Textual frustration

OK, so if a guy texts you all the time, does it necessarily mean he’s interested?

I only ask because I’ve struck up a textual relationship with a Darkly Intriguing Man From The Gym but – as usual – my general stupidity with people of the male persuasion means I have no clue if he’s just being friendly… or not.

It started out with polite arrangements for an event we were both attending. From there, we progressed to coffee dates, and now we’re embroiled in long and daft text conversations once or twice a day. He texts me to comment on the weather, to tell me where he is and, of course, to invite me for coffee. Occasionally, he adds kisses.

When we meet, however, the conversation is strictly platonic; there’s no attempt at intimacy or, it has to be said, flirtation. Yet we’ve exchanged over 150 texts in two weeks.

A friend who caught us supping coffee in the park dedicated a generous amount of time to nudging and winking when we subsequently met up, but that’s because my friends are unaccustomed to seeing me alone with any male who hasn’t designated me an Honorary Sister.

No, there’s nothing remotely nudge-worthy about it. And that’s what I find a little perplexing. I’d be perfectly inclined to assume that the DIMFTG is just a mate, but my girlfriends insist that guys only get that text-happy with ladies they like.

If they’re right, I’m more emotionally stupid than I thought.

It’s not that the DIMFTG isn’t attractive – he’s a perfectly charming and handsome man. In fact, being tall(ish), dark and handsome, he’s pretty much exactly my type. Incredibly, he’s neither under the age of 25 nor over the age of 55; in fact, he’s more or less my age. And he appears to have all his own teeth. So I wouldn’t be totally impervious to any romantic approach, should he be keen to chance his arm. I just haven’t a clue if he’s remotely interested in me – or indeed, in ladies in general.

This total inability to read 21st century mating signals is surely a contributing factor to my single status. Basically, unless a guy is wearing a t-shirt declaring his intentions, I can’t believe he finds me attractive.

And even if he is wearing the t-shirt, I’d assume he was addressing someone else.

Should any guy want to try his luck with me, he’d better be bloody direct: subtle hints and sideways glances run off me like rainwater off a waxed weasel.

The indecently direct approach – snog first, chat later – at least had the dual benefit of unmistakably declaring intent, without giving me time for contemplation. But it’s certainly not for everybody. And I suspect that it can only really be attempted after a vodka party.

Anyway, the DIMFTG is very pleasant company, so I’m not too worried either way. If he’s not interested, I’ve got a great mate. And if he is… expect to hear about it very soon.


Guerrilla tactics and growing up

So, the clocks have changed, spring has sprung and here I am: still as single as can be.

If I’m to avoid an old age surrounded by cats, I’ve decided that I need a strategy. It’s all very well hoping that I meet some delicious young gentleman to sweep me off my feet, but thirty-five years’ worth of experience tells me it’s not going to happen spontaneously.

More recent experience tells me that trying to force Cupid’s hand by parading myself on dating sites isn’t the way forward either. And although I dearly love my gang of mates, I fear that Cupid is unlikely to strike in their presence: since I’m one of the oldest in the group, there aren’t (m)any candidates for the position of potential beau.

So my all-new battle plan hinges on tipping the odds in my favour and hanging out with the right demographic: if I make more grown-up friends, I’ll meet more grown-up men and therefore increase my chances of finding a grown-up man who wants to date me. Simple, non?

Of course, there is – as always – a teensy flaw in the plan: hanging out with grown-ups means that I have to grow up. And this thought fills me with dread.

The fact is that growing up – I mean, really growing up – doesn’t appeal to me much as a concept. It may be that from my disadvantaged viewpoint I’ve got the wrong end of the stick, but to me growing up means mortgages and obligation, being where you don’t necessarily want to be, and not having the option of running away if you need to.

I suppose it also means stability, security and certainty… but none of these sounds particularly sexy or appealing to my ears.

Growing up also seems to signify the end of youthful ideals, the death of dreams, and the sudden desire to own any number of pointless electronic goods that fill the hole where excitement and fun used to be.

In terms of material acquisitions, I’m lagging sadly behind my classmates – I’ve got a pushbike, a stereo and a battered old car, but I fall short on the house, the SUV and the 42” surround-sound TV.

To be honest though, I really don’t give two hoots about that kind of thing.

In fact, I quite like the fact that if I really wanted, I could drop everything and move to Timbuktu tomorrow, unencumbered by any of my possessions. Naturally, I’m far too sensible to do that (more’s the pity), but I like the feeling that there’s nothing to stop me.

I once had a friend who took it into his head to own no more than he could carry. Of course, he took it to the extreme – to the point where he had to wear a blanket when his trousers were on their annual wash – but something inside me applauds the sentiment.

I passed by the Apple store the other day. It was the first sunny day of the year, and the excitement of picnics, barbeques and lazy afternoons spent idling with friends was fizzing in my veins.

