The Dating Police: An Ongoing Procedural. Episode Two.

Please don’t panic, mister.  Or scream.  I’m here to help you.  Nod if you understand.

[shows badge; man nods frantically]

Look at my face.  Quiet now.  We met back in June, do you remember?  The lady out of the bad marriage?  With the briefs?  And the universe lady with the actor grind?

[man nods more slowly]

Okay.  I’m going to slowly remove my hand from your mouth, and release my grip.

And you will stay very quiet, and not run.  Understood?  Steady now.  No sudden movements.

[grip is gently released; badge is calmly put away; deep breaths on both sides]

Okay Sir.  I’ve been watching you for about a week.

No, no!  Stay calm.  Please.

[gets out notebook]

Between the dates of the 25th of August and last night, the 15th of September, you have consistently not been sleeping.

[man goes still]

For five out of the last eleven working days, women have been approaching you on the train home from work, and asking if you’re alright.  And you’ve responded, “it’s just hayfever”. Yes?

Sir?

SIR?

… son?

[man looks at floor, and nods]

You’re tired, aren’t you?

[silence]

I need to hear it.  You’re tired and upset, aren’t you?

[beat]

It’s okay son.

[beat]

[beat]

[man whispers, “yes.  yes I am”]

I know you are.  Look at you.  Sore throat.  Exhaustion.  Tears.  Feelings of disgrace and unattractiveness.  It’s textbook.  Straight from the Academy.

Look.  I’m off duty tonight.  But your case has got to me.  This is off the record, friend.

You really fell for her, didn’t you?  I know son.  It’s okay.  But I don’t like what I’m seeing.

I have a Police Station Producer here.  I want you in the station by the weekend with proof that you’ve bought some new clothes.  And shoes.  Especially shoes.  God, man, your shoe collection is fucking awful.  You’re going to need better.

And I want you reading on the train.  Not just weeping.  Richard Ford, perhaps.  Or Elena Ferrante.  Or even Hemingway if you need some guns in it.  Except for ‘A Moveable Feast’.  That’ll just about finish you off.  I need you thinking about your emotions.  So no more Sci-Fi.  Or Grimdark.

[man looks perturbed]

it'll work out, son.
it’ll work out, son.

You miss her, don’t you?

[man looks up, nods]

You feel so stupid.  And shamed.  And beyond fixing.

You’ve had some bad thoughts, haven’t you?

[man grimaces; returns gaze to floor]

WELL FUCKING STOP THAT SHIT, DO YOU HEAR?

[man jumps]

YOU’RE KIND!

YOU’RE PATIENT!

YOU’RE NOT UGLY!

… AND YOU’RE OKAY IN THE SACK!!

[man stares, open mouthed]

YOU SAY IT.  I’M KIND.

I’m ki …

YOU’RE PATIENT

I’m pati …

YOU’RE FUCKING GREAT

I’m …

LOUDER

I’m fucki …

LOUDER, MAN!

I’M FUCKING GREAT!  I’M KIND!  I’M PATIENT AND ATTENTIVE!  I CAN DO SEX!  I CAN DO KISSING!  I’LL GET NEW SHOES!  I’M FUNNY! … AND CLEVER!  YES! YES!! YES!!!

Yes, well alright.  Don’t get carried away.

Good.  Anyway.  I’ll be watching.

I’ll be watching all of you.

[turns to camera]

Especially you, sweetheart.

And I want to see those shoes.

x

Love Bomb

So I don’t usually go in for this type of balls, but due to emotional exhaustion, a sore throat, new job fatigue and six cans of Coors Light, this image from the Burning Man Festival stopped me dead.  It’s by Ukrainian artist Alexandr Milov, and is called (you guessed it) “Love”.

no. i'm sorry. there's, err, something in my eye.
no. i’m sorry. there’s, err, something in my eye.

Having recently been saucepanned around the head with the stuff, I thought I’d do some research into it.  This has been a wide-ranging study, from biologist Jeremy Griffith (love is ‘unconditional selflessness’) to Virgil (‘love conquers all’), all the way to Def Leppard (‘love bites, love bleeds, love begs, love pleads’).

