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

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

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

Chapter One: Oh Mercy

Good Lord.  It’s been a while.  Thirteen days by my reckoning.  But, reader, I have news!  I have beheld many wonderful things.  Pure as the morning.  Angry, boisterous, and keen, as Wordsworth says.  All since the weekend.  And I wasn’t even drunk.

Today, and I utterly kid you not, a large bird-of-prey deposited a nearly-dead pheasant upon my windscreen whilst I was navigating a country road.  It arrived out of the sun.  Just a shadow, and a hint of movement at the very edge of my vision.

And then a THUMP.  Blood and feathers, and the June sun strobing through wings as it circled away.

The windscreen held.  Which is a good thing.  I am unsure if my insurance covers acts of extreme portent.

“a harbinger, you say. and how would you be spelling that?”

Well that was a fucking turn-up.  For the pheasant too, I imagine.

Talking of turn-ups, I can’t actually work-out where she came from.  I can’t recall a first message, or suddenly being struck by her profile.  No polite online mutual appreciation.  In fact the first thing I remember is annoyance.  Silly posh cow.

Anyway, it seems she can draw a laugh out of me like she’s twisting pliers.  She’s fucking funny. And just out of reach.  In short, she’s deadly.

We meet for a chat.  Rain puts paid to our polite picnic plans.  Chain pub puts paid to our polite staying out.  We go home.  Home puts paid to polite.

She cooks.  Casual expertise.  A practised hand.  She has this place at the top of her spine, between her shoulders.  It’s like there’s an invisible wire holding it high, and poised.  I want to reach out for it, brush her hair from it, and get very close.  The yearning starts to burn.

“You’ve got lovely eyes,” she says.  It totters out of her, in the middle of a different sentence.  Oh fuck.

In the morning we’re in the garden.  We have a couple of hours, and we’re building something.  There are a few odd pieces of wood that can be put together.  And she has a tentative plan.

She looks for someone to help.  The only guy I’ve bought with me seems to be an official from the Department of Whimsy.  He blathers.  He shakes, and is very earnest.  He talks shit.

Idiot.

I should have brought the rude and robust guy.  He’s much better in these situations.

My anxiety floats.  It will not shift. We’ve nailed something together.  It holds for the moment.  Maybe I should a bring a hammer.  I used to have one.  I know I’ve still got it; I’m sure it’s around somewhere.  I’ll get the robust guy to bring it with him.

This thing we’re making is going to hold soil.  Things can be planted in it.  Things might grow, if the net holds and the fat pigeon leaves it alone.  It’s not very pretty at the moment, and could quickly fall apart under the wrong pressure.  Fragile, and easily pulled up.

It’s done.  She smiles at me.  Lovely, still.  Claws in for the moment.  Like the hawk first regarding the pheasant.

Oh dig them in.  Please.  Carry me back to your nest.  Feed me to your children.

But I’m listening for the screech of brakes.  And the thump.  And for her to circle away.

And I’m suddenly aware that I’ve not got my seatbelt on.

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