I’m at that singles event I’m supposed to be photographing. I’m holding my new camera. It’s not discreet like my old one. The vertical grip is attached and I have a wireless flash with me. I don’t have one of those penis-extension telephoto lenses, but I still look like a paparazzo.
MAN IN SUIT: Are you the official photographer?
WOMAN STANDING NEXT TO HIM: Of course he is. He’s too young and interesting to be one of us.
EVERYONE ELSE: [nervous laughter]
I could have scripted the evening. I spend most of it talking to the organisers—one male, one female.
WOMAN ORGANISER: We had too many come to the last one and people were complaining that they could hardly move, so we upped the price for tonight to control the numbers. All the women booked up ages in advance, but we were worried we wouldn’t get enough men.
POOTERGEEK: [looks around, wondering where all the women are]
WOMAN ORGANISER: And most of the women haven’t turned up. I don’t understand it.
My txtmsg tango essay sent my sitemeter mental. At least five different blogs linked here. But, as usual with a PooterGeek “event” post, some people completely missed the point. It wasn’t heartfelt. Very little on this site is. If you want to peer into my tormented soul, people, you’re looking through the wrong window. It was cynical, ironic, chippy, mocking, self-mocking. Almost everything I write here is. I wasn’t looking for a date; I don’t need one; I’d very much like one (or several). I wasn’t complaining that nobody loves me; plenty of people do—God bless ’em.
I just wanted to give a light-hearted answer to a question I’m asked over and over and to elaborate in a personal way on my usual appeal to the English to change their mating rituals for their own good and the good of their putative children. Choosing the wrong person is a very expensive business, emotionally and financially, and millions of us screw up badly. Despite decades of growing sexual equality, it’s still women who make the first and final decisions, women who choose whether or not to go on a date, put on a ring, go off the pill. Generally, I don’t just whine about things here; I try to suggest possible improvements. If anything, that post was an anti-whine, in a country where you can’t even open a “serious” newspaper without having to read some Bridget-Jonesian grumping.
If you don’t vote then don’t complain about the government. If you bottle out of appointments with fanciable men who’ve asked you out then don’t complain if you one day you find yourself alone with a Jennifer Lopez DVD and a tub of overpriced ice cream or trudging around IKEA with Gavin from Personnel, wondering if this is all there is, and starting the countdown to the day you leave him for that man who spanks you with a clipboard and calls you “Mathilde” like you’d always wanted but been afraid to ask.
When I went on speed-dating events in Cambridge the girls running them would joke, “He’s back to see if he can get even more ticks this time.” My problem isn’t getting dates; it’s getting women to turn up for them. And that’s the crux of the matter: women who say they’re looking for X, Y, and Z in a man and when they stumble upon some combination thereof run a mile. It’s no tragedy. I can look after myself. But having to deal with that and listen to women complain that they aren’t getting what they want or accuse me of being immature or psychologically unbalanced [“toxic bachelor”, “commitment-phobe”] because I haven’t settled down is a little bit much.
Perhaps that’s what scares women most of all: I’m self-sufficient. I pack my own bags, wash my own clothes, choose my own underwear, cook my own meals; I even take in other people’s emotional laundry. I’ve got a mother. She lives in the Midlands and I’m not looking for another one to live in my flat, thanks. Perhaps what many women want isn’t a man who wants them; it’s a man who needs them. I know I’m certainly not to a lot of women’s tastes (and would appreciate it if they told me sooner rather than later), but I’m reasonably smart, funny, solvent, good-looking, and (currently) in very good shape—and beginning to understand why public schools sent boys on cross-country runs to burn up their testosterone. What I’m not is desperate. If men with that kind of attitude fill women with a deep fear of rejection then they are welcome to the club. We men deal with the possibility every time we ask you for your number and it never gets any easier. Perhaps some women could make the world a better place by taking a sober gamble now while most of the other half of it wants to sleep with them, instead of a drunk one later when their options start to shrink.