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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…

2001.

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
2. Marriage

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.’

Yes.

It’s true.

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?

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SIMON SMITHSON is an Australian writer and editor. He is currently based in Melbourne, Australia, but frequently finds himself in Los Angeles and San Francisco. His work has appeared on both sides of the globe in print and online in publications such as BLIP, Every Day Fiction, Beat, The Loop, My Sinking Boat, and more. He has a tumblr at www.simonsmithson.com and he runs a lifestyle experiment at www.selfhelpless.net.

216 responses to “A Quick Nine Years”

  1. Slade Ham says:

    I stand with you as the eternal bachelor. It hasn’t been nearly as long for me… approaching four years I think? With every passing day my standards seem to rise.

    I’m now patiently waiting for a supermodel with a Mensa level IQ, a love for sci-fi, Irish whiskey, and all things ninja, and an appreciation for (or tolerance of) my really fucked up sense of humor. I’ve also, in the last year or two, come to envision her as having either an Australian or a British accent. I’m leaning towards Australian, mainly so that I have a cool place to visit for the holidays.

    It’s okay to be single indefinitely, as long as it’s your choice 🙂

    • Simon Smithson says:

      At this point, gauche though it may be, I would like to quote an anthology that I’ve been putting together for some time. This is from ‘The Survey That You, Prospective Partner, Must Take Before Dating Me, Simon Smithson.’

      1. What is your current profession?

      A. Fire-breathing supermodel who fights crime in her spare time and sometimes rides a jet-ski across the deep, dangerous, and deadly waters of Seriously, I Wish The 2 Skinnee Js Had Never Split Up, Those Guys Were Awesome Bay, wearing a tight bikini that leaves little to the imagination.
      B. Karate-toting policewoman who models in her spare time and plays bass in an alternative rock band that travels around the country solving mysteries, wearing a uniform that leaves little to the imagination.
      C. Death-defying carnival acrobat who wears a leotard that leaves little to the imagination and is a private detective on the exclusive model circuit in her spare time. Just like in that Pamela Anderson show, V.I.P.
      D. I can see I have wasted your valuable time. Here is ten dollars for your trouble.

      I don’t know. Maybe I’m setting my sights too low.

  2. Matt says:

    Dude, trust me. I spent the bulk of my twenties in a relationship, and it really wasn’t all that it’s cracked up to be. Slade’s right: bachelorhood FTW!

    I’ve had five girlfriends thus far. Each and every one of those relationships was a completely different beast. One was hugely passive-aggressive. One of them claimed she hated to fight, but then would refuse to back down or let a matter drop when we had them (even pursuing me into a different room when I tried to walk away), and the only way to stop things was to go for her throat, metaphorically speaking. One was completely open and honest about everything, including the moment that she decided she’d only been using me as an extended rebound guy/emotional crash pad and decided to see someone else. And one actually went insane…but that’s another story.

    When you have that inevitable “ex” conversation with the future Smithson Girlfriend, all you really have to say is “Well, the thing is, I’ve dated, but things never really seemed to work out. None of those girls had your qualities.” Ought to stop the conversation right there. At least, the talking part of things.

    Also: speaking as someone who just might have watched Say Anything one time too many after a particularly bad breakup, NEVER rely on movies as your guide.

    • Simon Smithson says:

      Yeah, I’d just hate to end up as a warning sign to others – a bachelorhood ornament.

      Zing!

      Jinkers. Sounds like quite the history. Where do all these crazy people come from? Is there some kind of factory that just pumps them out at ten-minute intervals, 24-7, all day, every day? Because they seem to be everywhere.

      Am I one of the crazy ones? Would I know? Jesus, I sure hope I would.

      John Cusack… you son of a bitch.

      • Matt says:

        Speaking of Cusack….High Fidelity had just come out in the theaters right around the time of said breakup. I must have seen that thing in the theater at least five times, and read the novel three or four. I identified with it on a level that was probably very unhealthy, psychologically speaking.

        Still do.

        • Simon Smithson says:

          Ha. A little more than a year ago, seeking insight and assistance, I did the High Fidelity thing, and got in touch with all of my exes, whether proper exes or pseudo-girlfriends.

          It was a very interesting experience.

        • Matt says:

          Sounds like a TNB post waiting to happen….

        • Simon Smithson says:

          Oh, believe me, the thought has crossed my mind. Maybe when I’m safely back in America…

  3. Judy Prince says:

    Total hoot, Simon—love this! The bit about your letter-nongiving I especially loved, it so perfectly describes poignant, embarrassing, wacky kid thinking:

    “1. Letter handover
    2. Marriage.”

    Now here’s some guidance for you: Read all 40 years’ worth of the longest-running magazine column in the USA: Ladies’ Home Journal’s “Can This Marriage Be Saved” [Rodent calls it “Should This Marriage Be Saved”]. Each marriage partner presents her/his take on the probs, then a (different one each article) Certified PsychoSomething presents her/his take on the probs, gives exercises and suggestions for behaviour modification, and—get this—every single time in those 40 years of articles the marriage is saved! Yes! Not only that, but the couple always says, at the end of the article: “And now we’re making love again—and it’s better than ever!” There you are, then.

    • Simon Smithson says:

      Thanks Judy!

      Yeah, that missing series of logical steps… I think that still informs much of my thinking today. It’s what’s known as the South Park Underpants Gnomes model:

      Stage 1: Collect Underpants
      Stage 2: ???
      Stage 3: Profit

      Ooh, Ladies’ Home Journal. I’m so there.

  4. Richard Cox says:

    Ferris Bueller, you’re my hero.

    • Simon Smithson says:

      Have you ever heard the theory that Ferris Bueller is Cameron’s own personal Tyler Durden? That Ferris is the cool, defiant, Sloane-dating type that Cameron yearns to be and yet cannot, so he’s created this character?

      It’s also interesting to note – with that viewpoint – that Cameron is the only one in the film who goes through any kind of growth.

      • Richard Cox says:

        I haven’t heard that theory but it makes complete sense. As an aside, the protagonist in my first novel is named after Cameron from the FB film.

        I’m still jealous of you, Mr. Nine Years Free.

        • Greg Olear says:

          Ha! Was wondering if you lifted Cameron from that source.

          I used that name, too, in my actual first book, for the me character.

        • Simon Smithson says:

          I’d be too tempted to write a me character with a name like, oh, I don’t know… ‘Phoenix’. Or ‘Ampersand’.

          Phoenix Ampersand strode through the cemetery with a grim, determined lift to his chin and the light of divine retribution in his eye. A hearty stallion of a man…

        • Greg Olear says:

          Phoenix is his name. His girlfriend’s name is Ann Persand.

          Sometimes when my son asks what my name is, which answer he surely knows, I reply, “Desdemona Jones.”

        • Simon Smithson says:

          Jones is such a good surname, especially with a noun in front of it.

          Of course, there is only one true Jones.

          “Not THAT Jones, the OTHER Jones!”

        • Greg Olear says:

          Indiana Jones is a great, great name. Even if he sounds like he should be playing linebacker for the Colts.

        • Simon Smithson says:

          Jesus, yes. My hurt feelings about Crystal Skull aside, what a perfect piece of creation by Messrs. Spielberg and Lucas. The name just sells the whole thing, sums the entire experience up (fortunately they didn’t go with their original choice of actor. That could have Sellecked the whole thing. I honestly thought of that after writing the first couple of sentences).

          Like ‘James Bond.’ The name just… works.

      • Gloria says:

        That’s true, isn’t it? Very interesting. Hrm. Fascinating.

        Earlier this week I had a conversation with my friend Tree about Fonzie. I referred to myself as “cool as Fonzie” and she pointed out that I’m probably going for a different kind of cool than the guy in his mid-thirties who lives in a garage above a family and hangs out with a bunch of teenagers.

        You people are blowing my mind and shattering my illusions!

        • Simon Smithson says:

          Trust me, RC, a lot of that nine years has been surprisingly expensive.

          Fonzie could undo a bra one-handed, however.

