Tag Archives: relationships

Reservations for one

I go on holiday a lot on my own. It’s that, or not go away at all, and it’s fine by me. However, this small fact tends to catch many other people by surprise. Here are some examples of why I am increasingly pissed off with my solo travels being a ‘thing’.

1. I am in Himeji, a Japanese castle town. It’s cherry blossom season and the queue to get into the castle is ridiculously long, so I’ve decided to sit in the park and read for a while. A Japanese family sits on the bench next to me. The elderly matriarch strikes up a conversation.
“Where are you from?”
“Where is your husband?”
[That in itself would be enough to make me spit.]
“Oh, I’m here on my own.”
“You’re so brave!” she says, clutching her hands to her head.

2. I am in a restaurant in Osaka. The nice Taiwanese owner and her assistant are fussing around me.
“Where are you from?”
“You on your own?”
“Ah. Why?”
Always the implication: woman, where is your husband?

3. I am in a Pret at Gatwick, buying a bacon sandwich. The cashier is chatty and asks me where I’m going.
“On business or going home?”
a) There is no way I can ever pass for Norwegian, but thanks for the compliment.
b) I am wearing jeans and a schlubby t-shirt, carrying a backpack on the verge of falling apart. If I’m travelling on business I ought to be fired on the spot.
c) When I said I’m actually going on holiday, the guy was taken so much by surprise that he genuinely didn’t know what to say.

4. I am in a Starbucks in Oita. I love Starbucks in Japan. They do excellent iced teas. Anyway, I’m in Starbucks and momentarily confused about where to throw away my empty cup. A young man shows me and takes the opportunity to practice his English, having recently been to study in Bristol. He asks me if I’m an exchange student (bless him, I was 36 at the time) or TEFL. I tell him I’m on holiday. “Why?” he asks, baffled to the verge of distress.

(To be fair, he had a point; Oita isn’t a major tourist destination. But it’s very well connected for travel to various interesting towns so, you know, it’s my holiday and shut up.)

5. I am in Austria, waiting at a bus stop. A woman walks up and starts chatting to me in German. I break in and explain, in halting GCSE, that I’m English and on holiday. She looks me up and down in surprise, purses her lips and moves away.

6. I am in St Petersburg, Russia, waiting at a tram stop. A woman walks up and starts chatting to me in Russian. I break in and explain, with no attempt at the language because my knowledge consists of one 60 minute school lesson when our German teacher got bored once and tried to teach us Russian and Swedish, that I’m English and on holiday. She looks me up and down in surprise, purses her lips and moves away.

7. I am in Flåm, Norway. I am getting happily pissed on a stupidly expensive bottle of imperial porter. I realise the brewery restaurant is starting to fill up so I’d better let them know I want to eat. “Sorry,” says the barman. “We don’t do reservations for one.” But, I want to say, you just wrote down the name of that guy before me. Luckily the nicer barman who sold me the stupidly expensive bottle of beer appears, remembers me and scribbles me down on the wait list.

8. I am sitting outside a cafe in Cordoba. Everyone else around me has drinks. People come in after me, sit down and get served. Every single member of the wait staff ignores me. This may be paranoia, but by this point in my life it feels well founded. Do they think I’m waiting for my boyfriend? Eventually I get up and walk off.

9. I am sick of being given the shittiest hotel rooms. I once saw an episode of CSI – you know, the original Las Vegas version before they brought in Sam from Cheers – in which the chisel-jawed one describes the room at the end of the corridor by the fire escape as the ‘murder room’. I am always getting that fucking hotel room. I once got a room that wasn’t just at the end of the corridor, but through an emergency exit and into a tiny annexe where no-one would hear me scream.

This might sound like I’m asking for special treatment because I’m a woman on my own and, well, there is a sort of argument here that if a hotelier knows ahead that a woman is booking in by herself, maybe don’t punt her off in the room where she’s isolated. But mainly I’m just fed up of getting shoved in the corner. Nobody puts me in a corner. Except hotels. And restaurants.

