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

Auto Fellatio and Melon-bothering

So the sun resumes.  No more nasty texts; just lovely correspondence from lovely people.

Sunlight filtering through beech trees.  The buzz of single-prop planes dragging gliders into their thermals, and lazy vapour trails being languidly drawn across an opaline sky.

Hair tied for a change, in red indian fashion, and a modest pile of empty blue beer cans tinkling in the breeze at my feet.  Life is good.  Would be better with some company, but I do have you, reader.  And you’ll do fine.

I have today been thinking of panache.  Elan.  Esprit.  Dash.  And how much I respect it.  Heroes I have known; windmill-tilters, and chasers of lost causes.

Take this school acquaintance, for example.

The house is empty.  Our swashbuckler steps into the shower.  During his ablutions his mother returns home, and installs herself silently downstairs.

He gets out of his shower, and with his towel wrapped round his waist he strolls into his bedroom.

Five minutes later, mother bursts into his bedroom to find our venturer upside down on his bed, towel abandoned, all red-faced and trying to fellate himself.

Our hero calmly rolls off the bed, stretches, and tells his mum he’s doing his ‘exercises’.

Bravo.  Now that’s the sort of vim I’m talking about.  You can’t learn it, or fake it.

Or take this chap.  Another school acquaintance (yes, the school I attended was run-down, boys-only and very posh.  And it oozes ridiculous material).

His sister stumbles across this little soldier trying to penetrate (with some urgency) a melon that he’s just warmed up in the microwave.  He brushes this off by sticking his nose in the air and declaring it his ‘homework’. [round of applause]

just heat and serve.
just heat and serve.

I love this stuff.  Bravado in the face of absurd ignominy.  Throwing your gauntlet into the face of shame and ridicule.  I mean look at this blog.  Quixotic.  And not very sensible.

And then I came across some of it on Guardian Soulmates.  She describes herself as a “Gloomy misery guts. No friends. Little joy. Hates cosy nights in.”

She’s looking for a “Miserable old devil. Disillusioned with life, but prepared for further disappointment. Preferably without a huge circle of friends who think you’re great”.

Someone “Fond of uncomfortable nights out, competitive hoovering and wheelie bin admiring. Hands like loaves of bread… No sense of humour, does not enjoy laughing and prefers misery to any abstract notion of “fun” … “

Obviously you’re wondering if I got in touch.

Sadly, no.  Despite your suspicions, I am not a miserable old devil, nor am I disillusioned with life.  And I have LOVELY hands.

But wait.  I haven’t even mentioned her photos.

She attaches three.

#1  her bin

#2 her hoover

#3 a brick

Regarding her style and verve levels, my boat is being floated to somewhere near Mars.

This woman needs to join the circle.  Should we contact her?  What do you think?  At least register our respect.  Or nominate her for an award.

I’m off down the greengrocer’s.

x

ps – Online Dating is Shite is now accepting contributions.  All you need is a nom-de-theatre, lyricism, profanity and a liberal use of the word ‘fuck’.  Perhaps there’s something you can say here anonymously that you can’t say anywhere else.  Contact me at maturin@onlinedatingisshite.com

My Arse, the Tell Tale Wasp, and Other Stories

I attended the doctors’ surgery this morning, so that a very polite nurse could stick a large-bore needle into my backside.  There I was, leaning over; my belt line now halfway down my bottom.  And she asked, “left or right?”.  That’s very nice, I thought.  They talk about more choice in the NHS.  This must be what they mean.

It turned out that she was retiring.  Today.  I asked whether I was her last ever arse.

“Yes!” she responded enthusiastically.  And for a moment I thought she was going to autograph her work.  Or add a smiley face.

“Although you never know,” she added, rather mysteriously.

Yep.  You never know when you’re going to see your next arse.  Very profound.

I came home to find THE LARGEST FUCKING WASP doing military-grade aerobatics around my desk.  RIGHT.  The sudden surge of combat adrenaline.  The narrowing of the eyes.  The rolling of the newspaper.  Bring it on, my friend.

Cue a desperate amount of ridiculous wafting and girlish shrieking.  The thing is, I don’t really want to hurt them.  I just want them to go away.  And once my ruthlessness is compromised by my absurd wasp empathy, I make a terrible warrior.  And the worst thing happened.  A half-hearted thrust left the poor bugger injured, and he disappeared into the dust bunnies under my bed.  I think he’s stuck.  And now my keystrokes are punctuated by an awful throbbing buzz.

fucking WASP.
fucking WASP.

Oh the guilt.  Oh the terror.  It’s like that endlessly beating severed heart under the floorboards in that Edgar Allan Poe story.  Sheesh.

Believe it or not, I was once bitten by a bloody great cow-eating spider in the forests of Guatemala.  Alright, maybe it didn’t eat cows.  But it could’ve done.  IT COULD HAVE DONE.  My hand soon assumed the size and shape of a mango.  The guide proffered aspirin, and anti-histamines.  I was extremely grateful.  Thank you, I said.  Thank you.  That’s my headache and hayfever sorted, now what about MY FUCKING GREAT SPIDER BITE.

Sorry.  Rambling.

On to happier things!  The sunshine!  The woodpecker knocking loudly in the woods behind my house.  The buzz of lawnmowers.  The Rustlers microwave burger and the four-pack of Fosters from the one-stop.  Oh sublime, ephemeral nature.  Be my master for the afternoon.  Let me drink from thy Lethean tin.  Carefully crafted to refresh.  In Melbourne.  Since 1888.

