A Vindication Of Something Or Other

Topic #3 from Hester: Women. This one gave me some trouble, for a number of reasons, but if I keep re-writing this, I’m going to go mad. I’ll just have to ask you to be kind to my flaws, here.

I toyed with idea of writing some ghastly piece of misogynistic trash, and calling it humour. I toyed with the idea of digging around in some area of art, and waffling for a while about the changing depiction of women in, I dunno, 15th century Prussian literature, or something. I thought about talking about some remarkable historic or mythic female figures. I considered the idea of writing a parody of some Romantic poet or other.

And of course, the reason for this is the fear that if I actually talked seriously about the other gender, I might either say something stupid, offensive, or worse still, inadvertently revealing, and it would be out there on there internet for ever and ever and then no-one would ever want to sleep with me again.

Which is a load of rubbish. Frankly, I’ve already said so many stupid, offensive and revealing things on the internet that I will have to reincarnate several times before anyone wants to sleep with me again.[1]

So, women. As an heterosexual male, I am pretty unconditionally in favour of women. I’m not the sort to wax poetic in the manner of a bad sonnet, offering up paeans to the female form, or to the pleasure of their company, but if I must have other people cluttering the planet up, getting underfoot and stopping me from doing whatever I damn well please (and apparently I must) then I’m glad there are women around. This is traditionally the point in the joke where there is some remark about how women smell nicer than men, or some similarly condescending rubbish, but some time around a few years ago we invented metrosexuality, and then Moulton Brown turned up, the end result being that I know some delightful smelling men as well.

And having skirted the faintly sexist joke, I think we’ll skip past the slightly patronising bit where I wax lyrical about how generally awesome the women I know are. I mean, it goes without saying that they all are, and if any of them are in need of an ego boost, they only have to leave a comment asking me to list a few of the ways I think they’re awesome, and I’ll gladly do so. But for the purposes of this whatever-this-is, we’ll take it as read that the women I know are at the very least least as awesome as the men I know.

So where does that leave me? Well, I could talking about gender equality and equal rights, and the role of women in society, but while I’m not that clever, I am clever enough to know a can of worms when I see it. So we’ll leave it as this: I absolutely believe in gender equality, in more or less the same way I believe in, say, breathing. I am aware that I am privileged just by being born male (among other things) and think that it is outrageous that not everyone enjoys the same privileges that I do (and I am disgusted that in this context “privilege” can mean anything starting from basic things like “walk down the street in security in safety”). I don’t spend a lot of time worrying about it, or doing anything about that, though. I feel faintly bad about that, when it occurs to me to do so, but apparently not enough to change my behaviour. Hurrah for being a white middle class male, and having the world laid out on a plate for me.

So that kind of leaves relationships, which is sort of an excuse to talk about me, rather then women, but well I think the last year has actually taught me something about the way I relate to women, at least in a relationship context, and I probably ought to set it down at some point, just because nothing reinforces lessons like writing about them.

I’m aware that I’m approaching the end of my Year Of Saying No. (When Ewa left last year, I decided to be single for at least a year. And I’m not someone who really enjoys casual sex, so this amount to a Year Of Saying No. Not that I have been called on to say no more than about twice.) It’s been interesting. And this is where we get into stuff that might make me sound a little ghastly, so please, bear with me.

I assume that I am not unusual in that if I am single, and I meet someone who ticks all the basic checkboxes of: is mentally interesting, physically my “type”, and is, at least as far as I know single and willing to sleep with my gender, and there is some sort of chemistry between us, I might at some point least entertain the possibility of a relationship with them. The process by which most human relationships start is when one person says to another “I would like to find out if we could be more than friends” either in the traditional manner, by copping off with them while drunk, or by bucking all convention and actually asking them out.

But because (once or twice this year) I’ve found myself actively thinking “hmmmm….” about another person and then deliberately thinking “not allowed/year off/also don’t be stupid”, which has in turn made me think about exactly what compromises I would be willing to make in my life for the right person. Because in theory, if I’m having the “hmmm…” moment – and obviously, my desire alone is obviously no guarantee of success, but equally obviously my lack of action is a guarantee of failure – then surely stopping myself is the act of an idiot. I’m sure there are a few people reading this who would think so, judging by the few conversations I’ve had around this topic over the year.

But here’s the thing: I am, politely, Bad At Relationships. I’m bad at getting into them, requiring to basically be hit around the head before I notice anyone else’s interest in me, and while (I think) I’m a pretty reasonable boyfriend for a while, when things are new and exciting and the oxytocin is flowing freely, after some ill-defined time period of between 8 and 18 months, I start to want to spend more time on my interests and hobbies, which are so nerdy as to put all previously-encountered women right off. (I can’t blame them.) I’m sure this isn’t *that* unusual, but judging from prior history I seem to take it to extremes. It’s not that I’m any less interested in the other person, but I have a reasonable collection of hobbies and interests, and after a while, I naturally want to sort out how I balance the various bits of my life. I just seem to have a regrettable tendency to do this badly.

So starting from a basis of “even contemplating beginning a relationship is compromising a goal I have set myself”, has caused me to think about relationships in a different light. I don’t know if it’s made me likely to be better or worse at them. I think it’s likely to have made me more organised at them – I think in the future, I’d be more disciplined about the amount of space I made for someone in my life, and I think I’d make more effort to ensure that having made the space for another person in my life, I didn’t let my hobbies encroach back on it. I think I’d be a lot clearer (with myself as much as anyone else) about the things that I will and will not put on hold for the sake of a relationship and thus perhaps avoid that gearshift later in the relationship, or at least make it less jarring.

Which, by the sound of it, rather think mirrors the experience of some of my friends who are investigating polyamory as a lifestyle choice, who in juggling multiple partners, are having to be clear about who gets what space in their lives. It’s just that while they are warm and caring people with a lot of love to give, I am a solitary prick who values having a lot of time to arse around on a computer engaging in whatever my pet obsession is at a the moment, and can barely tolerate other people impinging on it at the best of times.

Were I a different chap, this might bother me. But generally, being left alone to get on with whatever I damn well please works for me.

Except for those cold, cold nights, around 2am, lying alone in bed, crying silently in the dark.[2]

[1] Put the violins down. I do not actually believe this.

[2] Don’t be so fucking ridiculous.