10. I have no stories about the time I spent a week and a half in Qatar. Where you’d think there’d be at least some raised eyebrows.

Why is it remarkable – literally, to be remarked upon – that I, a female human, have left my home and ventured abroad? Without a chaperone, no less? I mean, we have the vote now, why can’t we be content to sit around the kitchen and plop out a series of babies?

The thing I hate most is that I know I’m already curtailing the range of my travel because I’m on my own. There are places I want to see but I wouldn’t feel safe without company (male or female). I’d also love to go to Chile, take one of those boats to Antarctica and see the penguins, but some fucking middle aged couple or other would attempt to ‘take me under their wing’ and I’d simply have to kill them. So to have it repeatedly brought to my attention that I’m travelling solo in places that I’m fine with – that’s annoying.

But what’s worse is that I’m not sure I even have the energy to rage about it any more. It’d probably just be easier to sign up for Tinder.

The peacock element

Change is largely considered a good thing. It means progress. Moving forward, changing for the better. As we become wiser and more knowledgeable we can use this to build a better future, a better world. From a personal to a global level as time draws on, if we gain nothing else we gain a better understanding of ourselves and the world around us.

Rarely is it a short journey, and worthwhile change will often not be reached until many a tangential pathway has been taken. And at no point is the stilted progress of mankind more candidly displayed than by the slew of dating shows that can be picked up any time of day on any one of the 48,000 channels we now have access to.

There’s Dating in the Dark; a self-explanatory title whereby the daters meet and conduct all their subsequent dates in a pitch-black room. The show allows the contestants to demonstrate their lack of vanity and superficiality. Regrettably this goes straight out of the blacked-out window when they introduce themselves and give their professions. “Glamour model”, “professional body-builder”, “face double for Angelina Jolie / Bradley Cooper” (delete as appropriate; to be both would just be greedy) seem to feature heavily.

The final nail in the coffin is the ‘reveal’. After getting to know one another in the dark they get the chance to see each other in the light before deciding whether to take things further. It’s a strange and wordless affair and their reactions to each other are hidden, so they are at least spared the grimaces and dry retching when the light reveals their partner to be a person of average appearance rather than the shirt-rippingly ripped / lusty and busty (delete as appropriate) humdinger of a Hollywood heartbreaker they had conjured up in their minds. It’s a very moving scene.

Then there’s Dinner Date, which claims to unite people through their love of good food. The first cull takes place on the basis of the menus provided by the five men or women who are willing to invite a complete stranger (plus film crew) into their homes. The menus are very rarely about the food as the seduction process begins by the inclusion of things like “Racy raspberry cheesecake, served dripping with my silky cream”.

As with all these things, as the notoriety of the show grows, so the menus get more brazen. It can’t be long before “Spread ‘em steamed dim sum”, “I will sleep with you ice-cream” or “Bend me over banoffee pie” makes an appearance. Once whittled down to the three most appetising menus, the picker gets to have dinner with each person before deciding on their favourite and taking them out, to a restaurant no less. Needless to say it’s not often the person who shows the greatest culinary accomplishments who gets picked.

But the grand-daddy of them all sits very loud and leeringly proud in the prime-time Saturday night slot on one of the TV channels that existed back when there was only four of them to choose from. Take Me Out unapologetically trades on modern society’s obsession with all things appearance. It’s honest though. There’s no attempt to disguise it.

Round one: a human male is delivered down a Perspex tube to the music of his choice, before parading himself up and down in front of 30 clapping, baying women. The music stops for him to give his name and city of residence. This is followed by the cacophony of droning power-down sounds as the 30 women demonstrate their disinterest by turning the lights on their podium off.

Round two: the male cuts a lonely figure as he has two minutes in which to demonstrate some special skill (usually done topless) to the sound of hands slamming down on the lights-off switch.

Round three: a video short in which the male’s friends, colleagues, parents or siblings out him as a shallow egomaniac who will no doubt transform from a sleazy arsehole to a decent, modest gent if only he could find The Right Girl.