  5. I like your reference to Facebook status updates… It’s strange but we will probably look back on these one day as part of the relationship. “Ah, in my day we didn’t need love notes or phone calls or talking… We related to one another through Facebook.”

    • Simon Smithson says:

      In this day and age of uncivilised behaviour, I wonder if anyone has been notified of their partner leaving via Facebook status update? Surely that must have happened, right?

      • Probably. It amuses me watching the FB dramas unfold… Like my friends adding each other after a fall out. Or saying they’ve “broken up.”

        I wonder if that would cross my mind if I ever broke up with Amy… Would I go to find a computer so I could change my status? And if so, would it be to inform my friends, or to put the warning out there? Would I be thinking about the 50% of females on my friend list that might be willing to help my situation…?

        • Simon Smithson says:

          God, it’s all in the public sphere now, isn’t it? And it comes with its own little set of codes of etiquette to follow and stand by. I’ve ended up blocking people after bad breakups with my friends, when they decided that I was to be the access point for their venting of their grief and frustration.

        • I’m a stupidly loyal friend, so when a buddy breaks up with his/her partner, they usually come to hate me. Everyone hates the best friend who gives sensible advice and a sofa to sleep on.

        • Simon Smithson says:

          Oh, man, I know, right? You just try to help, and that’s what you get. Right in the face.

          Wait, what am I talking about again?

        • Greg Olear says:

          I think when everything and everybody is public, which is sort of what’s happening, the effect is muted. Like the song from Gondoliers: “When everybody’s somebody, then no one’s anybody.”

        • Simon Smithson says:

          Exactly – this whole breaking down of divisions between the public and private spheres has lead to a whole new ballgame.

  6. AXS says:

    No, I said you were “red inside.” Yeah, that’s it. Red inside. Sorry for the confusion and subsequent pain. Please forgive.

    Hugs,

    AXS

    • Simon Smithson says:

      You’re thinking of Paul Toth.

      Huh? Huh? Intertextuality, b*tches!

      Yeah.

      Other gems I’ve received are:

      ‘That’s because you have no soul’ (Hi, Ryan Day!)

      ‘Oh, I forgot, you’re Mr. ‘You’re born alone, you die alone’ (I have never said such a thing in my entire life)

      and

      ‘You have absolutely no standards.’

      Goddamnit. Everyone I know is jerks.

      • AXS says:

        Um, it’s Paul A. Toth to you.

        Please and thank you.

        AXS

        Wow, even I’m a jerk. Who knew?

        • Simon Smithson says:

          My mistake. Paul A. Toth.

          A… for COMMIE!

          Wait, wait. That doesn’t make any sense. I like it as a sight gag, though.

          It’s OK. We’re all jerks, at some time or another. I bet even Mother Theresa was mean a couple times.

        • Greg Olear says:

          The “A” stands for “Dr. Feelgood.”

          [Kidding, my man].

  7. D.R. Haney says:

    I wrote many declarations of love in my preteen days. I delivered one to a girl named Karen during lunch. The letter included a picture of her that I’d drawn. It was a very good likeness — I was known as the school artist — but, as I watched from across the cafeteria, Karen tore it up summarily and burst into tears, consoled by a group of girls who’d gathered to see what I’d sent.

    I was obviously a highly desirable preteen bachelor.

    I’m at the point now where the thought of a relationship doesn’t even enter my mind. Romance has brought me nothing but unhappiness, and as soon as friends acquire significant others, I make myself scarce, since I know I’m going to be shown the exit door anyway.

    I appear to be coming down with yet another cold, which may account for my bitter tone — more bitter than usual, I mean.

    • Simon Smithson says:

      I wish now I’d kept whatever love letters and tokens I’ve been given throughout the years. It’s generally in a fit of pique I think Yeah, well fuck YOU! and take my revenge on the only things I have available to take my revenge on, which, in the long run, is far more damaging for me than it ever would be for the giver.

      God, what a fucking mess.

      Really? There’s no ‘Bros before hos’ policy in place? That’s a sad factor to consider.

      It’s also a sad factor to consider that past relationships have been so awful that all hope is lost. I’m kind of lucky in that sense. My family history serves as a grim warning of where that type of approach could possibly lead me.

    • Becky says:

      I can confirm that the exit door problem is not necessarily a “bros” issue. Try being a female friend and trying to have coffee with a male friend who has a new-ish girlfriend.

      It’s like “Behind Enemy Lines” and shit. No woman is more universally hated by other women than the woman with a bunch of male friends. You want to talk about gaining an undeserved tramp reputation….

      But NOTHING but unhappiness? Or that’s all that remains?

      • Simon Smithson says:

        I catch up with my very-first girlfriend every few years or so. The last time we did, we actually spoke about the breakdown of the relationship between the two of us (yeah. That iron was hot for striking. Ten years on). We talked also about our relationship history since then (or lack thereof) and I mentioned I’d slept with a girl I’d known for a long time.

        Ten years and a half dozen long-term relationships later, the ex yelled ‘I knew she wasn’t just a friend!’

        I relayed this story to a male friend. He nodded wisely and said ‘Chicks can smell that shit.’

        A hearty strain of jealousy is very definitely part of my makeup. I don’t like it, but what can you do?

        Oh, man, there’s the rub, too. When relationships go south (and badly so), does that reverse-engineer the good times? Honestly, sometimes it can, and the whole thing becomes a gigantically unpleasant zero sum.

        • Becky says:

          Can smell what? That a perfectly single guy might sleep with someone he knows? With all due respect to your ex and your male friend, I don’t think that’s much of a demonstration of psychic ability. Hindsight is always 20/20.

          Unless, of course, the long-time acquaintance in question really was always more than just a friend and you had simply fibbed about it all along, in which case the ex would have been right. But in a general sense, I think that unsubstantiated friend jealousy is counterproductive in a number of ways, not the least of which is that it has the potential to create feelings or at least set the romantic relationship up for serious resentment and trust issues.

          I would worry about any relationship that was totally jealousy-free. I mean, jealousy is human. But it’s a fine line between feeling a little insecure about a significant other’s friendship and saying so, and getting some reassurance, and other less diplomatic measures that amount to declaring them guilty before they’ve even done anything wrong.

          For example, say your slump ends and your new girlfriend declares that you’re not allowed to go have coffee and chat with this ex of yours? Or even speak to her? What do you do? Just cut all ties? I don’t know. Maybe it’s because of my own experiences or maybe I’m insane, but I couldn’t ask a person to do that. It makes me feel sick just thinking about it.

        • Simon Smithson says:

          Ah – and here’s where it gets complicated (my stories usually do after five seconds or so of consideration).

          The girl who I slept with after the first relationship was over – she was actually the first real, proper, semi-adult crush I’d ever had. And man, was that a crush. That’s a long and sad story, that one, actually. But we’re friends now, so it’s as OK as it’s going to be.

          However – when I met the first girlfriend, those feelings were very much out the window/on the backburner/insert cliche here. I think (at least, from my own experience and that of my friends) there’s always a certain something about a guy’s first proper girlfriend. I didn’t have eyes for anyone but her – the crush I had on my friend was not even a consideration for me.

          Things took a murkier turn with the revelation that not only had my girlfriend been cheating on me for the last stage of our relationship, but then broke up with me so she could go on to date the guy she’d been cheating on me with. I’m told (I think I read it somewhere) that cheaters are more likely to be suspicious – it’s projection in pure form.

          It actually took me a really long time to realise it’s OK to just say ‘Hey, I’m a bit insecure about this friend of yours, please reassure me.’ In fact, I think I’ve only done it once in my life, and it was like talking around a mouthful of clay. I have this weird tendency to berate myself for ever feeling jealous (despite the number of experiences I’ve had which would attest to the correctness of that very feeling).

          I’m not a tie-cutter. Not on someone else’s say-so, anyway.

  8. Gloria says:

    This whole paragraph is fucking genius:

  9. Richard Cox says:

    Just delete my comment, or more precisely, delete a bunch of my “aaaaaaaa”s in order to keep the page from not wrapping. Sorry, dude.