And let me wander from Tennyson’s place, “where each man walks with his head in a cloud of poisonous  wasps  flies … And most of all would I flee from the cruel madness of online dating …”

Okay, I changed that last line a bit.

But Tennyson would get it.

I’ll leave you alone now, and take my plastic sword to the nettles.

x

Pppffffffffftttt

Things I have learned this week.

  • The British electorate is fickle and capricious.  And lacks empathy.

I saw some of them today, in the park.  With their sunglasses, and Jack Wills sweatshirts.  Their expensive pushchairs, and their stupid tight trousers, and their beards they’ll shave off as soon as someone asks them to.

  • Erotic emails can be intensely sweet*.

Which one would you like me to talk about?

Ha ha!  No chance.  Sorry.

Although I’ll say this.  Check your spelling.

And they do need to happen spontaneously and unexpectedly; out of the blue, and with a ‘how did this happen?’ moment.  Like a Conservative majority.  OH NO now I’ve spoiled it.  Cameron and his shiny face.  Bah.

Anyway, I thought I should say something about the election.  I was thinking of buoying myself up with thoughts of the appalling five years ahead for the Tories.  Within three years they could be facing an internal backbench collapse over Europe, a constitutional crisis in Scotland, and a worsening global economic downturn.  All this with some young rising Labour star tearing the guts out of a tiny, tiny majority in the house.  Yes.  That sounds good.

So here it is.  My informed comment.

Pppffffffffttttt.

I’m glad that’s dealt with.  Back to the rebalancing of my internal chemicals.  I’m going to lie down and chew my pillow.

Drastic action needed.  Wordsworth, possibly.

Normal service resumed shortly.

x

*Send all erotic messages on a ten-pound note.  Care of me.

A Story for the Eve of the Election

It is election eve.  Tomorrow a lot of people put a lot of paper into a lot of boxes, and then we get to spend the next two weeks wondering who’s in whose gang, and who isn’t.  Marvellous.

So anyway.  Who wants to hear a story?  It’s an improving one.  With a stout moral core.  And it’s got drugs in it.

All of you?  Good.  Bring your chairs around.  And your drinks.  And someone turn that thing off.

Right.  Ahem.

Imagine a man.  An addict.  He no longer takes his fix to feel good; that stopped a long time ago.  He now takes it to not feel awful.  If you look in any thesaurus, one of the synonyms for addiction is ‘enslavement’.  This man is no longer his own master.  He is miserable to the core.  He knows that these days, after every fix, there’s a chance he might not wake up.  And he knows something is very wrong, because he doesn’t care.  And he loathes himself for it.

He has tried to stop by himself.  He would rather die than let anyone else know he has a problem.  But within 36 hours of stopping, he feels so physically fucking awful that he can’t get out of bed.  Or shower.  Or get his kid to the nursery.  Or work.

And he knows that one tiny fix will prop him up for a bit longer.  So he weakens, and fails.  And then he fucking hates himself more, and is out to punish.

If he’s lucky, he will at some point realise that he can no longer stop this by himself.  He needs other people.  He needs someone to believe that he wants to get better more than anything else he’s ever wanted.  And he starts looking around.

This man finds a website, which talks calmly about treatment options for parents.  He discovers a walk-in centre, that is in the heart of his community.  He doesn’t even have to make an appointment.

He walks past the door for two straight days in a row.  The third time he walks in.

The guy who met me was Johnny.  He was a short Scotsman, thickly built, and with tattoos on his arms that showed he had been a Guardsman.  Yes, he told me, the army had taken him all over the world.  Brunei, and Germany.  And in 1982 it had dropped him on the side of a shallow mountain (“more of a hill, really, sir”) called Tumbledown in the South Atlantic.

There, at night, he had slithered up that rocky incline on his belly, watching the tracer fly far above his head.  Until the sun came up, and then they were all sitting there in plain sight, under the Argentinian guns, like some sort of appalling duck shoot.

Johnny had done okay, though.  He’d done alright.  Came out without a scratch, or so he thought.

But he took that battle out with him when he left the army.  He’d taken it on to the streets when his wife had kicked him out.  He’d taken it to men’s shelters.  And ultimately to community rehab.

And now he was looking after me.  Efficiently.  With clipboard in hand.

When Johnny put his hand on my shoulder, and told me it would all be alright, I wept.

He quickly put me through triage, then explained the titration process.

Within 48 hours I had my script, my plan, and Johnny’s number.

And now I work, voluntarily, as a drugs and alcohol counsellor.  It’s my turn.

But here’s the punchline.

The website that directed me home was closed in March due to ‘cuts’.

That walk-in centre was closed last year, in an effort to ‘centralise’.  There are no walk-in centres at all now.

Proper, qualified people like Johnny have been let go.  It’s now all agencies and volunteers.

If I were to ask for help today, I would be told to fill in a form and wait three weeks for an appointment letter.  If I ask what I am supposed to do for the next three weeks, I’ll be implicitly told to go back to my dealer.  Or website.  Or whatever shit-awful place I had decided that morning to never go back to again in my life.

Look.  Here’s the point.  These changes have only happened in the last SIX YEARS.  There is a plethora of independent research that says these kind of cuts aren’t necessary.  They just feed an ideology.

So I have to tell people to fill in a form.  Crying is okay, because I understand.  Trying to punch me in the face is even better; at least I know that you’re motivated.

It’s the quiet ones that haunt me.  The ones that nod, and look at the floor.  And walk right out of the door.

Please vote.

x

[update]  save some lives, Corbyn.  Work at the middle ground.  For all those dead people I met.  The dead weather.