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97. The language of love

I have a friend who’s been seeing someone for a long time. They’re a fantastic match: epicurean, cultured and refined, but not at all pretentious. If they were a night out they’d be an evening at the opera followed by a deep fried Mars bar. They work hard, travel and enjoy a luxurious, instagrammable lifestyle. Life’s a beach – or, in their case, a museum, a spa or a secluded treehouse in the heart of the Lake District.

And yet, a couple of months ago he told her he loved her and she didn’t reciprocate. “I just don’t know,” she said, “sometimes I’m so happy but then…I have doubts. How do you know?” When I asked her about it recently she replied, “we don’t talk about it,” which I took as my cue to stick a Mars bar in it.

Our conversation made me reflect on how you know you really love someone. How do you sort the wheat from the chaff, the yays from the nays, the ‘One’ from the still wondering? The Oxford English Dictionary defines love thus:

Love, n. an intense feeling of romantic attachment based on an attraction felt by one person for another; intense liking and concern for another person, typically combined with sexual passion

That’s all very well, but I’ve had a lot of those feelings in my life and I haven’t expressed them all in loving terms. Frankly, I find it a bit odd we’ve even attempted a definition for something so slippery and nebulous. How can anyone objectively know what love is when we all experience it differently? I’m sorry to say, Whitney, that my love isn’t your love.

Nevertheless, we strive to find a common thread in infinite permutations of admiration, respect, connection, attraction and lust. We expose emotion to the clumsy inarticulacy of language. Every pang, throb and palpitation is thrust under a microscope for dissection; all the shifting colours of the human heart slapped into buckets like shades of Dulux paint. Maybe some things should be private, intimate, beyond the grasping intellects of the verbal bean counters. Maybe some things should be beyond compare.

Sometimes I think I have an “intense feeling of romantic attachment based on attraction” for the Thai. Once I came close to saying it. It was on the tip of my tongue, it just wouldn’t take the plunge: come on you bastard, jump. Other times, I’m not so sure. Saying “I love you” at our age feels more serious, more final somehow. You’re no longer saying it for teenage kicks or for kindness or as a fleeting fancy from which you can rapidly back peddle. This could really be it. Marriage. Kids. They’re just a slip of the tongue away.

Is this love? Do I love? Perhaps some more research is needed. I’ve yet to see what the bean counters make of: Adoration, n.

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96. Female pattern baldness

One of the dating rituals I find most irritating is the trend for a shaved muff. As a working woman, I resent how expensive, sore, fiddly, cold and time-consuming it is. Sure, I’ve been working all week, studying for a diploma, going to the gym, making a curry, calling my mother, doing the food shopping, planning my weekend, doing my tax return, dismantling the Christmas tree, renewing some library books, vacuuming my bedroom, trying to work out where to recycle lightbulbs and sniffing the air vent to make sure the old lady next door’s not accidentally gassing herself – BUT PLEASE, LET ME SHAVE MY PUSSY FOR YOU.

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95. Very important Posse

I’ve invited the Thai for lunch with my friends.

I don’t often introduce the people I’m seeing to my friends. It’s not that I’m sniffy or pompous about these things. It’s that I rarely date anyone where I can see a possible future and so don’t want to insinuate a closeness I don’t feel. When I eventually introduced Blue Eyes to my friends it felt like more obligatory than celebratory – the grudging culmination of 6 months of rocky dating.

I’m also protective of my friendship group. I’ve worked hard to cultivate it, collecting my friends over the years like beloved bric-a-brac. Some I found myself, others I borrowed and others I stole, stuffing them in my pocket and legging it before anyone noticed. Ha! They’re mine now, suckers! Read More

94. Out with the old

How are you getting on with your resolutions? Have you collapsed headfirst into a tiramisu yet? Lost all feeling in your thighs? Have you had a breakdown in the supermarket, entering with a shopping list of quinoa, beetroot and kale and leaving in tears with 12 tubs of butter?

I can’t stand new years resolutions, aka, the annual flogging and gruel parade. I personally think it’s a miracle there aren’t more kale-related attacks at this time of year. I keep expecting to walk into my local grocer’s and see people lobbing mushrooms at one another, giggling uncontrollably and shouting FATTY BOOM BOOM.

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93. Baby, it’s cold outside

The Thai and I are seeing each other again. I first bumped into her at a fancy dress party looking cute in a unicorn horn. Three weeks later I bumped into her in my bed looking cute in nothing at all. I had assumed she’d want nothing to do with me after the whole fiasco with the Friend, but when she drunk texts me at 5am I know she’s still a tiny bit interested.

Still, it’s not easy. Gradually it becomes clear there’s a wall between us, but no matter how much I scrabble and claw at it, the only place I can get a leg over is in the bedroom. I peel off her clothes trying to get closer but she’s miles away. “Do you trust me?” I ask her. “No,” she replies simply. 

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92. Dear Santa

I think I’d like a girlfriend for Christmas.

I know, I know I should be a fabulous, independent woman: shakes tits aggressively. The thing is, I’d love to have someone to shake my tits at. And not just temporarily for a few nights or months but in a long-term, soft, loving sort of way; more like a very gentle tit wagging in front of the telly.

