I’m not entirely sure how the topic came up, but for whatever reason, I recently started thinking about the last time I’d had an actual, capital-OG, Official Girlfriend (as opposed to Original Gangster)¹, and I did some increasingly disturbing calculations in my head.
OK, let’s see… The last breakup I had was about six weeks after Valentine’s Day, because we got together on Valentine’s Day, and we were together about a month and a half, so that’s February 14, add around 42 days, call it April 1…
Huh. Wouldja look at that?
Talk about nine years that sure flew by.
Given the free time that’s awarded me, I feel like I probably could have gone to the gym more often.
The term ‘boyfriend’ is, after nine years, a label for a concept that is strange and alien to me. The idea of applying it to myself ranks alongside the oddness that would follow if I was to describe myself using the term ‘ostrich’. I mean, yeah, sure, you can say the word, but in this context, what the hell does it even mean? I don’t know how to be someone’s boyfriend. Are there dental benefits? Is there a union? Do I get my parking validated? What are my duties and my KPIs? Can I go to HR with these questions?
Can I – should I – rely purely on movies as a guideline?
What about fights? People tell me that healthy fights are good for a relationship; they clear the air and act as a pressure valve for built-up frustrations, but… I have no expertise in this field. Should I be trying to win, or trying to reach a resolution? Is there a cash prize for finishing first, and does that affect the answer to the previous question? Can I bring in a consultant? Is there a 50/50 option available? Is there a manual I can work with?
Speaking of which, are there some books or instructional pamphlets? A Dummies Guide would be a great start.
I can’t help but feel someone should have written this stuff down somewhere.
I should really have given Gemma Dann the letter I’d written professing my love for her when I was four years old. She was a few years older, tomboyish, and brunette, a pattern that would follow for years to come². I was fairly certain, at the time, that I wanted to marry her, a decision I’d come to after watching her climb a tree at a primary school football game.
Then, as now, it didn’t really take much.
I hesitantly approached her one recess (she was surrounded by a gaggle of younger girls, as all older girls seemed to be at that time) and told her I had a letter for her.
She looked at me.
‘No you don’t,’ she said.
This was not a turn of events I was prepared for. I wasn’t sure exactly what I had expected, but I knew this wasn’t it. In my head, the stages involved were, broadly:
1. Letter handover
My friends would be made jealous, and Garfield the cat would be my best man.
I had to say something.
‘Uh… yeah, I do,’ I said (establishing then and there the smooth-tongued mastery of seduction that has since been my trademark).
‘No you don’t,’ she said again, and that’s when the whole plan fell apart.
‘Um… OK,’ I said, and left. Five minutes later, she came up to me, followed by her loyal phalanx of my female classmates.
‘OK, kid,’ she said. ‘Where’s this letter?’
I was mortified. Kid? Jesus. This was no good. No good at all. There were only two ways out of this situation – to either bravely and boldly say ‘Here it is! I love you, Gemma Dann!’, and let the chips fall where they may, or lie like a weasel and crawl away on my belly (figuratively speaking).
I took a deep breath.
‘I don’t have any letter!’ I burst out, and I ran away and refused to talk to anyone until the bell rang and I could safely take my place in the anonymity of the classroom.
A little while back I had breakfast with two of my old bosses (mentors, in some ways), and I explained a recent romantic situation that had gone horribly wrong.
Cherie, a keen student of marketing, communications, social movements and human nature, listened to my story and looked at me with a considering look in her eye.
‘Everyone thinks you’re someone you’re not,’ she said. ‘There’s this whole persona which is totally different to how everyone perceives you.’
I am Batman.
Looking back now (I honestly haven’t thought of the Gemma Dann incident in years), it’s clear what was really going on, the subtext of my past laid bare by the wisdom of my present.
Obviously, Gemma was so overwhelmed by the prospect of my affections (I’d lay even money she had spent every night dreaming of just such an eventuality) that in the moment she recognised the reality of the situation, her mind snapped completely and she sought to deny her most cherished fantasy.
The poor girl probably can’t even get the daily mail without breaking down into a hair-pulling crying jag that can only end in maximal sedation, and more than likely has no idea why.
It’s OK, Gemma. We all have our psychological crosses to bear. I forgive you.
This whole ‘nine years’ thing has sparked some great Facebook status conversations.
Friends have noticed this tendency of mine to not be involved in committed relationships. I’ve been alternately condemned for a fictitious life of total promiscuity (I hear stories about myself that both amaze me and make me jealous of my alternate and far more virile self), praised for not settling, or, occasionally, come face-to-face with the phrase ‘Well, that’s because you’re dead inside.’
Nice. Real nice.
People ask if I’m looking for a traditional relationship, and the answer is no, I don’t think I am, but who in the hell knows? Who in the hell knows what a traditional relationship is?
Obviously, not me.
An unpleasant situation arose a few years back when a friend and her then-boyfriend (also a friend) split up. Things became strange, and quickly, and I finally asked someone what the hell was going on.
‘Well, it’s because you slept with Nadine,’ I was told (note: Nadine is not her real name).
This was news to me.
‘But… I didn’t.’ I said.
‘Everyone knows you did,’ was the answer I was given. ‘Everyone knows what you’re like.’
Not only have I never slept with Nadine³, I cannot convince people of this, and her current boyfriend, as far as I know, believes the same and, understandably, hates me as a result. I don’t know really know how to broach the subject:
‘Uh, so, this whole ‘banging your girlfriend one time’ thing…’
The situation is fascinating to me, at an academic level. How people work in general, but currently, myself in specific. People ask if I’m concerned about this giant nine-year gap but it’s not something that bothers me. Although I am aware that should I meet another Gemma Dann and decide to write her a letter telling her I love her, at some point, we’re going to have the ex conversation and I’m going to say ‘Well, nine years ago…’
I’m not sure exactly what reaction is going to be provoked by such a statement, but I’ve learned that the way to deal with such a situation is simple: lie through your teeth and escape just as soon as possible.
‘Honey,’ I’ll say, ‘see that sign up in the sky? The city needs me once again. Oh, and also, I don’t have any letter.’
¹ Straight pimpin’
² Dear Clea DuVall…
³ Why did I pick that pseudonym, of all the options available?