Now Helen Fisher (a ‘love expert’, which is what I want to be when I grow up) sounds like she knows what she’s talking about.  I like this.  She divides the experience of love into three partly overlapping stages: lust, attraction and attachment. We all know what lust is.  And it’s not that famous organic cosmetics chain.  That’s Lush.  The romantic attraction bit is the chat and the decision phase.  You share insights and laughs, music and words.  And you pursue.  And are pursued.

Attachment involves sharing a home, parental duties, mutual defence, laundry, phoning the gas people, childcare, lifts to the station, an abundance of pampering, and in proper human beings involves feelings of safety and security.

This bit sounds tricky, though.  A distinct neural circuit, including a neurotransmitter, and a particular behavioural pattern, is fired up for each individual phase.  That’s a lot that can go wrong.  And it often does.

It does explain why online dating is fundamentally fucked, though.  Online dating switches around the first two phases, and we’re not built for that.  Speed dating.  That’s the thing.  Or chance meetings on the 7:52 to Marylebone.  Not that I’ve tried either.

“i’m into massage. nice hat.”

Evolutionary psychology suggests some frankly absurd things, including the proposal that love has evolved to stop the spread of gene and foetus damaging STDs, by making genetically and psychologically healthy people (i.e. good parental material) into monogamous individuals who will have relatively few sexual partners.  Hmmm.  The sexual antics of all the psychologists I’ve ever met gives this view a deep irony.

This sounds better, though. There are speculations that the evolution of the human interest in music and creative art is a potential signalling system for attracting and judging the fitness of potential mates.  Yes, cavemen and women drew lovely things on cave walls to get shagged.  I sort of knew that already.

Actually there’s still an unquestioned assumption in archaeology that all those beautiful renderings of bison were done by a bloke.  Why is that?  It’s patently balls.  Due to the paternal history of Western art.  Or something.  Anyway.  Digressing.

So yes.  Okay.  There’s a reason I learned to play the guitar and sing, and it wasn’t to spend late nights in a dingy rehearsal room with a bunch of sweaty male bandmates.

The same for language.  There’s a theory that it was generated to attract love.  When we talk, we’re trying to signal to others who we are, and our potential value as a tribe member or mate.  Your use of language will signal your handiness as a provider, or lover.   And you listen, too.  And sometimes you really like what you hear.  Yes.  It seems there is a reason why I started blogging, why I left it for three months, and why I’m back.

Taking these things into account, it helps me explain why relationships with articulate, creative people can be so bloody intense.  Everything’s working overtime.  Almost too fast.  But, fuck, I’d do it again.

So what am I trying to say?  Maybe I’m picking at my own heartbreak.  After my breakup, everything in my brain is still wet-wired into the attachment phase.  You might have stopped the car, but the engine’s still running.  My brain is telling me to do selfless things.  To give of myself freely and joyously.  To phone the gas people.  To rub backs and do the laundry.  To take her on holiday.  To pamper around the clock.  To fundamentally change my behaviour forever.  It’s a mammalian thirst.  A hunger.  It’s deeply atavistic and primal, and would last a lifetime.  But she won’t let me sate it.  And it hurts like fuck actually.  I’m with Def Leppard.

But whatever.  Love works.  And it seems I’m in love with being in love (work that out, Bertrand Russell).  And I’m just going to throw love at every problem I have.  Parenting, potential partners, ex-partners, heartbreak, friends, enemies, the lot.

I love you.  In case you hadn’t realised.

x

The Knuckle. And the Shit.

A small bone.  Weighs half a gram.  Located at the base of your third finger.  Smaller than a one-pence piece.

But it can do extraordinary damage.  And when accurately placed it can hurt like fuck.  And it leaves a mark.  And can break something that has stayed unbroken until the evening that has your name on it.  Like a socket.  Or a nose.  Or a heart.