  10. Anon says:

    Simon, I must say that this is an interesting insight for me. I’ve been married for, if I recall correctly, eight hundred and twenty seven years (actually, eight hundred and twenty eight this May). My single, predatory years are a distant memory and I am utterly devoted to my wife but, after all the effort I’ve put into making this relationship work, I’ve often thought it might be nice to be reincarnated as a hermit next time. Or perhaps a large rock. I’m tired.

    Enjoy your time, sir.

    • Jeannie says:

      congrats on the eight hundred and twenty eighth anniversary! You know just in case I for get to tell you in may.

      • Anon says:

        Much obliged. The seven hundreds were sort of a rough patch but, hey, love conquers all. Or at least it negotiates well.

        • Simon Smithson says:

          I’m so going to steal that line about love negotiation.

          It sounds a little like an 80s sub one-hit-wonder from the Pointer Sisters, maybe as a movie soundtrack album semi-hit.

          ‘I’ll be your (silence, double drum boom) love negotiator!/’Cause my heart is a hostage/And you’re the only good cop in a town gone baa-aaa-aaa-aaaaad!’

          Moving on.

          My long-held philosophy has been that it’s not about what it is you’re involved in, as long as it’s what you want (this doesn’t really extend to, say, the Triads, it’s more relationship-oriented). And there have certainly been women in that nine years that I wish (oh! how I wished!) it had worked out with. But, you know. That’s just the way it goes.

        • Anon says:

          The Triads, initially slackjawed at your dismissal, have now moved onto to weeping and updating their Facebook wall. “I thought we were special to him! How could he just shut us out like that?” Soon, they will move on to watching romantic comedies while eating entire gallons of ice cream, directly from the carton. Then, of course, they will likely plot your demise. You may wish to hire someone to start your car for awhile. And start posting on boards using a vague, anonymous pseudonym until they find someone else and pick up the pieces… of that someone else.

        • Simon Smithson says:

          Oh! Bless their poor broken hearts. Hopefully they’ll be able to understand – someday – when the hurt is less raw, and they are less given to wearing my heart on their sleeve, that I was hurting too, and I never wanted any of this to happen.

          It’s just… the Yakuza were so funny, and they were so into me… I couldn’t say no.

        • Anon says:

          Don’t look now but I think La Cosa Nostra is checking you out from across the room! And they’re so classy, not like those crude MS-13 boys.

        • Simon Smithson says:

          OhmyGodohmyGodohmyGOD! I’ve had a crush on the Black Hand for years!

          OK. God, I hope no one from the Bratva turns up. They always get all… touchy.

        • Anon says:

          No, no, you should be fine. It’s “free pierogi night” down at The Metro. They’ll be stuffing their faces for hours!

        • Simon Smithson says:

          Thank God. I haven’t been so relieved since half-price tattoo night.

  11. Jeannie says:

    Some days we are just glad to have good friends with benefits. Though, I think the reality of people choosing to be single over ‘committed’ relationship is yet another result of social media overload.

    Dude, where is the Dating for Dummies when you need one?

    • Simon Smithson says:

      That whole friends with benefits arrangements – has that ever really worked for any extended period of time? I’m not saying it doesn’t, but certainly not in my experience. It always ends with that terrible phrase: ‘You knew what this was.’

      Ouch.

      I know. I know. DFD. I should talk to the Dummies people about that.

      • Gloria Harrison says:

        If you haven’t already read this, you must! Will Entrekin is being prodded (by me) to write the male perspective on this.

        http://www.salon.com/life/broadsheet/feature/2010/02/26/hook_up_culture

        It makes some really good points about hooking up. It’s like the Dating For Dummies for adolescent girls.

      • Jeannie says:

        There’s always that point when it forms a weird relationshipesque mentality. Usually about then the dreaded phrase is used. On my end, if I do end up using that excuse it is because I’m to afraid to go any further with making it an actual relationship with, you know, consequences.

        But now I’ve said to much. Crap. The inner-workings of a woman’s mind is supposed to be ‘mysterious’. *jedi mind trick* you’ve learned nothing here, move along.

        • Simon Smithson says:

          There are not the droids I’m looking for.

          Heh.

          Hang on. Proper reply in a second.

        • Simon Smithson says:

          Yep. I know exactly what you mean. There have been times (Gah! Idiot! I’ll always regret it!) that I’ve slipped backwards into the security of the friendship-with-benefits zone because honestly, I’ve been too scared to just say ‘Hey, I really like you, let’s take this someplace.’

          Because, you know. People HATE that.

        • Jeannie says:

          And as we get older, it’s oh so much harder to step up and say the whole, ‘I like you’. We get stuck in our ways, sliding back into the comfort of friends. Oy vay, such a tangle web humanity is.

          OK, another insight into our minds Simon. Women like it when you say, I like you. You know, for your next almost relationship.

        • Simon Smithson says:

          The hardest, I’ve found, is to go in cold – when you’re not even in a dating type situation, to admit to someone you have feelings for them. Now that’s the stuff that heroes are made of.

          Thanks, Jeannie. I’m learning a bunch. And so much of it is counter-intuitive!

        • Jeannie says:

          Good god, you are correct sir. And you have all those crazy thoughts in your head, ‘if I admit to him/her and they don’t reciprocate they will hate me. They will move out of my life and I may never see them again.’ Then the self doubt sets in and you loose the nerve to even do anything. Limbo. The world needs more heroes.

          BTW, I look forward to meeting you when you head our way in June!

        • Simon Smithson says:

          That is the worst. The absolute worst. Because then you feel like you’re damned if you do, damned if you don’t. What an asshole! The key is to assert yourself, but with a light touch. No tears, no weird approaches, no gimmicks: just – hey, look, this is how I’m feeling.

          I wish a million times I’d learned that lesson when I was younger.

          Ah well.

          Me too! June!

  12. Simone says:

    Simon, big ups to you for writing this post. Had me in bloody stiches and tears laughing so much.

    Can I go to HR with these questions?
    Make a list of all those questions, approach HR and see what they say.

    Singletons of the world should unite and great a secret group against those who cross over to the dark side. We could name it HR, too: Hermit Resources. Or we could send out secret singletons into the world to gather information on the mating habits of those relationship dwellers. We can use said information to improve and cure our ‘Singletonitis’.

    You, Simon, should be our fearless leader since you already have the Batman gig down to a tee, and well, maybe, I’m just interested in driving the bat mobile.

    • Simon Smithson says:

      Hey, thanks Simone!

      I have so many questions for HR. So, so many.

      Ha! I love the idea of a secret group. Parking would be a total bitch, though.

      What a way to introduce myself on dates. ‘Hi, I’m Simon, I’m the leader of a secret coalition of single people.’

      Then again, the ride would get the ladies…

    • Greg Olear says:

      I worked in HR, and I did get some weird stuff every now and again…

  13. Zara Potts says:

    Girls suck.
    Brew, it seems a travesty that you’ve been single for nine years. Having said that, I’d swap my last nine years for yours in a flash! Hah!
    Again, girls suck. You’re awesome.

    • Simon Smithson says:

      Like the t-shirt that has yet to be created says, brew: Girls are crazy, guys are stupid.

      Brooke in San Francisco, you are a true miracle.

      The ass is always greener on the other side of the fence, huh?

      • Simone says:

        Damn, I wish there was a ‘Like’ button here.

        “The ass is always greener on the other side of the fence, huh?

        Classsic!

  14. Irene Zion says:

    Simon,

    I’m really excited that now I know the pair of you!
    You are Batman and Listi is Robin.
    (How come Listi is using his Robin photo in comments, and you’re sticking with the same photo with the opened door in the background? We all want to see your Batman picture!)

    I didn’t even know you had a reputation as a cad.
    Now everyone knows.
    I’m not sure this was a good idea you had here.

  15. Irene Zion says:

    Simon,

    It’s not JUST the look.
    There is a certain stance you have to affect.
    An aura, even.