Should any lights still be on at the end of round three, our male protagonist is rewarded with free rein to strut around the studio turning off the lights of any women who made it past the casting director despite not looking like she’s just walked off the set of Hollyoaks. Down to the final two, he picks his favourite and the new couple are jetted off to a budget Ibiza-style location for their date.

There hasn’t been much change and progress on the dating show scene over the years. The sleaze factor has shot up; it’s less about coupling up and more about copulating nowadays. The amount of fake tan per episode would probably fill several Olympic-sized swimming pools – and that’s just for the menfolk – but the peacock element remains the same. It’s a reminder that no matter how many social media accounts we might be signed up to, and no matter how artistic we can be with a filter on our camera phone, we’re not so far removed from our animal brethren as we preen, pose, shriek and holler our way into a mating situation.

We just have the benefit of being able to televise it. And watch it. And laugh.

Now that’s progress.

Nobody likes a show off

Smug Marrieds. Give me strength.

Years ago, the majority of people would have got married young, whether they liked it or not. And, sometimes, whether they liked their partner or not. Being married was just something you had to do. It was life, it was moving forward, it was growing up and breaking into the adult world.

People didn’t get divorced. Not because they didn’t want to – not because they didn’t resent every fucking breath their waste of space, fat, balding husband took – but because it simply wasn’t done. Married was married, for life, for better for worse.

Then – oh wonder – we changed. No longer was marriage necessary. No longer were girls expected to be housewives and look after children. It took a couple of wars and a lot of suffering, but people started to notice that, actually, women had more potential than just pushing out babies every few years. Women could work, women could thrive and, thanks to Maggie T, women could have a pretty good crack at running the world! It was great.

In the past few decades, it’s become less and less strange if women choose to go to university and get an education, and more common to put off getting married and having babies until the thirties or even later. We could have it all! A high-flying career during the day, returning to slip back into the life of blissful motherhood in the evening.

Heck, times changed so much that we didn’t even need to get married to be able to live with a man. Try before you buy, so to speak. It’s the best of both worlds really; you get to live with someone, and if you like it, you put a ring on it. If you don’t like it, you throw the fish back to the sharks and get the rod back out for another go.

But lately, just lately, there’s been another subtle shift. Thanks to the invention of Facebook (do not get me started on that) we can see what other people are doing and, more to the point, they can see what we’re doing. So we need to compete. We need better grades at school, hotter boyfriends, more fun, more money, and we need to be engaged. We need a huge ring on our finger, and then we need the Best. Wedding. Ever. It seems that we’ve suddenly been thrown back to a time where the twenties are the time to get married rather than to discover yourself, and it’s led to a resurgence of what many thought was in the past: the smug marrieds.

You know the type. You get invited to a girls’ night out, and she brings her bloke, because of course she simply couldn’t go for an entire evening without him by her side. And why should she, because she loves him! And loves telling you about it!

You have every stage of their wedding planning delivered to your newsfeed, with a million photos of the different things they could opt for: invitations, cakes, dresses (aren’t those supposed to be kept private anyway?) and the obligatory “I love you, now kiss me” selfie.

It gets no better once they’re actually married. In fact, I have a strong suspicion that walking down an aisle breeds a new kind of monster – one who thinks it’s perfectly socially acceptable to hound single people and pressure them into getting a ring on their finger themselves, whether they’ve found a suitable partner or not.

So my message to you is this: it’s great that you’re happy. It’s great that you’ve decided to tie yourself down during what should be the most exciting and interesting time of your life (in my opinion, anyway), and it’s great that you’ve met someone who you think you want to spend the rest of your life with. But please, don’t piss me off by shoving it in my face all the time. Nobody likes a show off. And I have my suspicions that if you were all that happy, you wouldn’t feel the need to shove it in other people’s faces anyway. You’d stay and have happy married times, in your happy married bubble.

