Friday, 19 July 2013

A fear of Brazilians and bumming

This blog first appeared as a column in a selection of North London magazines, including Crouch End Connection with illustrations by renowned cartoonist Neil Kerber.

It’s been six months now since I threw my divorcĂ©e’s bonnet into the dating ring and announced myself as ready to move on and look for love. It’s fair to say that things haven’t gone quite as I’d hoped. I’m sure the quest for romance was never this difficult – in my youth there was barely a gap between one relationship ending and me plunging headlong into another, entirely ridiculous dalliance with someone reliably unsuitable. I’ve had my heart dashed to smithereens along the way and dealt some cruel blows of my own to the most undeserving of fellows, but whatever the status of my romantic life, it was at least moving.
Internet dating seems to promise so much but the endless emails and phone calls that go nowhere are becoming tedious and my ability to pick a wrong ‘un is impressive. I had plenty of reservations about getting back out there, the sillier ones being that the pursuit of love in the 21st century would entail Brazilians – painful waxes, not the inhabitants of the largest country in Latin America – and, bumming.  If you’re not familiar with the vernacular of the latter, you can just infer what you like.  I have a tale to tell with this disclosure, so do bear with me.

For me, bumming is a bit like free form jazz; it sounds discordant; I can’t feel the rhythm and the musicians seem to be playing entirely for their own amusement. Given the choice, I’d rather not. So while Kylie playfully informs us she likes “Spinning Around” and Grace Jones huskily urges her baby to “Pull up to the Bumper”, I’m reassured by Meatloaf and his promise - “I would do anything for love, but I won’t do that”. I’m pretty sure that’s what his pledge is about anyway. So, thanks Meat, I’m glad to know you’ve got my back.
With such thoughts pushed firmly to the back of my mind, I’d been emailing earlier this month with a prospective date from my online site. He seemed funny, friendly and down to earth and asked for my number. The call started well - he was easy to talk to and we swapped views on the prospect of starting over again in our forties. He was concerned with being older and not as confident with his body – the whole having to show your bottom to someone new scenario. I sympathised and floated my Brazilians and bumming fear. He took a sharp intake of breath and then laughed loudly, proclaiming “God, I wish!” Rather perplexed I asked if he was indeed approving of my two dealbreakers. “Yeah, yeah, Brazilians and bumming – I’d love to get into that”. Maybe he misunderstood and thought that’s what I was offering but I’ll make damned sure I never discuss those particular qualms again.

The route to securing a date online seems to involve sharing your entire history, intentions and catalogue of likes and dislikes. Perhaps the people I’ve so far engaged with from behind the screen have been particularly cautious but I feel sure the time spent getting to this point could have been circumvented over a couple of glasses of pinot noir. Preferably in a bar located a few miles from my home. I’ve come to the conclusion that dating ‘local’ people is a distinctly bad idea. I don’t want to run into a disgruntled beau whilst stuck in a tailback at Budgen’s. I once spent an entire year at work hiding in a cupboard from my terrifying assistant Astrid. It would not be beyond me to hurl myself into a carefully constructed display of teas to avoid confrontation– I’ve got form.  I can of course understand the caution but trying to deduce an attraction through a phone call is very difficult.
Having passed up the opportunity to ‘try new things’ with my previous correspondent , I began trading emails with a promising Scottish admirer, based in Hertfordshire.  We got on brilliantly. He’d been a professional busker in his younger days, touring Europe with a grand piano before falling madly in love with his wife and becoming a strategy consultant. He had two boys, slightly older than my daughters and a really fresh outlook on life.  Abiding by my newly devised filtering system he passed the popular culture test with flying colours and even admitted to sounding like David Tennant.  He’d already won me over at this point but that sealed the deal and I gave him my mobile number.  The conversations we held on three consecutive nights were amongst the most confusing I’ve ever had. As someone who once conducted a long distance love affair with an Albanian goat-herd, that’s saying something. There are only so many times you can say “sorry, I didn’t catch that” before you appear rude, stupid or both so I just had to roll with it. I’m presuming at some point I must have responded to a particularly tragic anecdote with inappropriate laughter or an exclamation of “how amazing” because he didn’t call again and un-liked me on the dating site. Perhaps I was hoist with my own petard and he’d been railing against homophobia, racism and bigotry and I’d been giggling along, enthusing about such attitudes. All I do know is this ‘getting to know you’ period is truly joyless and I’m rubbish at it. I need to change my game plan and try a different approach.

One option is relying on friends to open their little black books of divorce-stricken, bereaved or terminally single men, requiring me to be trotted out at social occasions like a slightly troublesome show pony. Another route might be joining an actual dating agency. I’d assumed this activity took place in the ‘Burbs and would entail meeting an awkward chap called Roy from Penge. He would sport a mean side-parting, wear his trousers a couple of inches too short and possibly carry a man bag. Maybe there is a Roy out there for me – I will begin some agency research and see what’s on offer.

Next month:  Getting on a dating agency’s books

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