as far as I could tell, that’s pretty much anything that doesn’t involve getting utterly hammered).

It could have been the trying too hard; the faint tones of homophobia in his unfunny jokes; his terrible, total insistence on the glottal stop. His teeth. The peculiarly bad watch.

I could go on. But I won’t.

Just as I won’t, ever again, claim that a bad date isn’t the very worst kind.

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

In which I consider dating many men

I’m often convinced of the merits of the argument that if one of a thing is good, then more of that thing is better: glasses of good red; excellent tiramisu; glorious sex. But I’ve recently found myself in the position to consider whether dating falls into the same category, and whether it is, in fact, acceptable to date more than one chap at once.

I, perhaps understandably given my history in general and this year in particular, have a relaxed approach to the multiple dating thing. I have few qualms about going for drinks with several different men, in the knowledge (or, vain hope) that things might lead elsewhere with any of them. And I feel the same way about those chaps with whom I’m having that drink - I have no problems with their taking out women who aren’t me. At such early stages where dalliances are still so casual, a drink is just a drink. Before anything has gone anywhere; before the getting-to-know-each-other stage where skeletons and emotional attachments to exes have revealed themselves, everything’s fair game.

But while my attitude is definitely at the laissez-faire end of the spectrum, and were I living somewhere like NYC would probably be accepted as The Done Thing, I’m not sure that British men - even the supposedly / comparatively* sophisticated London types with whom most of my dates happen - would feel the same way.

Just to make the case that I’m not an utterly shameless harlot, I’d like to take the opportunity that glasses of wine are all that’s being shared. Whilst the diary’s filled with social appointments, there is definitely no naked naughtiness happening with any of them (and, as of many months now, not even Speckled naughtiness. I’m growing up. Sort of).

For, whilst I wouldn’t consider a glass of wine to be anywhere on the infidelity scale, I don’t know that the boys would have the same approach, and I don’t know whether the comparative chastity would be enough to convince my dates that I wasn’t playing the part of London’s sluttiest strumpet.

There is part of me that likes to think that, were I to be brazenly open about the fact that there were several chaps on the agenda, the guys’ inherent competitive natures might rise to the fore, viewing the situation as a challenge rather than an insult. But one never does know…

Of course, failing everything else, there is always, and reliably, that extra glass of red.

*delete as appropriate

Monday, 13 September 2010

In which dating and exams have much in common

I have come to the conclusion that the best way to get rid of the butterflies that tend to appear before a date is to go on so many dates that they just don’t matter.

If I’d given the subject any sort of thought, it’s a tactic that’d’ve come to me before now, having attended the school I did.

For us, school wasn’t focussed quite so much on an overall education that would create well-rounded inviduals as a place that coached its gels (hard ‘g’) - to within an inch of their lives - to pass exams. There were end of term exams; mock end of term exams; entrance exams; end of year exams; music exams; speech exams; just for the hell of it exams - and that was before GCSEs were even on the horizon. By the Upper VIth, you could have put a paper in front of us in Hebrew and - regardless of whether we’d seen a Hebrew character in our lives - we’d pass. It’s what we were trained to do. Most of our Classics class got 100% in at least two papers, for Pete’s sake - and not all of us had read any, let alone all, of the Odyssey.

The same principle applies to dates: go on enough of them, and you’ll suddenly be utterly unfazed, even by the prospect of yet another first date.

You’ll have worked out the perfect first date top: the one that’s seemingly demure, with the conservatively high neck that actually drapes over the boobs just so, and is just sheer enough to be sexy rather than slutty.

You’ll have a list of venues to go to that’ll be quiet enough to hear each other speak, but with enough going on that, in an awkward pause, there’ll be something to comment on to spark a conversation.

You’ll have a list of suitable conversation topics down to a tee, knowing exactly what works, what doesn’t; which throwaway, self-deprecating lines raise a chuckle and which clearly sail straight over men’s heads, merely making you look like a nut job with low self-esteem.

Of course, having no nerves at all prior to these things can, of course, be counterproductive: rather than being excited about, and interested by, the person on the other side of the bottle of Malbec, one can find oneself simply going through the motions - something a girl should never, ever find herself doing.

Which is precisely how I came to view the exams. But hell - I always managed to pass those… If only dating were quite so easy.

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