If you take my advice, and leave me the hell out of it, I promise that if you become a statistic (I’m sure about 99.99999% of marriages end in divorce these days) I will open my arms to welcome you back into singledom. And I promise, there won’t be a smug bone in my body.

Without breakfast

Roses are red, violets are blue, if you can’t hack ‘single’ then fuck you.

A month in the life of a serial dater:

I love John so much. He’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me.

I cannot fucking believe he cheated on me, the prick, what do I do now?

I’m so glad I’ve found Steve, he’s actually my life, he means the world to me.

If this looks familiar to you – the same people posting soppy statuses about different partners in the space of a few weeks – then you must sympathise with me here. You have to because, quite frankly, it’s fucking pathetic.

I don’t know if people have always been like this, or if Facebook has made it a million times worse by rubbing it in our faces, but why do some people have to be so needy? Why do people – particularly women in their late teens and early twenties (sorry to generalise) – feel as though they’re nothing unless they have a partner on their arm? They jump from partner to partner and, dare I say it, bed to bed, all the while trying to convince themselves that time alone is useless, and time with a partner, any partner, is better than the alternative.

Look, don’t get me wrong, I know. I know there’s a time limit on things, ladies. Your clocks are ticking – we can practically fucking hear the things echoing through your Facebook posts – so you want to find Mr Perfect to knock you up, take you down the aisle and change your light bulbs. That’s great. But why does it have to be now? Why, when you have the whole world at your feet, do you feel as though you need to settle down and find the partner who you’ll be with for the rest of your life?

They say life’s short, but if you’re with the wrong person, it can feel very long. Rushing into saying I Love You, Will You Marry Me, and Shall We Skip The Condoms is the relationship equivalent of hitting someone on the head with an iron bar and being sentenced to life inside. Fine – date if you have to. I’m a modern girl and casual sex can be great fun, but that doesn’t mean I have to marry the guy! In fact, usually, it’s for the best that I don’t.

Another newsflash – you don’t have to be head over heels in love to have sex. It’s just sex. Okay so I’m sure it’s great with a soul mate, but it can be just as fun as a one-off with the kinky fucker from that local band, too. And trust me, once I’m done with the kinky fucker, I’m happy to send him on his merry way. Without breakfast.

You have so much life to live, so many lessons to learn. Have fun, live a little. Don’t spend so much time looking for love that you can’t see what’s there to be enjoyed right in front of your eyes. Most of the time love catches you when you least expect it anyway, so you’re pretty much wasting your time looking in the first place.

Possibly worse than those always on the lookout for love are those who are looking whilst already in a relationship. You know he’s not perfect, but you don’t want to be alone, so you’ll stay with him until someone better comes along. Bitch, that’s not fair. You might not love him, but you never know – to him, you might be ‘the one’. You’re stringing him along when you know you want something more (whatever ‘more’ might be), yet he knows nothing about it. If you know you don’t want to stay with him, quit while you’re ahead, before you have a ‘little accident’ that ties you to him for life.

Have fun, get fucking wasted, you’re young. And if love comes along great. But do me a favour – stay with him at least long enough to get to know him before you label him ‘the best thing ever’.

Does that cancel the bumming out?

Charles Manson is getting married. Rather than choosing this moment to evaluate his role in 1960s culture or the crime itself I stupidly popped onto Twitter. Unsurprisingly the social media of self-promotion has its own response. The overriding sentiment is from single white singletons: “If Manson can get married, why cant I?”

I confess I have never understood marriage. Other than one shining example I come from a broken family of divorce and false engagements. The fuss around it never makes sense. Many of my friends got married when all other life achievements had been ticked off, as if they had nothing better to do. The day itself is expensive, long, and focused on dresses and free booze.

What surprises me is that Manson has never had one of these psycho bunny weddings before. Look at the facts – he is supposedly the master of mind control, he is famous, he’s begging to be cured (by a real woman). For each of those prison pen pals he’d be a real catch. A trophy in fact. So what if he is 80. Look at the beard and attractive swastika. If his face looks like that imagine his satanic balls! Mmm wrinkly goodness.

