An encounter

It’s a chilly Sunday, and I’ve joined the early-morning scrum for the organic veggies down on the market. I’m just loading up my bike when one of the homeless guys wanders over to watch. He’s neatly turned out with a blazer over his jumper, and a woolly hat pulled down low onto his eyebrows.

“Here,” he says. “I’ve got a joke for ya. What’s got 99 legs and limp?”

I look at him for a few seconds, then with a twinkle in my eye, I say, “Surely you mean, ‘What goes 99-clonk, 99-clonk?’”*

He looks at me, and thinks for a minute. Then, matching me twinkle for twinkle, he starts to laugh.

“Yeh,” he admits. “You’re right. 99-clonk! Anyway, I’ve got another. What have you got, that I haven’t got? And I don’t mean anything sexual,” he adds, hastily.

“A bike?” I guess. He shakes his head.

Wondering if this is leading into a request for a donation, I decide to tackle it head on.

“A house?”

“Well, yeh,” he says, suddenly sheepish. “But not that.”

I run through several other possible options, from the veggies I’m carrying to the gloves I’m wearing.

“Nah, nah,” he says, “I’m not gonna tell ya. Well, alright … I’ll tell ya. But only because I like ya.” Pausing for dramatic effect, he affects a triumphant tone, and says, “A ladder!”

I look at him for a moment, perplexed.

“But I haven’t got a ladder…”

“Haven’t ya?” he says, equally perplexed.

“No…” I say, and there’s a moment’s silence, before we both burst out laughing.

“I tell ya what,” he says, as we exchange pleasantries and wish each other a good day, “you’re just my kind of woman, y’know that? Just my kind of woman.”

And I smile.

*For the uninitiated, this time-old joke refers to a centipede with a wooden leg. Yeh, I know, I know…

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Unsuitable man #3: The Young Swede

Tonight I’m out with the delectable fellow that shall be referred to as The Young Swede. He’s everything you could want in a man: intelligent, good looking and sensitive, with a smart-arse sense of humour. Kissing him is as celestial as being surrounded by a host of cherubim and seraphim.

We share so many likes and dislikes that you couldn’t make it up: we snark sarcastically at the same things, but we also share a love of traditions and travelling, home-made food and foreign languages, cycling, hiking and an unquenchable desire to challenge the status quo. So, gentle reader, you might be asking yourself how this bundle of delectable manhood qualifies as Unsuitable Man #3.

Well, it’s an irremediable flaw that makes a mockery of all his fine qualities and cocks a snook at Cupid’s misguided intentions: the Young Swede is ten years my junior.

Now, this may not be wildly important in the Grand Scheme of Things, and to be honest I quite like the idea of being labelled a ‘cougar’, but if we’re thinking in terms of childbearing (and I suspect that one of us is thinking about it rather more than the other), it’s a dead duck.

And herein the rub. Do you sacrifice a whole heap of fun, just because the template isn’t right, or do you keep on having a ball, only to wake up one day to find that your ovaries have withered and your mother’s sobbing into her hanky because she’s never going to be a grandma?

As it turns out, in this particular case, the decision is made for me: the Young Swede has decided that I’m past my sell-by date and has rather unceremoniously – but of course, quite charmingly – dumped me. Of course, he’s far too fabulous for us not to remain friends, but guess what? I’m still bloody single.

Eye-gazing: the latest way to meet your man…

It’s not every day you get the invitation to stare meaningfully into someone’s eyes for a whole two minutes, exchanging nary a word, but that’s what’s landed in my inbox today.

A friend, mindful of my unrelenting failure with the opposite sex, has forwarded me an email invite to an Eyegazing Meet Up, where equal numbers of men and women will attempt to find love in total and utter silence. I’m intrigued.

Billed perplexingly as, “the Cadillac of ice-breakers”, surely it has to be an improvement on banal chitchat and those awkward, unintentional silences that stretch their toes among the unsuspecting participants of standard get-to-know-you dating events?

Besides, I’m curious to know what sort of a person goes to Eyegazing sessions. An added incentive is that it’s in central London, where I’m unlikely to know anyone and even less likely to bump into them again if it all proves a bit too quirky for my taste.

So here I am, at a cosy little bar near Earl’s Court, all lined up with other hopeful singles, and ready to get gazing. After a quick explanation of the etiquette, our compère cranks up the music and our first two minutes begin.

Guy #1 can barely look me in the eye. Luckily, my total lack of shame or, some might say, decorum means that I have no problem eyeballing the poor fella for the full two minutes. He has quite a benign presence, and it’s no problem to gaze into his eyes before we thank each other and move on to the next person.

What’s surprising to me is how some of the guys seem to take it as an exercise in intimidation. Surely if you’ve made all the effort to come to an event like this, at the very least you should be open-minded towards its potential benefits…?

But here I am exchanging menacing stares with some guy I’ve already branded an arrogant idiot, before he’s even said a word. Of course, it says a lot about me that I rise to the bait, but as he shoves his face intimidatingly close to mine, I respond by lurching even closer, and we end up glaring fiercely into each other’s eyes at a distance of 3.5cm.

Gazer #3 fancies himself as the comedy element, and glides his head up, down and from side-to-side, all without ever breaking eye contact. I raise an unimpressed eyebrow by way of response.

