Being single: it’s a right old lark, isn’t it? All that drinking and dancing and not being beholden to anybody on a weekend and explaining to your mum that no, you’re not a lesbian and yes, one day you’ll undoubtedly find Mr Right despite the fact that your entire dating life has only been peppered with fifty shades of Mr So Wrong It’s Kind Of Shameful. But seriously, the drinking and dancing part is great. Witnessing someone else’s boyfriend muttering moody obscenities down the phone at them as they stand outside a club demonstrably failing to enjoy themselves is enough to put a lot of us off relationships for at least another couple more years. I’ve been on the shelf for a year and a half now, since the well-overdue demise of a four year relationship, and I can honestly say that most of the time it’s been a blast. The amount of time spent having lovely sex with perfectly nice people in Single Town almost always outweighs the amount of time spent curled up in the foetal position, giving yourself a dead arm so it feels like you’re holding somebody else’s hand.
Except what I’ve noticed, in my latest wheelings and dealings, is a propensity for perfectly nice and reasonable men to suddenly balk at what they expect me to say. Lying in bed with my latest squeeze, I have been given the ‘You’re not going to be my girlfriend’ speech on at least five separate occasions. It’s wheeled out to me like a postcoital fag every time he ties a knot in the condom and flings it charmingly into the corner. ‘I hope you know I’m not ready for a relationship, you know,’ he has mused continually, as he holds his sweaty body next to mine in a half-hearted obligatory after-sex cuddle. ‘I had a Really Hard Time when I used to be in one. I just don’t want you to give me an ultimatum in a few weeks’ time. I’m sure you and I could be very happy together in another life - but just to reiterate, you’re not going to be my girlfriend.’
Now, this would all be fine if I’d said anything to him in the preceding half hour other then ‘oh yeah’, ‘harder’, ‘faster’, and - on really special occasions - ‘oh my God.’ Which of these turns of phrase has led the deluded man to believe that what I actually meant was ‘flowers, anniversaries, heart-shaped chocolates from Clinton Cards and weekend breaks away, please’? Your guess is as good as mine. Because the Thorntons’ selection wasn’t really on my mind when I downed my last cider and invited him back to mine. My most pressing concerns at that point were more to do with the logistics of the backwards cowgirl wheelbarrow position rather than the logistics of a posy of lilies on my wedding day. We’ve had pillow talk, sure; but none of it has led me to believe that the man of my dreams serendipitously fell into my bed after Magners lowered my inhibitions. His sexual prowess wasn’t so mind-blowing that I want to chain him to my bedroom door forever.
The One Before Him similarly littered his sextime speech with such caveats. ‘I’m not in a relationship place right now,’ he’d smile, or, very pointedly: ‘I really enjoy being SINGLE.’ Well, good for you. It’s a shame I’m of the female variety and therefore desperate for a ring on my finger, but I suppose I won’t cry myself to sleep too much when you go away. There’s always a cutesy little Cosmopolitan to ease the pain.
What actually worries me more about these unforgivably arrogant young men is that they think sex is a relationship pawn to us girls - a honey-slathered bait that draws them in, if you will. ‘If I just park my vagina here in the way of his throbbing member [yes, I said it] and think of England, maybe one day he will love me,’ they must assume my psyche is saying while we change from ‘girl on top’ to ‘from behind.’ ‘Frogs turn into princes, after all, and Hollywood TOLD me that someday my prince would come.’
Not only is this impression clearly about as in tune with my true feelings as Kate Moss’s assumption that I want to ‘get the London look’ when I do my mascara, but it’s really depressing. It propagates the idea that women are both manipulative and weak, and that they enter into contracts they haven’t thought through. It suggests that the cultural stereotype of ‘men want sex; women want love’ is still alive, which incidentally is horrendously awful for everyone. And goddammit, it just plain pisses me off.
So the next time a man suggests to me that I’m chasing a relationship because he felt me up on the tube ride home, I think I’m well within my rights to fuck with him, and not in the wheelbarrow way. ‘You signed the contract while you were drunk,’ I will say, wide-eyed, ‘and it’s legally binding.’ Then I’ll get out my lasso and whisper, ‘Try and leave if you think you can.’ Sure, I’ll lose a sexual partner - and possibly gain a criminal record. But at the end of the day, you can’t go pushing back with a feather when somebody’s smacking you with a rusty social brick.