Look.  I dramatically failed my Physics ‘O’ Level (yes, I’m of a peculiar vintage), but I do know that the knuckle is just the point of delivery.  It’s not actually the cause of the pain.

knuckle

No.  What causes the damage is the turn of the hips, the weight of the shoulders, the full body weight that comes before it and behind it.  Inertia.  Momentum.  Intent.

When a relationship ends, very nasty things can be said.  Or emailed.  Or texted.  Or tweeted.  Sometimes so vile that you actually wonder if their ex has somehow got hold of their phone, and has the wonderful person you fell in love with tied up in the shed.  Actually, I would love to tie up my recent ex in the shed, but only for her own pleasure.  Ahem.

Anyway.

What I’m saying is, is that when that genuinely offensive note has been vomited in your direction, it’s like the knuckle.  It’s pretty much the last thing you see before your eye swells shut.  And it’s easy to associate the knuckle with your pain.  Just the knuckle.  Just the message.

But actually what’s driving it home is often months of exasperation.  Or slow-boiling anxiety.  Or the collection of very small things that has patiently accreted into one fucking big toxic compound balls-up.

Don’t judge people by their one-off loss of decency and grace.  Try to think about how your long-term behaviour has put all that weight behind the knuckle.  The knuckle is, to be honest, not worth much examination.  It just happens to be the prism through which focuses all the shit into one hot fucking beam.

Practise this and change the world.  Always find the best in people, even if it results in your own black eye.  Empathise.  Find it impossible to hate.  They might hate you, but remember it’s costing them a fucking phenomenal amount of energy.  Energy that could actually be employed in something useful.  Or beneficial.  Or forgiving.

The personal revolution is the only viable one left.

I’m off to meet Buddha for a jar.

x

Alcohol isn’t a Solution

Well, being a homogeneous mixture chemically composed of only one phase, technically it is.  But I think we both know what I mean.

Yes.  I’m afraid I recently downloaded the NHS “drink tracker app”.  Needless to say, it lit up like a fucking Chinese Stock Market heatmap.  Oh dear.  “Don’t let drink sneak up on you”, the NHS are telling me.  Well, it did.  And it ran off with my girlfriend.  But I’m going down fighting.

Oh.
Oh.

Honesty.  Now there’s a strong word.  And quite frightening, if like me you have at points greased your path with avoidances, silences and sometimes downright lies.  Lying is probably an addiction, after all.  In that it’s a fall-back mechanism.  A habit you form to find false comfort in painful situations.  Shame.  Embarrassment.  Awkwardness.

Possibly it’s my final addiction.  With an increase in honesty and self-examination has come a cut in the booze.  Because liars lie to themselves, as much as they lie to the people they love.  Like all addictions, it’s self-destructive and ultimately demeaning.  Like all addictions, it damages the people that love you.  Like all addictions, it starts as a wall to defend yourself, but quickly becomes a wall that pens you in.  Armour becomes a straight-jacket.  And similar tropes.

Like all addictions, it’s fucking hard to beat.  And painful.  And horrible.  But I have a solid KO record, and I don’t fancy its chances.  It’s going down in one of the early rounds.  Just watch.

x

The Dating Police: An Ongoing Procedural. Episode One.

Hello.  Excuse me.  I’m here on official business.

I can’t help but notice that you, Madam, are biting your lower lip and nodding.  Rather excessively.  And laughing, too.  At the most god-awful shit.

And you, Sir.  You appear to be curling yourself around the table like some sort of fucking contortionist.  And you’ve just dropped your 90k Land Rover into the conversation.

In short, I believe that you are both colluding on an online date and, therefore, have come to my attention as an Officer of the Online Dating Police.

[shows badge]

I must caution you both now.  Everything you say here will be recorded and held against you by either aggrieved party.  You Sir; please don’t insinuate that you are actually interested in understanding this woman.  We both know that’s a pack of fibs.