Finally I meet another normal human being – an Italian guy whose eyes are friendly and smiley and we pass our two minutes in companionable silence.

Having lived in Italy for a few years, I seem to be an Italian magnet, and he and I gravitate to each other in the break. Although he’s great company, he doesn’t set my heart a-flutter. But he’s here with a female friend, who also turns out to be great fun. We arrange to go for a drink together soon.

So alas, no romance, but at least I’ve made another couple of interesting friends. But I’m still bloody single. Hmmmph.

Unsuitable man #2: the 21-year-old

Well, the new year has barely started, but my Unsuitable Man count is already off to a healthy start…

Travelling alone always seems to bring the young, single men out of the woodwork, and today’s blog post comes to you from the east coast of Australia, where I’m currently sunning myself in the way that only self-employed (and self-indulgent) people can.

Travelling alone means that you tend to strike up conversations with all sorts of people that you wouldn’t normally encounter, such as the rather buff Dan, from the good old US of A. He’s been travelling around Australia, I learn, but now he’s stopped on the Gold Coast, taking the chance to earn a few dollars before he gets back on the trail.

He’s whaffing down Jack Daniels and coke from his very own bottle that’s perched on the table. I’m in awe of the amount that he can drink, and he’s in awe of my ability to drink the Jack neat. It’s a match made in heaven.  If only he were not 21.

Now, I admit that I look at 21-year-old travellers with a mix of reverence and benign affection: I’m hugely impressed at their ability to haul themselves round the world at such a tender age, whilst keeping themselves in one piece. But I never once look at 21-year-old travellers as potential snogees, because it would be bordering on child abuse. Shame no one’s told Dan.

As the JD goes down, he gets freer with his affections. He is, as I said, pretty buff, but he’s TWENTY-ONE. Loathe as I am to reveal my age, I see it as the only proper course of action.

“Dan,” I say. “I’m not going to come clubbing. I’m 35.”

“No way!” he explodes, in mock-indignation, “No way! You only look, like, 25!”

I hate to point out that this is probably down to the JD that he’s been inhaling, but anyway, the cruel truth doesn’t seem to have dinted his ardour. He’s insistent that my evening can only be enhanced by grooving and gurning with him and his mates in the local sweatbox.

However tempting the offer may be, I’ve got a bus to catch at 6am, so I stand firm and am rewarded by several long and overly-sentimental hugs, while his bored mates look on.

Twenty-one. Bloody hell. I’m not sure whether to be flattered or appalled…

Unsuitable man #1: the urologist

In the continuing hilarity that is my single existence, it’s not that I don’t attract men. No, it’s that the men I attract are of the wholly inappropriate kind.

The latest trend seems to be that I attract men UNDER the age of 25, or OVER the age of 55. All of whom are, I’m sure, utterly delectable, but pretty useless as potential partners. Now, I know age isn’t important, but there have to be some limitations…

Just this morning, a gentleman that I’ll refer to as ‘mature’ struck up conversation with me.  Within five minutes, I’d discovered that he was from Jordan, he’d been in the UK for 25 years and that he worked as a urologist at the local hospital. All very nice, but if I’m totally honest, I’d viewed our encounter more in the light of a polite exchange with a senior citizen, than a preliminary courtship ritual between two potential daters .

As I took my leave, I said, “Well, have a good day. This is a very small city; I’m sure we’ll see each other around.” To which he replied, with an undeniable twinkle in his eye, “Well, we could always ARRANGE to see each other.”

How is it that a gentleman of 60 has the chutzpah to proposition a whippersnapper (just over) half his age??

Ladies, there’s a lesson there for all of us. He who dares doesn’t always win, but I guess –cliché #1 – you’ve got to be in it to win it and – cliché #2 – you’ll have plenty of fun trying.

The lot of a singleton

On good days, I congratulate myself on the footloose and fancy-free lifestyle that allows me to drink Cosmopolitans on a school night and jet off to exotic locations at the drop of a hat.

On bad days, I lament the lack of a warm body beside me in bed, ready to share life’s joys and sorrows and, more prosaically, baby-making ingredients and a mortgage.

Rummaging through a drawer full of old papers, I came across a dog-eared essay, written in pencil, titled, “My life in the year 2000”. The pigtailed, eight-year-old version of myself had written, “I’m going to go to Oxford or Cambridge and study English or Maths and get a degree before I’m 20. In the year 2000, I will be married to a handsome man. We will have two children (a boy and a girl).”

Well, the year 2000 has been and gone and the knight in shining armour has yet to appear. I’ve become one of the thousands of smart and sassy single ladies out there, all slowly losing faith in Cupid’s bow-slinging abilities… I mean, really, what’s a single girl got to do to find a decent man?!

It seems to me, that by the time you reach 35, all the good men have been taken. The slightly dysfunctional ones have been chewed up and spat out again, and are ready to take up with another willing victim. They’re no less dysfunctional than before, except now they come with tons of baggage and a part-time childcare schedule.

Once you discount the too old, the too young, the too embittered, the too intellectually challenged…. well, let’s just say that you’re left with about 1% of the available gene pool. And I’ve already dated half of them.

Of course, I have to ask myself which category I fall into. Presumably, since I’m still hanging around on the shelf, I don’t fall into many men’s, “single, willing and normal” category. I need to find myself a normal, semi-good-looking weirdo, and fast.