    What the hell time is it there that you’re awake now?

    • Simon Smithson says:

      I will do my best to make the Ace of Detectives proud, Irene.

      It is currently 10:22pm on Saturday night.

      Huh.

      This may well be why I’m single.

  16. Irene Zion says:

    I’ve been getting up at 4:00 and 4:30 AM lately for no good reason at all.
    it’s almost 7 AM now, so I think I’ll get in the shower and get some coffee.
    It’s Saturday here too, just morning.

    You need to make plans on Saturday nights, Simon.
    I think you hit on the problem, right there.

  17. Becky says:

    You, know, you should really think of this in terms of the health benefits.

    Don’t married/committed men live longer than single ones? Of course, as Anon mentions above, there may be a quality of life question with regard to those extra years. As a married woman, however, I can tell you with utter confidence that we are not TRYING to extend anyone’s misery, least of all, our own.

    It’s just an side-effect of our firm commitment to never letting our husbands have any fun whatsoever.

    That said, I was a serial monogamist my whole life prior to being married (and suppose still, technically, at least with regard to the “monogamist” part). I have no idea what it might be like to go more than a year or so without a significant other. You’re blowing my mind.

    But I have confidence, Simon, that when you do find the girl of your dreams, she will either be a total codependent psychopath whom everyone hates but for whom you will go to the ends of the earth for some magical reason no one understands (because this is what happens to most of my guy friends at some point or another), or she will be as awesome and beloved and neato as you.

    I’m banking on the latter. The former is mostly cynicism. Not that you shouldn’t look out. though, because those bitches are out there and I want to beat them up.

    • Sarah says:

      Too many of my guy friends married those codependent psychopath bitches and wonder why we’re not friends anymore. Most of the reason isn’t even because I don’t want to be around the psychopath but because the psychopath is convinced the next time she goes to the bathroom she’ll come out to find me (or any of his female friends) boinking her husband. Stupid bitches.

      I agree that Simon will find the perfect complement to his awesomeness and they will rule the world together.

      • Becky says:

        I am a committed (and profoundly stubborn) friend.

        I have managed to keep most of those guy friends.

        Not without fighting tooth and nail for it, though. Trashing it out with different women about how, yeah, their boyfriend is a cool guy, but if we were interested in each other in that way, I would be the girlfriend, not her, and to get over herself already.

        I refuse to go gently into the friendship night most of the time.

        The only one I “lost” was gone for two years, at the end of which I found a note hanging on the door of our house apologizing to me for his letting a girlfriend come between friends and how she turned out to be a total disaster and so on. I called him up and told him of course he was forgiven, but that I reserved my right to say, “I fucking told you so!” and that he should start listening to me if I tell him a girl is batshit.

        I mean, I’m not just randomly hostile towards my friends’ girlfriends. Just the awful ones. I have an eye for these things.

        • Simon Smithson says:

          Don’t worry, the flip side to the coin very much exists as well. I’ve had people turn up to parties they originally weren’t coming to as a result of their girlfriend being there unchaperoned (with me), hated by people I’ve never met, and more. Goddamnit. Why are people so messed up?

          I like this perfect complement idea, though.

          As for the co-dependent sort. Yeah. Been there, too. Unfortunately, they ultimately always end up to less dependent than I am.

          I do like that an Australian band put this together, though:

          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bK7Z40-U1gM

        • Becky says:

          And as mentioned previously, I was a serial monogamist. I mean, I almost always had my OWN boyfriend, too.

          Boyfriends who were often around as much as I was, where I was.

          But that happened to me once, kind of. I ran into a childhood friend at a bar; we were both with groups of people. Both groups of people went to the same after-party at the bartender’s house. We played drinking games. I was sitting next to my friend on the couch, with my then-boyfriend (now husband) sitting on the other side of me.

          Next day I get a phone call from a random girl whose number I don’t recognize, and she’s squawking and ranting like a deranged chicken and calling me a whore and threatening to beat me up for trying to “get with” her boyfriend.

          I didn’t even know who she was talking about. At first I though my now-husband had some girlfriend he’d been hiding for 6 months because nothing else made sense. I hadn’t seen the friend in 4 or 5 years. I hugged him when I first saw him and when we left. Someone who didn’t like me much had apparently called this girl and told her that I was there, sitting next to her boyfriend on the couch, and that was enough.

          Very untoward of me. I’m such a shady character. Sitting on couches.

          People are unHINGED.

        • Simon Smithson says:

          Oh, man, that kind of shit gets crazy so quickly.

          HA! I’d totally forgotten the existence of the phrase ‘get with’. Oh, God, memories of high school parties are flooding back. Why is ‘kissed’ so hard to say?

          People are messed up. SO messed up.

          Yes, look, in the past I’ve been jealous. Very jealous. It truly is the green-eyed monster. Sometimes its been with reason, sometimes without. But I don’t think I’ve ever let it over-ride me to the point where I’ve actually gone and acted on it.

        • Becky says:

          Yeah. I mean, there is more backstory. Like, I’m reasonably sure the person who called her to misrepresent me is this other girl who didn’t like me because I dated her ex shortly after they broke up.

          So she wasn’t fond of me. She had motive.

          Drama. What’s sad is that this was not high school. I mean, I would have been, I guess, 22 or 23 at the time.

          I was from a smallish town and by that time in my peer group’s life, things had gotten pretty incestuous. Just about everyone had dated someone else’s ex and scandal was everywhere.

          To be perfectly honest, Simon, I rail against it because of my own preferences, but some women really like it when their men get jealous. You shouldn’t get down on yourself about it. It makes a lot of women feel desired and wanted and worth protecting. I can understand that (provided it’s sane, non-violent jealousy, of course). This aspect of relationships is like most others–sometimes it’s not a matter of finding someone who isn’t neurotic. It’s just a matter of finding someone whose neuroses complement your own.

        • Simon Smithson says:

          I don’t understand the point of that destructive drama. I mean, yeah, sure, a little drama can add some spice and put grist to the grind and spark things off a little. But why do people have such a hard time recognising that there is a line? That by pursuing their own need for drama, there will come a point when they’re going to spark off consequences? Then cause becomes effect becomes cause, and the whole thing can rapidly spiral out of control and people get messed up (hello again, Butterfly Effect! So nice to see you here. Please, won’t you sit down?).

          Ick. High school bullshit.

          Speaking of.

          I’ve been in situations (one springs immediately to mind) where a girl later admitted that she was trying to make me jealous in an attempt to, I don’t know, effect some sort of reaction? What she didn’t realise is that she’d done the job far too well and overshot the mark – not recognising the psychology of the individual, she didn’t know that my perceived lack of reaction was in truth that I had become so jealous as a result of her actions that I’d completely locked down, unwilling to let my emotions out for fear of the consequences (again, nothing violent or anything like that).

          I get off on jealousy a little bit too. But it makes me unutterably sad to think that someone I care about – and for – would be at that point of being consumed by it. It’s a horrible corrosive emotion.

        • Becky says:

          I did have one boyfriend–my first serious boyfriend, actually–who didn’t like for me to wear t-shirts with words or pictures across the chest because he said it was an advertisement telling other guys to look at my boobs, and why would I want that if I was with him. So he took it as an adulterous move if another guy liked my outfit.

          So, basically, his jealousy was a controlling, micro-managing kind. Never violent, but just about everything short of it. Just controlling, controlling behavior born from jealously and insecurity.

          That was my first experience with a relationship.

          So, I’m pretty independent to begin with, but this no doubt helped color my attitude towards jealousy and informed my current, fairly militant stance. Psychotic jealousy breeding psychotic jealousy intolerance.

          I actually told my husband when we were dating that if he ever told me I couldn’t wear something or talk to someone or do something I wanted to do (within reason–that is, short of cheating or harming myself or others), I would break up with him on the spot and walk away without looking back; fair warning. I couldn’t have married anyone who didn’t say “okay” to that, regardless of whether or not I’d ever have cause to make good on it. I’ve grown up a bit since then, but man, it was important to me, in the spirit of full disclosure, to make my feelings as crystal clear as possible. I couldn’t play that game again.