And Miss, can we admit that you were only dumped last weekend by that aspiring actor?  And that this whole thing will ultimately be a point-scoring exercise against the universe?  I know you hurt.  But don’t take it out on this poor fella.  He hasn’t had sex since 2011, and he’ll be dazzled by the first pair of bare shoulders he sees.  And, actually, that actor was a bit of a nob, wasn’t he?  We both know that.  And he made you feel fat.

you're with the wrong girl, buddy
you’re with the wrong guy, lady

In fact, could I just …

[motions to uniformed partner in the adjacent bar]

… yes.  I’d like to bring in these earlier offenders we caught trying to get the bus back to her place.

Look.  This young man is quite an able lover, and he is self-absorbed to the point of not actually noticing when you dump him.

You.  Universe lady with the actor grind.  I want you to take him home.  He’ll make you feel better, and then he’ll go on his jolly way afterwards, so that you can keep thinking of yourself as a victim, and not a terribly casual shagger.

You my friend.  Yes you.  Lucky escape I’d say.  I’m going to put you with her.  She’s just come out of a bad marriage, and will fall for the first man to gently remove her briefs.  That needs to be you, sonny.  But not tonight.  Both of you are worth more than that.  You are equally fragile, and extremely loving.  You really shouldn’t be out on your own.  And certainly not in the company of these people.

Move along, please.

And walk the streets safely.  I’ll be watching.

[turns to camera]

I’ll especially be watching YOU.

x

Tomorrow ain’t Shit

Slipper-like supermarket sneakers are popular here.  Thick socks; overlarge hoodies and sweatshirts.  On the whole, the Relapse Prevention Group on a Tuesday afternoon is not the place for couture.  Comfort is in fashion on this catwalk.  I’m sure if Primark sported a full-body cotton-wool onesie, recovering addicts would queue round the corner.

Everyone takes their seat, and sort of hugs themselves up.  For the boys, hands disappear into overlong sleeves.  For the girls, knees disappear up the front of big baggy jumpers.  Lips are chewed.  Fringes are deployed.

You could probably measure recovery here by number of layers.  Two duvets down to one.  Giant cardigan, to large cardigan; and eventually to one that fits.

An addict develops an armour-like coating.  He lies to the people he loves.  He lies to himself.  He does it consistently, and professionally.  A full-blown functioning addict could become guest lecturer at the Mossad school of deception.  He could walk George Smiley up and down the garden path until he needed a sit-down.

He needs plate mail to survive this.  Enough to let him think he can sort it out tomorrow, or next week.  To take control.  I mean it’s not really a crisis yet, is it?  Enough to let him avoid the self-loathing for long enough to get to the end of the day.  Just today.  He’ll feel strong tomorrow.  Tomorrow everything happens.

In the Relapse Prevention Group, Jane is anxious.  She’s a former events organiser for the music industry.  She started independently, organising her own events.  Negotiating her way onto the scene with the balls of a seven-foot Viking.

Now living at home, her parents have trusted her with fifty quid.  She’s 39.  She quakes.

Jon is from the City.  An ex-hedge fund manager.  He is literally shaking at the idea he may have gotten angry with his new girlfriend.  No, he didn’t shout at her.  Just got terse; but he’s convinced he upset her, and it’s burning him up.

David is a classical musician.  He once self-medicated to deal with his anxiety prior to performance.  Now his problem comes after the concert.  How it makes him FEEL.

Once that armour comes off, it leaves a bare and untouched surface.  Everything is so HOT or so COLD.  Every touch from somebody else is either velvet, or sandpaper.  Every emotion shunts back online like a Japanese maglev train.

And love is like the bolt of lightning that rockets through the Frankenstein set at RKO.  The monster heaves, and opens his eyes.  He’s come from a very, very cold place.  Touch is transcendent.  Holding hands is the graze of God.  There is infinity in a kiss.

let me carry that for you.
do you want a boyfriend?