In the shopping centre, there was a long, long queue of people waiting and waiting for their turn to buy the latest hi-tech, go-faster gadget on the first day of its release. I wanted to shake them by the shoulders and force them out into the sun, force them to sniff the spring air, force them to dream a little bit.

Now, I know as well as anyone that there’s different strokes for different folks, but really, when you’re old and toothless are you really going to look back with fondness on the day you queued at the Apple store? Of course everyone’s different, but my memories are made of good times: good food, good weather and – especially – good company.

Anyway, in light of all this, I can see that my battle plan doesn’t go far enough.

Meeting grown-ups is all well and good, but what I’m actually looking for is slightly childish grown-ups with a highly developed sense of fun and an underdeveloped love of material goods. It’s a small and rarefied subset of society … which might explain why I’m still bloody single.

So, I appeal to you now, good people: get your thinking caps on! Do you know any individuals who fit this rather exacting description? If the answer’s no, I definitely need a Plan B.

Megghiu sula ca malaccumpagnata

This time next month, I’ll have been single for two years. And, far from being the tragic period of penance you might imagine, it’s actually been quite fun.

Obviously, the first month or two was a period of mourning, where I was most likely to be found wallowing in a pool of tissues and tears. And that wasn’t remotely fun.

But even though it was hellish at the time, in retrospect even that particularly huge cloud had a spangly silver lining: it made me realise who my friends were.

Yep, it’s a cliché, but the girlfriends who listened to my wailing and teeth-gnashing not only earned my eternal gratitude, they also went up a notch in my estimation. It takes dedication to keep turning up to coffee dates when you know you’re going home with a soggy shoulder and snot on your lapel.

Equally meritorious were the friends who kept inviting me to parties and gatherings, despite my inability to commit to anything until ten minutes before kick-off. They also discreetly ignored my habit of scurrying off to the loo, returning only to make my excuses and leave, red-eyed and sniffling.

I’m especially remorseful that I missed the hen night of one of my oldest and dearest friends. But honestly, who wants a quivering pile of emotional jelly raining on your parade when you’re involved in a day of pampering and female bonding?

(I made it to the wedding, and she was radiant. And the only tears I shed were of the traditional, wedding-related sort.)

I’m also grateful to the guy friends who could quite easily have taken sides, but who made a special effort to keep in touch and maintain an impartial demeanour. The chap who dragged himself from his bed at 8am on a Sunday morning to accompany me to the wrong side of London to collect freebie furniture – after a particularly hard night on the town – should have been given a medal.

Inevitably, a few friends fell by the wayside, but such is life. It hurt at the time, but do I miss them now? Not really. Losing your partner and half your friends is a great incentive to get out there and meet a whole lot more.

The friends I’ve made in the last couple of years are fun, vibrant and active. Sure, we’re a quirky bunch, but with this ragtag band of misfits and miscreants I’ve done wine tastings, walking weekends and trips abroad, scoffed picnics and pancakes and … umm … disgraced myself at vodka parties.

And it’s been FUN.

In fact, one the best ‘gifts’ of that crappy, crappy time was the realisation that I could never feel so bad again. As a result, I’m continually struck by how happy I am now.

Life is good, and if I find a man to share the good life with me, then so much the better. But in the meantime, I’m more than happy all by myself.

As my Sicilian mammina* would say, megghiu sula ca malaccumpagnata: better alone than in bad company. And amen to that.

*affectionate: little mother

Balkan drinks, hi-jinks… and unsuitable man #4

I know. It was my own fault. I have only myself to blame. But the evening started out so innocently. In fact, it was practically cultural…

Billed as, “From the Baltics to the Danube: the finest traditional drinks from more than 10 countries, with authentic food, dance and more!”, the vodka party seemed the perfect way to pass a few tranquil hours in the company of friends. And since I’d declared myself too snuffly even to go to the gym, of course I’d take it easy and be tucked up in bed by 11 o’clock.

(There’s no point in raising your eyebrows. I really did think that. I did.)

Starting with a civilised recce of the stalls, I tried to work out the wisest way to use my tokens: Hungarian pálinka, Russian honey pepper vodka or Finnish Salmiakki?

In retrospect, the tone of the evening was set by my first choice: the Polish ‘mad dog’ – a fine blend of vodka, tabasco and raspberry syrup. Encouraged by the tipsy bartender, my girlfriend and I raised our glasses and downed the contents in the traditional way. De-licious!

With just one sniff of the barmaid’s apron, the atmosphere had become distinctly merry. Giggling, we looked around for next choice: bargain basement Romanian vodka? Lithuanian brandy?

Another shot or two later, and things were becoming rather raucous.

Since none of us is particularly well-known for their ability to hoover hard liquor, I suppose it was inevitable: not halfway into the evening, our normally mild-mannered gang had erupted into cackling laughter and extensive back-slapping. An hour later and we were weaving our way to the local nightclub, ready to groove with the best of them.