        • Simon Smithson says:

          I have so much respect for that kind of – I don’t know if there’s a technical term – active honesty. Where you say to someone ‘Here’s the lay of the land, you know exactly what to expect, here are some clear-cut, explicitly-stated guidelines.’

          Bam. Nice work. Your stock has risen even higher in my book.

        • Becky says:

          Well, yeah, honesty…but also a bit militant. Like I said, I’m not sure it was the most grown-up way to approach that. But it did the job, which I think was less about me having all-time permission to do whatever I wanted and more about him understanding how important my freedom and independence was to me in general.

        • Simon Smithson says:

          I think the key is (once again!) integration. Assertiveness matched with understanding of the other person’s perspective – a little gentleness, if you will.

          And hey, if the job gets done, you did OK.

  18. Becky says:

    What? I typed a comma after “out.” I swear to God. I blame TNB.

  19. Sarah says:

    Your last relationship ended two months before I got married. I have since had two kids, bought and sold a house, and gotten a divorce.

    “…at some point, we’re going to have the ex conversation and I’m going to say ‘Well, nine years ago…’” – Think positively, Simon. By the time you have that conversation with someone you’re in a relationship with, it could go, “Well, ten years ago….”

    In all honesty, time between relationships doesn’t mean a damn thing. And you are certainly not dead inside. Enjoy your life for what it is, don’t worry about what it’s not, and you’ll find someone who sees that joy in you and wants to be a part of it.

    • Simon Smithson says:

      I think I’m more worried about being written off as damaged goods than anything else. But man, that use-by date is a guideline, not a rule.

      Heh.

      And life is a lot of fun, a lot of the time. Oh, and the plans I’ve got. My!

  20. Simon,
    Pick a girl.
    Any girl.
    Write a letter.
    Send it.
    See what happens.
    You never know.
    ~ R

    • Simon Smithson says:

      Oh, but there are so many to choose from!

      Uh… I mean…

      Heh.

      Maybe I should try searching for ‘Gemma Dann’ in Facebook.

      I kid, I kid.

      Like I haven’t done that already.

      • You know what’s different “this time”…. you write about sending the letter afterward on TNB.

        I kid.

        Well, sort-of.

        I always enjoy your posts, Simon. And I will leave you with what I think is one of the most beautiful opening lines of any book I’ve ever read. It’s from: THE CONFESSIONS OF MAX TIVOLI by Andrew Sean Greer and it is:

        “We are each the love of someone’s life.”

        • Simon Smithson says:

          As any good therapist would ask, well, what has to change?

          Clearly, the publicity!

          I kid too.

          Well, sort-of.

          Thanks, Robin. It’s always nice to hear someone say that. I’ve not read Greer but I agree, that’s a beautiful opening line. I think the Foo Fighters may have paraphrased it one time, in an albeit slightly more cynical fashion:

          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kHkZJ0bGGwE

          With no offense to Dave Grohl, I think I like Greer’s better.

  21. Ducky Wilson says:

    I like flying solo, too. Perpetual bachelorette. Why do people judge that? We aren’t dead inside, we just won’t settle. However, if you’re seriously waiting for a fire-breathing supermodel, I’d say you might reconsider your expectations. Sometimes, we just want too much.

    • Uche Ogbuji says:

      Ducky, I for one do not judge that one bit. As long as it suits you, please do keep that fire burning. As I said below, it does get chilly in the barrel of the conventional canon.

      • Simon Smithson says:

        Keep that fire… breathing… burning?

        Ah. All too easy.

        I don’t know where the judgment comes from – I wouldn’t mind so much if it was a judgment based on reality, rather than perception.

  22. Uche Ogbuji says:

    Simon,

    Very nice, but I’m going to go all selfish here, and say that it’s time to get the battle of the sexes back on (and on and on and on).

    I for one advocate against the kinder, gentler single. Or I should say, I advocate against claiming the kinder, gentler single, because I don’t think the reality is as pervasive as the claims.

    I haven’t had the pleasure of meeting you personally, so I don’t know whether your own lovable claims contain an excess of modesty, so I’m really talking about friends I know who live a proper priapic single life, but choose to dress modestly in mixed intellectual company. Well, except for my French friends, who seem to understand that happy, waving Pan-pack-a-pipe is the natural state of the single male.

    Unfortunately those who represent that nature into the world of popular literature are a neurotic, misanthropic bunch, such as Saul Bellow, John Updike and Philip Roth. Frankly they disgust me. They are entirely conformist and work themselves purple with the effort of seeming the opposite. They are nothing but more drip-drip-drip of Biblical morality and it all leaves me oh so cold.

    I can take some Deuteronomical convention, but balance in all things, Oh Best Beloved. I do long for a literature of more expansive paganism.

    And for you, Simon, I wish contentment, whether or not I have to say that with a wink.

    • Simon Smithson says:

      Ah, the French. Once again, their easy boundaries and earthy nature have provided us with a roadmap to true happiness and fulfilment.

      There certainly is – in both literature and society – a strata of men who see a kind of chilly misanthropy as noble; desirable, even. And it is conformist, most definitely. I hope I’m not counted among them (and yet, all too often, as the case seems to be, I am, through no actions of my own).

      I appreciate the wishes, Cosmic Djinn. With you on my side, I cannot fail.

      • Uche Ogbuji says:

        You’re welcome. However, I must declare that I hadn’t intended a vector towards character assassination of French men as a group, one way (priapism) or another (lugubrious probity). I was narrowly speaking about my personal french friends. Many of my personal Nigerian friends would have been a better example, but they all seem to have become Ezekiel-grade evangelicals. My comments on conformity were directed at a particular species of American male author. I don’t have a problem with conformity. My problem is with literature that feints towards non-conformity, but in the end really plays it safe. That entire pill-popping lot needs to re-learn their lessons at the knee of e.g. DH Lawrence. Now Lawrence was emphatically not Ezekiel in Devil’s (pagan denotation) clothing.

        • Simon Smithson says:

          I, too, meant no specific generalities towards the French. I saw an easy line, and I took it. And delighted in doing so.

          I have a particular dislike towards those who proclaim themselves as non or anti-conformist and then turn out to be just that. Duke or Megan would be able to advise me better, but wasn’t it John Lydon who said ‘Punk is dead’ as soon as he saw people imitating the way he dressed?

          A wise man, that D. H. Lawrence.

          “Be a good animal, true to your instincts.” — The White Peacock (thanks Wikipedia)

  23. Judy Prince says:

    Come to think of it, Simon, I read palms. Oh, wait—that’s a comment for your dicing article. TNB’s so vast, and now all y’all are wrapping text around the screen, me counting the string of “aaaaaaa”….better stop now.

    Anyway, just change your gravatar to a Simon Palmatar, and I’ll give you a free consult.

    • Simon Smithson says:

      Hmmm. I’m not sure if I can get a picture, so maybe I can just describe it?

      Uh, there’s a couple of intersecting lines… some are long. I’ve got a whole bunch of crosses. That’s supposed to mean something, right?

      • Judy Prince says:

        Yes, Simon; it definitely means something. Definitely.

        • Simon Smithson says:

          To quote Pirates of the Carribean:

          ‘Nothing… bad… I hope?’

        • Judy Prince says:

          Simon, if your “cross” looks like a quarter-inch X that joins the Heart and the Head lines [top 2 horizontal lines on your writing hand], it’s called a Star of David and means that you are prescient, that you can “know” things from beyond the 5 senses (i.e., “extrasensorily” perceptive). It means you’re in the great and very old company of seers and prophets. I’ve found that a good palm reading takes at least 20 minutes, it always notes the relationships between lines, and it’s fascinating! I stumbled upon a way to know if I’m telling the person what (s)he feels is “true”. But I won’t reveal that way of knowing. Re your love life, much can be found about it in the Heart line’s starting point and the lines rising from it or descending from it. My special faves are the vertical lines on the “pads” just below the fingers and above the Heart line. One’s inborn talents can be traced by whether the vertical lines are on the mounts of Jupiter (index finger), Saturn (middle finger), Apollo (ringer finger), or Mercury (little finger). Jupiter = leader; Saturn = pragmatist; Apollo = artist; and Mercury = expressive/communicator.

