So, the day came in my 25th year when I had been dating a (fairly average) young man, for a couple of months. Decent job, passably tall and dressed with the perfect hint toward trend (didn’t blindly don hawaiin shirts because GQ said so) but most importantly, he listened to me with endless patience and laughed at all of my jokes – so far, so good.
Until that is, one morning, in the midst of kindly sharing some tedious gossip from the advertising firm which I then worked for (“then, she got really drunk at the lunch and started feeding ice-cream to the client”, etcetera) I was rudely interrupted by what I can only describe as the hesitant throat-clearing of a best man on the verge of performing his overly-rehearsed speech.
It is worth saying at this point, that a childhood of religious Disney-watching, followed by an adolescence of hungrily devouring seasons of Gossip Girl alongside ‘silly old me, he loved me all along!’ rom-coms, had prepared me for great things at this point. Thus, I was bambi-eyed (in reality, probably more Ratatouille caught in a compromising position on a wheel of cheese), eagerly awaiting what was sure to be a grand declaration – Mark Darcy standing in the rain, Chuck declaring his eternal love of Blair, Prince Charming gallantly saves the day.
Whilst he had not yet proved himself to be especially erudite (he once excused himself on a date with: “gotta piss!” – be still my beating heart!), I had an answer for that – the classic ‘make-over’ moment. All romantic comedy watchers will know well that any character can be totally transformed, usually following a grand revelation of sorts. Like a butterfly, slightly questionable men can magically evolve into charming, caring and considerate partners (women usually manage to lose their glasses and simultaneously find lipgloss/ Kim Kardashian’s entire glam-squad in a bush somewhere).
Mr. Average Young Man proceeded to clear his throat further, (tempting me very much to offer him a strepsil), and from behind his teeth, which I was by this point trying to very subtly study, came the following words:
“I’m not shagging anyone else”
OH JUBILANT DAY! Hurrah, hurray! Fireworks, fireworks, sound the cannon! All the people dance and sing and… Hang on a bloody minute, sweetie-pie (to paraphrase Edwina Monsoon ever so slightly), what the flaming hell was happening.
I, perhaps naively, had assumed that this had already been the case for months. Was I now supposed to feel flattered that I had not been regulated to the ‘reserves’ bench? Should I have rejoiced that I not been categorised as a ‘side-chick’? Was I out of my mind to have assumed that I was not sharing with perhaps dozens of other girls, jostling to be front of the queue? My mind was working overtime, like a 90s computer trying to dial-up to the internet. I could have almost been emitting those same unnerving sounds, as my brain sputtered and started to comprehend how I could have gotten this so very wrong – God knows what my face was doing.
I considered that perhaps I should have felt a sort of gratitude, or at least relief, to know that Mr Average was interested enough in me to neglect the vast and shimmering trove of young, beautiful and frighteningly intelligent women in London. Yet even this thought only added to my rapidly blinding sense of incredulity, mingled bitterly with anger. Who was I angry at? – Myself for being so deluded? Him for not wanting to commit to a girl who he has known for the sum of three months? The film industry for producing desirable yet unrealistic romantic expectations? The porn industry for producing desirable yet unrealistic sexual expectations? Maybe all of the above.
Should I have accepted that this was the modern day norm? We live in a consumer-driven world, where people are accustomed to immediate gratification, so it would follow naturally that this also be applied to romance. Why settle for one when you could have many, at a few taps and swipes of your phone screen? Somehow I had not expected romance to be included within this bracket – for me, love and relationships held a higher place. I did not want to follow instructions online for creating the most appealing dating app profile (how many selfies to include, best photo angles, how much tit to expose before your first date), because they reminded me of the scene in Toy Story, where the toy aliens in the claw machine furiously compete for selection by the giant claw.
Was I in fact setting myself up for a failure by assuming this position and refusing to adapt to modern expectations of dating? Well, I guess we’ll never know, because after that, I let Mr. Average go on his merry way – he had spinach in his teeth anyway.