And that’s where I met unsuitable man #4.

Unhindered by my slightly impaired co-ordination, I was cutting a dash on the dancefloor when a vision of loveliness came smiling towards me. I watched his lips move as he spoke to me, but with the music pounding in my ears, he might as well have been speaking in tongues.

So I was still gazing at him with vague incomprehension when he leaned forwards and kissed me. Surprised, but undeterred, I decided to go with the flow.

After a few minutes, he disappeared and I carried on dancing.

Now, I’m not the sort of girl who would ordinarily snog a man she’s just met – my mother taught me better than that – but in the benevolent haze so generously bestowed by the Baltic’s finest, it would have seemed churlish to refuse.

When he came back again, I was polite enough to ask his name. But I never got to find out any more than that about Jez, because he started kissing me again.

The third time he came back, something told me to ask him his age.

Beaming at me with the face of an angel, he said proudly, “I’m twenty.” I had to recover my eyebrows from the back of my head. He looked young, but not that young.

“Jez,” I said. “I’m thirty-five!”

The delightful Jez shrugged his shoulders. And kissed me again.

I ask you, what’s a girl supposed to do?

When he returned for the last time, phone in hand, to ask for my number, I hesitated. Then I gave him my number, with the last two digits reversed.

Dear Jez, it was fun – and I can’t deny it was an ego-boost too. But let’s not do it again.

Coffee, conciliation and culinary compliance

Another day, another cappuccino.

Having got over my mortification at the hand of the sexy barista, I’m installed in the coffee shop, slowly supping my coffee and making notes on the particularly intelligent-looking book that I’m battling through.

It’s in French, which isn’t really my forte, so it’s taking a large part of my attention. Which is why I jump about a metre in the air when the very same sexy barista plonks himself down beside me.

“Are you nervous?” he says, with a smirk.

Recomposing myself, I make some slightly tetchy comment about him having work to do, but it’s two o’clock; he’s finished for the day, so he sits and eats his lunch with me. The conversation is slightly terse, and I’m unsure whether this is due to shyness (both his and mine) or the sandwich he’s woofing down at high speed.

What’s weird is that it’s not exactly a flirtatious exchange. In fact, it feels more like a job interview. Once we’ve got through our respective employment choices, where we live and with whom, he looks at me levelly and says, “Can you cook?”

Jeez, I think. Italians! Always fretting about their stomachs.

Having spent a few years in Italy, I know that how I answer this question is more important than almost anything else. I could be a raving psycho with any number of eccentricities and anti-social habits, provided I know to cook my pasta al dente and have a more than a passing acquaintance with the salt cellar.

To most Italians, we hapless Brits are the authors of many a culinary faux pas, from daring to consume a cappuccino after noon, to our love of deep pan pizza (insert your own sneer now). But no sin could be as great as our unholy treatment of pasta.

And I use the word ‘unholy’ advisedly since, for most Italians, the preparation of pasta is akin to a religious rite. The fact that we toss our pasta in meagre quantities of water – sometimes without salt – and then boil it half to death is the source of much tongue-clicking, eye-rolling and sarcastic commentary.

I, however, have been thoroughly schooled in pasta preparation: I know that you need enough boiling water to drown in, a generous hand with the salt and an eagle eye on the clock. I even know which kind of sauce goes with which kind of pasta. Ha! Take that, sexy barista and your ill-founded assumptions!

Having thus proved myself worthy, he suggests that we might eat together one evening.

“I’ll cook,” he says.

A worthy dining companion I may be, but not yet trusted enough to be let loose at the stove.

Of course, I may be misjudging him completely; perhaps he’s just being kind, and I’m just a suspicious old so-and-so. Either way, I’ll be happy to stand meekly by while he flaunts his pasta prowess.

But here’s the catch: I’m a busy sort of person whose week books up pretty quickly, so I prefer to pick a day and put it in my diary. Whereas he’s a spontaneous sort who doesn’t want to be, “one of those people in your diary” – ??!!

Whatever, I think.

I’m not sure whether this tentative agreement is worth celebrating or not. After all, I might have myself half a date, but I won’t be surprised if it takes a lifetime to happen…

Caffeinated catastrophes and dating site demotions

Of course, the sexy barista didn’t call.

And of course, the next morning I’m meeting friends in the very same coffee shop.

Yes, I could cancel or suggest another location, but the masochist in me reckons it’s better to face the situation head on. Naturally, the minute he speaks to me, I go into full fluster mode. So much so that I remember almost none of the conversation until he says, “Oh, so you were expecting me to call?”

Whereupon my mind snaps briskly to attention.

Call me? Well no, clearly, when you give someone your number that’s pretty much the last thing on your mind, right? Jeez! Nul points, dude.