        • Simon Smithson says:

          No I seem to have a bunch of crosses between the lines. Strange, that. And I seem to have vertical lines all over the place!

        • Judy Prince says:

          Simon, the deepest, most obvious lines are the most important. Relax your hand and it curls a bit. Then it’s easy to see the deepest lines. Note the top two horizontal lines [topmost is the Heart line; below it is the Head line]. Next note the vertical lines that appear just above the Heart line. An example from my hand: two deep vertical lines are above the Heart line, one below the Saturn (middle) finger representing “pragmatism”, and the other below the Apollo (ring) finger representing “art/expression”. Thousands of other lines, vertical and horizontal, spread across the palm “map” and their intersectings mean much, but the bold vertical lines above the Heart line represent one’s main talents. Edgar Cayce, the USAmerican psychic who died at the end of WWII, said during one of his unconscious “readings” that some 20% [total] of gleanings such as horoscope readings, palm readings, and numerology point out our inclinations, but that, mainly, what we CHOOSE to do with our talents determines what happens to us. I’ve recently been blown away by uncanny personality descriptors called “Enneagrams”—yet another revealingly helpful way to view oneself and others.

        • Simon Smithson says:

          Oh, I see!

          My big guys are under my index finger: is that Jupiter? There’s a couple of them there.

          I’ve heard of the Enneagram, but have yet to apply it. Wikipedia, here I come!

          I’ve actually been intrigued by how much synergy and overlap there has been in what little I know of my own personal numerology and horoscope readings. It’s very intriguing stuff.

        • Judy Prince says:

          Simon, some traditional palmistry books characterise the index finger’s mount of Jupiter as meaning “good fortune, career”, but most of the sources I’ve consulted say it means “leader”! You go!!!

          A quick, entertaining Enneagrams book is just as its title says: “The Enneagram Made Easy” by Riso and Hudson, ppbk and illustrated. They also wrote a more thorough book called “The Wisdom of The Enneagram”, which’s great, too. The 9 personality types are: Perfectionist, Helper, Achiever, Romantic, Observer, Questioner, Adventurer, Asserter, and Peacemaker. I thought it was the usual hooha, but when I read the constellation of characteristics for each type, one jumped out at me—every single characteristic: Asserter. A person “motivated by the need to be self-reliant and strong and to avoid feeling weak or dependent.” Cross an Asserter, and it ain’t pretty. OTOH, Rodent’s an Observer: “motivated by the need to know and understand everything, to be self-sufficient, and to avoid looking foolish.” A lovely Yogi Berra quote introduces the chapter on Observers: “You can observe a lot just by watching.” Love that guy! Rodent wonders whether the many great quotes attributed to him are really ones he invented.

        • Simon Smithson says:

          Can I have both? Because that would be great for me.

          Ha! I think I can identify with Rodent already. I’ll have to check the library for some Enneagram stuff. Does anyone else still go to the library?

        • Judy Prince says:

          By all means have both, Simon: good fortune and career as a leader! Y in the world not?

          I knee-jerked at your question about whether anyone still goes to the library, and then realised you’d made me think…..my son goes to the big public LA downtown library pretty regularly, gets SF books and books on the history of the Gospels, on France and the French, wine-making, and so on. The web’s unparalleledly miraculous for most things and most folks, but digging in broadly and deeply necessitates some tenaciousness and training—and usually getting cheap used books [amazon.com/.co.uk or abebooks]! For Elizabethan England research I go as a token-paying “Friend of The Library” to a nearby university library and flash drive JSTOR articles and other stuff that can’t be downloaded from the web. Very frustrating that an independent researcher [ie, not a faculty member or student at a university] is closed out of the best resources. Main awesome place is the British Library in London. Wow. I totally keep my BL “Reader’s” card as a sacred object.

        • Simon Smithson says:

          I can think of absolutely no reason Y not, Judy (though my infuriated Xs may try to hold me back…)

          Yep. The internet is great for breadth, but for depth, it’s all about the text-books.

          You get uni library access? Score! That’s a mile ahead of my resources. Although I’ve never been to the BL in London.

          Libraries are sacred places to me, too. I’ve used my library card as collateral, and once asked a girl to help me lose my San Francisco library virginity.

        • Judy Prince says:

          I’ll hafta get a “hand”le on those X’s, Simon. The Star of David I mentioned looks exactly like a big X to me; I’ve got 3 of ’em mid-palm connecting the Heart and Head lines, a way positive sign!

          Re library special journals access, note I didn’t name the uni. Somehow they’re getting round The System, and I’m totally grateful for it. Every time I arrive there, flash drive in pocket, I imagine getting arrested for co-operatively corrupting The System.

          The British Library’s weird-wonderful in its singular way. You can’t take in pens, only pencils. And it’s the quietest library ever. Usually, armed with a little pencil and a blank pukka pad and trying to remember if, like going thru security for boarding an airplane I hafta take off my shoes and belt, deposit wallet, earrings, rings, bracelet and false teeth (just kidding) on the conveyor, I sit down in the only vacant BL Reading Room chair and am overwhelmingly awed at the place. Looking straight ahead, I go to sleep for an hour. Once, while Rodent was queued at the Get Books Here desk, the Security Guy made a pen-sweep. He tapped Rodent’s pencil, gave me a severe look, and I hurriedly said: “It’s a mechanical pencil, Sir. Is that ok?” I’d never called anybody “Sir”, and knew my “ok” branded me a foreigner, but as Cosmic Birther would have it, the man simply paused a second and then carried on with his pencil-sweep at the other desks. I get major inspiration from sheer boredom at the BL; find that it forces me to write pages of penciled passages of my latest play p’raps bcuz it’s like being in a prison of books that I’m too overwhelmed to read. So I write. Prob is I always forget to bring an eraser. But writing without editing’s quite freeing.

          You’re right, Simon, about sex and sacredness in libraries. My “first time” noting the sex factor in libraries, was at a uni library and aware that I was being stack-stalked on the 3rd floor of the Grad. Apparently, library rules prevented the stalker from looking directly at me, so he subtly ducked and bobbed on the other side of the stack. I ditched him, but he was agile and um “motivated” I guess. Later, I got a job in the Graduate Library Periodicals Room—now *that* was one weird experience. Very horny staff. I had, amongst other tasks, the privilege of playing the “Time To Go” chimes at 10 p.m. One night, instead of the usual 8-toned chime, I furiously and ringingly tapped out “Mary Had A Little Lamb”, and stood back, heart wildly beating, waiting to be fired. No response. The patrons shoved back their chairs, gathered their books, and quietly filed out of the place as usual.

          Fast forward lotsa years to the L.A. public downtown library: I’m in one of several close-together upholstered chairs up on the mezzanine, novel in hand, when the guy across from me decided to make it his Onan Moment. It was so bleepingly unsubtle that I almost laffed. Instead, I stuck my leg straight out and almost knocked his chair over. He may have stopped, I dunno; I was on my way down the escalator.

          P’raps California libraries have a more permissive set of rules, like preferencing pedestrians over autos—a Very Un-American concept. Hope the San Francisco girl helped you . . . . off the library premises.

        • Simon Smithson says:

          Wow. That’s hardcore. I can’t believe they actually conduct sweeps. A ‘mechanical pencil’ is a Pacer, right? The ones where you click on the top and more lead comes out at the tip?

          HA! Onan Moment. Ew. But still funny.

          After you wrote such a wonderful and detailed comment, Judy, I’m almost sad to let the cat out of the bag – when I referenced ‘San Francisco Library virginity’, I meant that I had not been to the San Francisco library (I still have not), and I asked this girl if she would go there with me.

