“Go on, send her a message.” “No.” “It’ll be fun! Look, she’s a pole dancer!” “No, what’s the point? I’ll be going home soon.” “That’s the point! Or what about this one? She’s cute.” “Dammit woman, no! I don’t want to have empty sex with some stranger.” “Fine.” The holiday romance. It’s a slippery little bugger. It seems so magical in the books: star-drenched walks on the beach; coconutty limbs panting in hot sand; sea kisses, one hand tugging at the back of a bikini; Aperol and passione and tears at the quayside as you say farewell. It’s a bloody sham, I tell you. The only holiday romance I ever had was when I snogged a spotty teenager and then watched him try on my bras. No Aperol for me: Here, have this bubblegum-flavoured vodka and touch my willy. Thanks, but I think I’ll pass.
I think I’ve realised why people get married so young. I always wondered what the big rush was. What’s your hurry honey? Forever can wait another year or two. Strap on a backpack and hit the road. See the world. Make love with the wrong people. Make friends with the right people. Mess up. Learn. Fill your head with memories that will nourish you in the decades to come. Well, what do I know? I should have gotten hitched when I had the chance. Because once you’re in your thirties your time disappears. Poof. Gone. But, wait, it was right here. It was right fucking here! Where did it go? Two words: rat race. I am in it, my friends. The pistol was fired, I started jogging and a decade later I had morphed into the human equivalent of IBM. I am a keyboard. I am a logo. I am emails-on-the-go and coffee going cold and back-to-back-to-back-to-back-to-back-to-black meetings.
Forgive my ignorance, but what’s the deal with the whole lesbian vs bisexual thing we’ve got going on? I’ve felt it, the fear and the resentment and the wilful misunderstanding simmering beneath the surface. Sometimes it bursts out on Twitter or Facebook like an angry boil and the trolls crawl out from under their bridges with spikes. How did we get here and why? It’s even touched my own relationships. Several of the women I’ve dated have been bisexual. When I talk about being gay, almost every one of them has rushed to clarify their sexual status: “Um, actually I’m bisexual. Is that okay?” Well, of course it is – why wouldn’t it be? I don’t care how a woman identifies – gay, lesbian, bi, queer, trans, label-less, otter. You want to go and start building little houses in streams? Go for it. I got your back, beautiful. As long as you love me.
I often forget how lucky I am to live in a city like London, surrounded by people who are open-minded. Other people talk sometimes about the pressure from friends and families to settle down and I find it all a bit bemusing: But, why do they care? It strikes me that it must be hard not to internalise that pressure, to suck it all up like a mouthful of slime. Worry. Fear – it’s catching. Quick! Everyone shack up before the music stops! (Tip: the music doesn’t stop until you die, kids.) Every now and then I get my own, sharp taste of it. Like when I met up with an aunt recently, who I haven’t seen in 2 years and who doesn’t know I’m out. She walks through my front door and as she’s wriggling out of her coat, shrieks “now darling, why aren’t you married yet?”
I had a friend once who had feelings for me. Actually, let me not mince my words, Englishify them like a cup of weak tea. He said he was in love with me. We were friends for years, first at work and then at play and I think, deep down, I always knew how he felt. A love like that finds ways to escape, in looks or gestures or the occasional drunken slur: “so, do you fancy going for dinner and then I love you let’s get married checking out thingy’s party?” Did I try and temper his feelings? Encourage him to meet other women? Give him space? No. I liked it.
I have a complex relationship with getting older. On the one hand, I love getting to know myself, all my strengths and weakness and weirdnesses. I love unpicking the assumptions I’ve made about myself and watching them slither to the floor: oh, so you do like mushrooms; you are an outdoorsy person; see, you are brave. When you’re young, you’re always rushing to fall in with the crowd. You wear shoes that are wonky on your feet because you want to fit in. Age brings understanding and confidence. You start to coax the real person out from their hidey hole, bit by bit, until all of a sudden they’re standing tall beside you. On the other hand, as soon as I hit my thirties, my tits collapsed. It was like – BYE! Have a nice life! I went from being a Baywatch Babe to basically a surfing board with a couple of very old balloons taped to the front, dangling in the wind.
Recently I was chatting to an old colleague, who’s in a long-term relationship but has started having feelings for women: “I don’t know whether to talk to my boyfriend or just, you know…go have fun,” she said, flushing. Maybe…try not to cheat?” I said gently.