Slightly crushed, I return to my friends, making a mental note to keep my spare change well away from the tip box in future.

In the afternoon, I have my second meeting with someone from the dating site. Only this time it’s not a date.

My East European Biotech Boffin is already engaged in a fledgling flirt with someone he met online, so we agree to meet for a friendly coffee in the interests of widening our social circles. And without the pressure of dating scenario, we end up getting along very nicely, thank you.

This, I think, is the main flaw of the dating site: meeting someone as the potential love of your life raises all sorts of expectations. In fact, it raises the bar so high that if you don’t immediately swoon at their smouldering looks, blistering charm and award-winning sense of humour, they’re voted an immediate ‘no’ and it’s on to the next.

Without all these onerous expectations, you’re judging them merely as a fellow human being. In fact, the EEBB is a fun and interesting guy, of the slightly nerdy, intellectual type that suits me down to the ground. I don’t fancy him, but I enjoy a thoroughly entertaining hour or two in his company, and we arrange to meet up for another coffee sometime soon.

Reflecting on the meeting, I decide it’s time to quit the dating site; it’s just not for me. My girlfriends castigate me, telling me that I’ve not given it a fair chance.

“You know,” says my stylish Italian friend, “it’s supposed to be FUN!”

“Fun?” I protest. “FUN?! I’d rather eat my own head! I’d rather be slapped ‘til I squeal with the sharp edge of a wet towel! I’d rather be covered in jam and trapped in a room full of wasps with PMT!”

And then I take a breath, and I listen to myself. And that’s when I know it’s really, truly not for me.

And, with a sigh of relief, I go to my profile and hit ‘delete’.

A blind date, an espresso and a hot barista

Today I have my very first date with Someone From The Internet.

I would be nervous if I had any real expectations of this encounter, but I honestly don’t. Having long since given up trying to judge from people’s profiles whether we’re likely to be compatible or not, I decided just to go out with the first person to ask. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

So I’m feeling quite cool about it all when the moment arrives. But, as a precaution, our first encounter is at lunchtime. And since I’m the lady and I get to choose, I’ve picked the coffee shop that I visit every morning before work. I’ve even primed the sexy barista to keep an eye on things for me.

In the event, I needn’t have worried. My Someone From The Internet is a perfectly nice chap. Perfectly unattractive to me, too, unfortunately, but definitely not in the ‘axe wielding maniac’ category.

As we linger over an espresso (yes, as long as all that), it becomes apparent that we have approximately nothing in common: although he likes walking weekends, he hates gyms, which is where I spend 50% of my free time. He has a teenaged son, which I don’t mind per se, but I feel far too young to be hanging out with the parents of teenagers. And he loves two of the very few kinds of music that I find unbearable: jazz and 70s rock.

During the conversation, it becomes apparent that our points of view also differ in all sorts of little, everyday things. Worse still, there’s absolutely no hint of anything spark-like. Not even a tiny bit.
Still, we gamely string it out for 40 minutes, before making our excuses and getting up to go. Pleading a visit to the little girls’ room, I wave him off and turn round to find the sexy barista standing in front of me.

“So?” he says.

I make the kind of face that doesn’t quite look as if I’ve sucked a lemon, but isn’t exactly indicative of wild enthusiasm either.

“So when do I get my turn?” he asks.

“When you ask for it,” I say.

This is pretty pert, coming from me. Despite being bubbly and gregarious in all sorts of situations, lately, my default reaction when confronted by attractive men – which in all honesty, isn’t very often – tends towards ‘rabbit in headlights’.

In fact, even this smidgen of boldness brings me out in a fluster, and I’m not exactly sure how it happens, but I end up giving him my phone number.

By the time I leave, I’m so befuddled that I can’t remember if I’m supposed to be popping in tomorrow morning or if I nixed that by burbling about a prior arrangement, but in any case, I’m feeling pretty proud of myself: not only did I break my dating site duck, I also gave my number to a hot man!

Immediately, my brain starts thinking of all sorts of reasons why this might be a bad idea, so to shut it up, I do the mental equivalent of sticking my fingers in my ears and bawling, “Tra-la-la! Tra-la-la -la-laaaah!”

Sure, we might be completely incompatible once the conversation extends beyond, “Small cappuccino, please,” but equally, we might not. And besides, I’m just hugely excited that a real, live, hot man TOOK MY PHONE NUMBER!

Unless, of course, he decides not to call me. That would turn my morning espresso into a coffee-coated walk of shame. Ohmigod, can you imagine if he just doesn’t call me?

Now, wait a minute. Hot man or no hot man, I’m not turning myself into a nervous wreck. Excuse me just a moment…


Join in if you know the words…

“Tra-la-lah! Tra-la-la-la-laaaah! Tra-la-la-la-la-la-la-laaaaaaaaaah!”