          But what a story THAT would have been.

        • Judy Prince says:

          I kinda knew that’s what you meant, Simon. But using a library card as a come-on—brilliant! It’s well known that women love men who um … can read … and can’t afford to buy books … and find it easier to whip out their library card than their credit card … …

          OK, time to give you some SERIOUS advice on how to begin a totally awesome life partnership:

          Step One: Walk directly up to the woman you want, and tell her that she is the one you intend to marry.

          I’ll let you know Step Two when you report back about the success of Step One. Off with you now!

        • Simon Smithson says:

          Ha ha ha ha…

          Well-played, Judy. Well-played.

          Wow. Step One is bold. Very bold.

          Now to find the woman I want…

        • Judy Prince says:

          I’m perfectly confident in your sensory and extra-sensory perceptions of the OG you’ll want, LD (Leader Dude). Way eager to hear the whole story!

        • Simon Smithson says:

          It’ll be the greatest post I ever write.

          OK. Sensory? Extra-Sensory? Time to take this to the next level.

  24. Ronlyn Domingue says:

    That the gap doesn’t bother you might well mean you have a hold on your center, a sense of self independent of being with another person. That seems like a good thing.

    Yeah, what the hell is a traditional relationship? My grandparents’ generation was full of people married for life, and many of them seemed miserable or full of regrets to me. My parents’ generation started to shatter that. And now, there’s more latitude, more options. The get-married-have-kids model is simply that, a model–not a requirement. I’ve been with the same man for 21 years, unmarried. It works for us. For some people, being single for life or having a series of relationships works for them. Marriage works for plenty of others.

    Ultimately, don’t we all just want some peace and happiness? If that includes a partner or spouse, great. If not, there’s nothing wrong with that.

    • Simon Smithson says:

      I’d certainly like to think so. Psychological health and stability – the sense of self and identity – is something that has increasing importance to me.

      I think it’s really a bad idea to say ‘This is what a relationship is, there is nothing else but this,’ because that leaves so many people out in the cold, and it forces people to either fit into a certain mold or define themselves in opposition to it.

      On the other hand, I don’t think you should say ‘The opposite to this rule is the correct way to be!’

      It’s all pretty fluid, you know? You should just go with where your happiness lies, rather than create the structure first and try to fit into it.

      We’re such an enlightened bunch here at TNB. We should all just move to San Francisco.

  25. angela says:

    great post, simon.

    how the heck do people know how to be in a relationship? i’ve been in one long one, and am in a one now – the first one was really difficult, and this one is easy.

    i guess you shouldn’t need an instruction manual. it should be no assembly required. otherwise, single is definitely better.

    my first crush was Mark in nursery school. when he picked me to be his wife in Farmer in the Dell, i was sure we’d be together forever. the next day he was making fun of me for something or another. typical!

    • Simon Smithson says:

      Mark. You fool! You poor young fool.

      I’ve put a lot of work into some of the quasi-relationships I’ve had over the years (which has probably contributed to their demise in some ways…), and I have a lot of time for my friend Claire’s comment. We were at a dinner party and someone was talking about their relationship, and they said ‘Well, it’s complicated.’

      Claire turned around and said ‘If it’s complicated, it’s because someone’s not working hard enough.’

      Zing!

      (Again, I doubt you could apply the same logic to every relationship under the sun. But still…)

  26. Nice post, sir. I’m rarely good at relationships, but I’m worse at casual dating, sadly. And I love women. Like, love them. If I could, I’d marry them and have all their babies.

    Oh, wait. That is possible.

    I admit I sometimes spent too much time/effort on the search for the next one, and was rarely as Zen about it all as I probably would have liked, but man, I’ve had some fun. There is no finer company than a beautiful woman.

    I think I long ago stopped believing in a traditional anything, or at least that I would have a traditional anything.

    • Simon Smithson says:

      Will, we’re on totally the same page. I, too, love women. Like, love them.

      I don’t mean in some kind of ‘Check it out, I’m totally Don Juan!’ way, but. Well, you know. We can tell our own.

      Yes. I too, have had a lot of fun. Also a lot of pain and heartbreak. I’d probably do it all again, just be a little smarter about it.

      Ah, the fickle fate of man.

      • It’s because women are so awesome. Like, seriously.

        And yeah, I know what you mean. Overall. Have you seen Don Juan de Marco? The Johnny Depp flick with Brando in it? I love the insight Depp gives to Don Juan; he’s a master of seduction, but only because he loves women. He falls for every woman he meets.

        In every one of us, there is something with which to fall in love.

        I’ve always thought a little bit of heartbreak is good for the soul.

        • Simon Smithson says:

          Aren’t they just?

          I wish I’d taken more time to appreciate the depth of that when I was younger. I really, honestly and truly do. Why was I always in such a rush? I don’t know. Young men in a hurry, you know?

          I haven’t seen it, but it’s officially going on the list as of this comment being submitted.

          I think so too. I think you need to straddle the fine line between safety and damage – a bit of both is a good thing, but not too much of one or the other.

  27. Hey Simon:

    Speaking of you and your fictitious life of total promiscuity, I heard this great story about you down at the bar the other night.

    Oh, wait. Come to think of it, maybe it was about a man from Nantucket…

    All the best, my friend.

    • Simon Smithson says:

      Couldn’t have been me – I was hanging out with my friend. He was a young man named Enis…

      Heh.

      Right back to you, amigo.

  28. jmblaine says:

    Maybe I’m bewildered
    but I could have sworn
    you said you were gay.

    Do I have you confused
    with another Breakdown character?

    Also, I’m a bit baffled
    over how 100 plus comments
    down
    & no one has offered that you
    are the TNBatman
    because whilst I was reading
    I thought
    “someone will say TNBatman
    not ten comments in.”

    Also: I keep passing the bus station
    & have yet to find Zara & yourself
    but then again
    maybe you are already here in TN?

    http://www.myspace.com/thebatpoetshow

    If so, no joke,
    I know a six foot supermodel(-y looking)
    roller derby girl who breathes fire.

    • Simon Smithson says:

      Not I, amigo.
      I’m like a working spirit level:
      Straight.

      I think the Universe
      Wanted to make sure
      You had the honour
      Of creating the phrase
      “TNBatman”.

      I am now in love with the Bat Poet
      And I want the whole world to know it

      (six foot derby girl who breathes fire, you say?
      No joke?)

  29. Greg Olear says:

    There is something to be said for not taking a girlfriend just to have one. I know guys that do that — they’d rather be with someone, anyone, that be alone. Sometimes they wind up marrying the person, and nothing good comes out of it. No, better to stay single until the right lady comes calling. In the years before I met my wife, I was so convinced I would die alone that it took a little while to adjust to the fact that I’d found The One.

    Plus, you need to wait till your Saturn Return is done. Always best to wait for that before settling down.

    • Simon Smithson says:

      It’s really strange to me that people do that. I keep hearing stories back about horrible relationships that cause overwhelming grief and turmoil, and I think Well, get out then!

      Then again, there’s often more going on. And I can certainly sympathise with that. My cognitive psychology books have trained me well.

      The build-up to the Saturn Return is certainly creating some interesting eddies and flows in the water. I’m awaiting the crash of the wave with some trepidation.

      Also, Greg, I’m really and honestly touched by your comment. Nice work, Steph.

    • Judy Prince says:

      Yawk! Ya mean now they’re recalling Saturns, too?! Bicycle from now on for me. Thanks for tip, Greg.

      • Uche Ogbuji says:

        Yeah, damned rings don’t stop rotating when you push the brakes. You should see the YouTube vids of poor hapless motorists, without the benefit of the gravitational slingshot, ending up flung against Titan.

        • Simon Smithson says:

          Those vids generally prompt strong Rhea-ctions.

          Someone, please, stop me before I do more damage.

        • Judy Prince says:

          Yeah, Uche, but colourful they were, those rings; plus the outward-flingings—major thrills!

