“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 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.
As you get older, friendships become so important. It’s ironic really, as often friends are the first thing to go in our big, busy lives. We get partners and kids and houses and suddenly we’re stressed, stressed, stressed and we’ve got no time and the babysitter just cancelled and why the fuck are my car keys in the dishwasher? and we let our friendships thin just at the time we need them most.
Regrets are terrible things. They’re like pieces of glass littering a beach. As you roam back over your memories it’s all warm and soft until you feel the sharp slice of them through your feet. They hold so much power. What could my life have been if only I had followed my heart, held my nerve, chased my dreams? The path you took will never be as exciting or fulfilling as the one that passed you by.
Unrequited love. It sounds so…dramatic doesn’t it? Like something from a novel or a film: “l’ll never love again!” she cried breathlessly. Unrequited love is champagne tears and silk gloves and morose diamonds in the moonlight. It’s mourning and yearning and summers in Paris in the arms of another lover. It’s sending away breakfast and picking at dinner and waiting for the hopeful ding of the postman’s bell. It’s an affliction of youth: a brief, sweet, bitter wail of despair, strong in its turn but swift to abate.