The battle these people have fought has been epic.  In the true literary sense of the word.  They are a hard and resourceful group.  They are good in a tight spot.  They will attach themselves to you and stand at your side for the merest of affirmation.  They will love you, and always remind you of what is most important.  They will see your flaws and find you beautiful.  And they are wise.  You just need to give them the chance.  They need you to think about what ‘virtue’ is, in a compromised world.

They have been addicts.  Then they were recovering addicts.  Now they’ve been recovered addicts for a while, and are tired of telling their story.

They are now potential.  Glorious, glorious potential.  Bless them all.

You’ll find one, if you’re lucky.

x

Dumped

Good morning!

Well here I am!  Washed and brushed; shiny of coat, lustrous of pelt, and wearing a lovely smile that I tattooed onto my face last night with a rusty nail.

I had a blip.  A wobble.  Last night I chewed my pillow, howled at the universe and wrote some sixth-form cobblers that David Geffen could’ve put a Seattle grunge dirge behind and minted himself another million.  All this after just one and a bit dates.  Johnny Fucking Christ.

Yes.  I was dumped.  Like a teenage twat with his hands in his pockets standing outside his girlfriend’s house; his torn-up love letter falling like confetti around his scuffed shoes.

umm.  are we still on for tomorrow?
umm … are we still on for tomorrow?

It’s a horrible experience becoming a cliché for a few hours.  Ask Stella, she knows. This dumped guy was straight from central casting.  An utter trope.

First there was the premonition.  The pause in correspondence which YOU KNEW was being used to finely tune that final note.

Its arrival.  And funnily enough it didn’t seem to hurt.  Like people in traumatic incidents who look down and notice they’ve lost a leg.

“Oh”, they think.

So I dropped back an immediate, rather jolly reply.  Oh that’s fine, I say.  Yeah, it wasn’t quite right, was it?  Whatever.  Good luck.  See you around.  And I hit the send button.

And then there was the silence.  The feel of something very nice melting away, and pattering onto the floor.  The clock ticked, and my face morphed like a sad clown.  Don’t go.

That’s the thing about dating over social media.  You become conditioned to expect a reply.  You work out your correspondent’s rhythms.  Like two tennis players warming up.  Batting entertainment and attention to each other to keep out the cold.

Knocking the ball to no one and watching it sail off into the car park is not something you’ve become used to.

This is exactly when the trope walks in and asks you to leave.  He’ll take it from here, thank you.

THE STANDARD PROCEDURE

This can’t just stop.  I was enjoying it.

Step One: send another message.  This will read something like, “we should definitely stay in touch, though.  I mean our correspondence was great”.  Your digital voice is increasing in pitch.  Subtext: “Oh Shit”.

Score: 0:1

Step Two: send another message, naturally.  I mean the last two have been such a success; why stop?  This one will be the last wobbling stand of your dignity, and will usually start with the word ‘Look’.  Something like “Look.  I’m not letting this one get away … etc.”.  Subtext:  “This one’s getting away, isn’t it?”.

Score: 0:2

we should probably send her another message.
“we should probably send her another message.”

Step Three: gently place your self-respect in a bucket, leave it at her door.  Ring the bell, present yourself on a plate, and serve.  This final note will haunt you for days.  It is essentially a carte-blanche menu of yourself, no charge.  Please use me.  Muck me about if you want.  Squeeze me in between shags.  Keep me in the kitchen cupboard, and drag me out in needy emergencies.  Subtext: none.  There it is, in all it’s glory.

Score: Game, Set and Match.

This happens to all of us.  It’s the flipside of the laughs and the joy found in meeting new people.  You’ve got to put a bit of yourself in.  Take a risk.  Even if you know it might hurt.  This hassle is part of being ALIVE.  The alternatives to being alive are not promising.  Believe me, I’ve checked out the options.

And try to consider the positives.  I got so caught up with this that I didn’t eat for a week.  A few more romantic disappointments and I’ll have reached my target weight in no time.

I don’t mind losing the odd game.  Especially as I’ve only just walked onto the court after a long lay-off.

Not playing at all – now that’s a proper tragedy.

Who’s for a game?

x