          Oh, right: STOP, Simon! Now that we know your rep with women [Casanova-like, Don Juan’ish], it’s an easy guess you’d go for icy airless-head Rhea. Only thing that recommends her is her eccentric orbiting. Men love women who orbit weirdly. Can’t blame them, really.

        • Simon Smithson says:

          I have a thing for strange attractors, it’s true.

  30. Marni Grossman says:

    Nine years seems like a long time. But really, it’s not like you haven’t been with anyone in nine years. Just not With Someone.

    When it’s been six years since someone stuck his/her tongue down your throat, call me. Only then can you begin to think about challenging my position as resident TNB spinster.

    • Simon Smithson says:

      Well… there have been Someone. And Someones who were Not Just Anyone, believe me.

      Unfortunately, we never seem to get it quite right. Quite badly so, in a number of cases. Jesus, if I only had a time machine. THEN we’d see what’s what.

      Ah well. Que sera sera.

      Actually, that gives me an idea.

      Such a vivid image, the ol’ tongue-down-the-throat line.

  31. Aaron Dietz says:

    Nine years? You make the five years I went through not that long ago look not that bad.

    Hey, and what’s so bad about being dead inside? I was, in a way, and then I went to counseling and learned how to identify emotions and stuff, and before you know it I’m unable to eat for a day or two before a performance. I used to be cold as ice, and that was very nice during times when I should have been nervous….

    • Simon Smithson says:

      Brother man, I feel ya.

      Now there’s a subject that fascinates me. And here are some of the trains of thought I’m trying to hop on to at the moment.

      The whole approach of subduing and suppressing emotion – it works – and how – but again, it’s (sorry, this is my new favourite phrase, I think) – a zero sum equation. When nothing goes in, nothing comes out. Maybe some kind of grim satisfaction, but none of the exultant, joyful feelings (of course, you get to dodge the bad stuff).

      Once you open up that door, however, you have to be so, so careful that you’re doing it in the right kind of environment. It’s like letting a puppy out of the house for the first time – keep it away from the road.

      • Aaron Dietz says:

        Beautiful way to put it. I’m going to use this next time I start up counseling again.

        • Simon Smithson says:

          Thanks, amigo. Zara and I were just chatting about your spiders, so the feeling is mutual.

          I’ve been honing my analogy skills recently. The puppy analogy, the coffee analogy, the Poland analogy (slightly risky, that one), the burning house analogy… I should really start making a list.

        • Zara Potts says:

          You and your bloody lists….

        • Simon Smithson says:

          Someday my lists will save us all.

          Maybe later today? Not too sure.

    • This is, like, my favorite comment ever. Yes, what exactly IS so bad about being dead inside? A new TNB tag line for the homepage, I vote!

  32. It’s funny your piece is accompanied by such a charming photograph of your light sabre! My last boyfriend shyly confessed to owning one…but only once I’d shown him a photograph of a ladyfriend and I facing off in my kitchen armed with one each (and glasses or red wine, which were very soon spilled). He explained that the device used to sit proudly on his mantle but after a prospective partner had giggled and called it his “life saver”…AND…he’d scoffed and corrected her…AND then realised that mocking a lady about Star Wars toys probably wasn’t the fast track to the bedroom…AND admitting he didn’t really want a one-nighter with someone who didn’t even know it was “sabre”, for god’s sake…he decided to circumvent similar problems in future, and now slept with the light sabre stowed under his bed.

    • Simon Smithson says:

      I salute your last boyfriend for his firmly-held rules of engagement. Although, I have to admit, the light sabre is all trickery – smoke and mirrors from the dark combination of Photoshop and Slade Ham. I think there are four of us roaming around TNB with them now – myself, Slade, RC, and Zara.

      HA.

      Oh, to be a fly on the wall in that conversation:

      ‘It’s a light SABRE. GOD! SABRE!….. So, uh…’

      • Yeah, I’m not sure who fares worst in all that:

        1. my ex’s ex, for judging his toy collection unsexy (and not knowing the right word)

        2. my ex, for correcting the woman about his toy collection and then expecting to still get sexy with her

        3. me, for wanting to have sex with him even more, knowing the offending “saver” was guilty stowed beneath the bed

        Heh. Heh heh heh.

  33. I think the Geraldine situation needs clearing up. Instead of the tentative “Uh, so, about…” introduction, I’d advise getting straight to the point, using as few syllables as possible. I’m not advocating bravery; quite the opposite, in fact. Brevity, clarity and physical distance: “I NEVER FUCKED HER!”, shouted through a megaphone, should open the dialogue with you in the lead.

    • Simon Smithson says:

      It’s really irritating, actually – the guy goes a bit funny as soon as I walk into the room. And of course, that prompts me to try to be nicer to him, which, you know, never helped anyone.

      HA.

      Brevity, clarity, and physical distance.

      I love it.

      The thing about that story which really gets to me is that I literally did nothing wrong. I guess.

  34. Joe Daly says:

    As a perennial bachelor myself, I’m reminded of the scene from “Say Anything,” when Lloyd Dobler questions the relationship advice he is receiving from the female-free group of slackers behind the Gas ‘n Sip. When asked how it is that a group that knows so much about women would spend their time hanging out behind a gas station, they hesitate and then reply, “by choice!” It’s as much of an epiphany to me as it was to them. Thanks for the great read.

    • Simon Smithson says:

      SUCH a good scene. Jeremy Piven, you’re just not as smart as you think you are.

      Yeah. I got a lot from that scene too. It was a penny-dropping moment, all right.

      You’re very welcome, Joe. Glad you liked it.

  35. kristen says:

    “Well, that’s because you’re dead inside”?!?

    I hope you promptly hauled off and punched a fella (/lady?).

    Seriously. Seriously lame.

  36. kristen says:

    Also, people will always wrestle you when the life you’re living and choices you’re making a) hold some appeal for them, and b) are absent in their current state of affairs.

    They’re less evolved, basically. 😉

    • Simon Smithson says:

      Well, you know. Battle lines were being drawn up inside the friendship group at the time, we were at each other’s throats a bit of the time. Some day, the horrible co-dependencies and minor manipulations of my friendship group will make a great piece.

      ‘My Time Among The Jerks.’

      No, no. They’re all right. For the most part.

      God, some of the conversations I’ve had about evolved perspectives, about how I have one or I don’t, about how other people have one or don’t… man. Fascinating stuff. And there’s a lot to it, too, I think.

      Why can’t we all just be like me?

      🙂

  37. Greg Olear says:

    Two hundred, bitch.

  38. Judy Prince says:

    Just saw this, Robin, and thank you so much for posting it here; it really hits: “We are each the love of someone’s life.” (by Andrew Sean Greer, THE CONFESSIONS OF MAX TIVOLI)

  39. […] Meanwhile, halfway across the galaxy, a young Jedi knight awaits the end of his nine-year dry spell. […]

  40. Lisa Rae Cunningham says:

    I think you might be a lesbian.
    Whore status is a backhanded compliment and often attributed to recluse romantics who never “settle down” because let’s face it: the fantasy is awesome. (Mediocre relationships are not.)
    Anyhow, if folks think you’re Don Juan, I say go with it.

    • Simon Smithson says:

      There’s a very long backstory to that, actually.

      The fantasy really is awesome, isn’t it? I’m constantly baffled by people who get out of relationships and tell me how much they hated it, the whole time. It just seems… senseless… to me.

      If people are just going to assume I’m Don Juan, I’m probably not going to correct them. I’d probably be a better, more evolved person, if I did, but, you know…

  41. Kris Saknussemm says:

    Loved this. Let’s meet in Melbourne some time.

  42. Shannon says:

    dear simon:

    i, too, am still nursing a now nine year gap sans relationship. the whole of my 20s was spent galavanting alone (bar the 1st year and a half, those were spent with a homosexual british fella). i’m pushing for year 10 and beyond.

    i think it’s because i’m picky and refuse to settle. and partially because i acutally AM dead on the inside.

    others think it might be because of all the porn and blossoms. who knows?

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