I’d like a partner for all the usual reasons –  the kisses and head stroking and lazy late night cuddles – but also for the less usual reasons, the practical reasons, that tend to be forgotten in an age where everyone’s googly-eyed with romance.

Sure, it’s nice to have someone to hold hands with in the cinema but what about someone who can write a really superb angry complaint letter? And yes, I like surprise flowers as much as the next person but what about surprise home insurance renewal? Or surprise fixing of the boiler? “Surprise! I checked land registry records and you do own the extra 3 feet of garden you’ve been cultivating into a tiny orchard.” “THANK YOU, I LOVE YOU, YOU’RE THE MOST HELPFUL HUMAN I’VE EVER MET, PLEASE MARRY ME.”

Maybe I’ll start a range of really honest wedding cards:

Congratulations on finding someone to freak out with when a huge poo gets stuck in your loo

Hooray! No more sexually transmitted diseases unless they cheat

Mrs & Mrs & a whole bunch of tax breaks.

Congratulations on your marriage! Now people are more like to visit your grave because it feels like less of a hassle to visit two dead friends rather than one.

There are times when I feel with a painful pang this lack of another person in my life. Like when I get sick one weekend, the kind of sickness that upends bottom and bowels and leaves you weeping into the toilet bowl. I shuffle from bed to bog and back again with my dribbly arse and wish desperately that I had a contractual arrangement that would force someone to, literally, take responsibility for this shit. Or, at the very least, go get more food so I don’t have to strategically time trips to the supermarket in between poos.

Or the times when I have someone round who’s thinking of renting my second bedroom and I worry because it’s a man. What if he attacks me? The belligerent single woman in me thinks I CAN PROTECT MYSELF but the truth is I can’t. The only exercise I do are dance lessons. What am I going to do, stun him into submission with a wobbly 3-minute sequence to Lady Marmalade? Hip thrust my way to safety? It’s times like this when I feel intensely vulnerable, when all the romantic claptrap and fanfare seem so arbitrary against the basic human need just to feel safe. I don’t need a hero in my life, but sometimes I’d really like a heroine.

So there it is. This Christmas, I’d like a girlfriend who can write complaint letters, renew my home insurance, fix my boiler, check land registry records, look after me when I have chronic diarrhoea and hide in the cupboard with a knife when I’m showing strange men round my house.

Any takers?


Photo by Caleb Woods on Unsplash



91. The truth is out there

There are few things more nebulous or slippery in this world than the truth. Two people might experience the exact same thing, yet somehow one can see a pond and the other an ocean. Whether the truth is a pond or an ocean doesn’t matter. When there’s no one to vouch for you, every truth is just a story you hope others will believe.

Sometimes we misuse truth. We abuse it. We rip it to sheds and sew it up differently, then hide the needle and thread so no one knows what we’ve done: Look what you did we cry, pointing at this new thing whilst the other person stumbles and stalls and tries to remember.

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90. Baser instinct

Waking up with the older woman, there’s a sourness in the air. I feel vaguely disgruntled that I’ve come all this way and paid all this money and given myself to someone for nothing. If I had a bed post, I’d carve her notch lightly – just a shadow in the wood, a whisper, something you could easily forget.

All morning she irritates me. She makes bad coffee and sniffs constantly and it takes her so long to do her hair and make-up that we end up having breakfast at 12.30. Being hungry is a running theme for the weekend; the night before we had dinner after 10. That fact alone would be enough for me to never see her again. If I’m not going to come, I’d at least like a delicious breakfast.

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89. Sex on the beach

I’ve come to the coast: to sea air and fish suppers and my third date with the older woman. She’s invited me to her holiday home, a flat with very high ceilings and a sliver of sea view.

“It’s not quite finished,” she says self-consciously on arrival, “the bathrooms aren’t quite to my taste.”

“It’s beautiful,” I reply.

We have a quick drink before we head out, softening the evening in white wine. She’s wearing a low cut top and her cleavage winks at me from across the living room. “Come sit next to me,” she says, patting the sofa and I duly pad across the floor.

Drinks finished, we head out for the evening. She’s made plans for us to watch a bonfire show: a mad, visceral thing where pissed villagers in frilly headdresses wave lit torches around and set off fireworks worryingly close to one another’s beards. The whole thing is hot and loud as hell and I get a brilliant flash of schadenfreude as, one by one, crying children have to be taken home.

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88. Putting the kids to bed

I like dating older people. Back when I dated men, my boyfriends were often older than me by 4, 5, 6, sometimes 7 years.  It’s not that they were better, more that they knew themselves better. They had experience. They knew what they liked and what they didn’t and sometimes they could see things I couldn’t – a mental or intellectual spark hovering between us like a firefly.

They also didn’t mess about. They were frank about their feelings: I like you, I love you, let’s live together. There was rarely any drama or bullshit or games with older men because mostly they had no time for it. Being with an older man was like stepping off a merry-go-round and feeling the world slowly right itself.

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