For all the study of offenders, the nutters they attract are the real curiosity. They are the ones who really need studying to work out the edges of society and its faults. These women seem desperate to believe that anyone has a soft centre, a romantic core that can be reached. They can see the real person and make them better. This tends to lead to marriage and the inevitable spawning of some poor child. “What did daddy do?” “Well Damien, he got loads of rich kids to believe the Beatles signified the apocalypse, then they butchered a pregnant woman.” School will be a blast!

So what does this say to me about the underbelly of society? That there is a breed of people that cling to ownership and marriage no matter what. This life-affirming incident is not only legal but transforming. Even marriage can make a killer become human, a loving husband and father.  The lack of responsibility in choosing who to make a baby with is also unbelievably stupid. Which leads me to poor old Pope Francis.

Everyone should have equal rights. Why the hell the LGBT movement would want their share of the religious institute of marriage I don’t understand, but if they want to endure the same hell as a lot of people go for it. Oh no. You see marriage is OK for a serial killer, as a redeeming event, but for a gay person? No. No saving, no changing, no babies. Get thee to hell.

I really had high hopes for Pope Francis and he seems to be trying to move the Vatican towards real life, but it is starting to resemble Obama fighting the Senate. He says one thing, the Cardinals vote another.  So no to gay marriage, but yes to an infamous nut job getting betrothed to an idiot.  Am I the only one that thinks maybe that’s a bit wrong? I agree you cant marry an animal, or an object, but should those who kill really be included when upstanding homosexuals are excluded? What if you are a serial-killing homosexual, does that cancel the bumming out? What if you’re straight and like the odd spot of uphill gardening? Argh, the rules, all too confusing!

To all the sad singletons out there: find your own local killer if you want to see if marriage really will save us all. So far the jury is out for me. Save your pity for all the gays and lesbians who the church deems can never be saved.

Top-notch moral compass

Society is often really quick to tell you that some shit just isn’t cool.

I’m not talking about wearing the wrong color to a wedding, or asking a war vet how many men he’s murdered with his bare hands. No, I’m talking about feeling good about yourself.

See, if you feel good about yourself, for any reason really, say you are particularly good at cooking a certain dish, or are just a genuinely honest person, you can’t just tell people that. Really, try telling someone that you’re very honest or that your moral compass is top notch. You know what they’ll probably call you? A ‘self-righteous prick’.

Some people will think what the hell – you are a self-righteous prick if you go out of your way to tell someone how awesome you are. But to them it doesn’t matter if the context fits or not. If you’re better than someone in a trait that is considered good or desirable, and you happen to talk about it appropriately, you’re immediately seen as a narcissist whose only desire is to have everyone know how great you are (even if you are really fucking great).

My girlfriend and I are fighting right now about our relationship, which is temporarily long distance (no, I don’t care about your opinion on that, at least I have a girlfriend, dick). The problem doesn’t matter. What matters is that my girlfriend is a standoffish woman. She makes everything a ‘you vs me’ affair.

Conversely, I feel it should be ‘me & you vs problem’. Am I technically the better person for having this point of view? Possibly. The point is, when I explain that to her, I sound like a ‘self-righteous prick’, just because of the more efficient way I deal with things. Fuck me, right?

If you’re a good person, the world (and your girlfriend) wants you to keep it to yourself. But if you’re just a ball of fucking badass morality and goodness and it helps you solve problems in life, don’t feel like a dick for pointing out that you are a good guy or girl. Feel good that you can say such positive things about yourself.

But if you instead rub in the fact that you’re the epitome of human nature, I have bad news – you’re not. You’re an asshole. Get over yourself. And if you think the former is still self-righteous, understand this: just because someone is good at something and they feel good about themselves for it, this does make them a self-absorbed douchebag – so long as they don’t use their good traits as a means to put down others.

Let’s all love each other. We all are good and bad. And if my girlfriend still can’t see that, well shit, what hope do I have of convincing you?