Cherry Picking

I met the criminologist at the tapas bar where I met N last year.  It was this night that  I was supposed to go dancing with Trasi at Scared to Dance.  She said she would get in touch if she felt she could make it,  but I didn’t hear from her.  So I was just sitting there in the tapas bar holding hands with N and staring into his  eyes over a Margarita… he said ‘don’t look at me like that’ but we kept looking.  I kissed his hand at some point.   It was this way of having intimacy without daring to have any intimacy…but it ended up being more powerful.   I remember going to the toilet there and discovering my skirt was absolutely drenched in blood… I was relieved that he didn’t notice, and rushed out of the bar to meet him before the waiter noticed the blood that was on the chair.  Later Trasi said she was trying to call me the whole time but the call wouldn’t  go through.

Hugging the criminologist goodbye I feel that’s it’s not a very good hug, and he’s just being polite.  I walk towards a pub in Stoke Newington.   J. W.  used to live there.  I find a shop with a lot of cards made by artists.. They have a book  by Sophie Calle, the artist who had 50 psychiatrists analyse the emails she got from her ex.    I am low on cash but I buy a card that reminds me of J. W.    It’s a happy orange lion that says  ‘Let’s Fuck It Up’   I remember J. W. saying ‘I’m sorry for fucking things up’ over and over.  It wouldn’t  be funny to  send  him the card would it?  I have to find someone to send the card to. 

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I go to the pub, I feel a little less bad about my garden party when I see I’m the first unrelated person to show for the going away party of the happy couple.  I ask the sister if it’s a bit weird for someone to whatsapp  you pictures of themselves with a baby before the first date.   She says “You have to let me screen these people for you!   He’s Irish isn’t he?  I knew he looked Irish.”

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 I’m getting my last half pint and I start talking to a Portuguese sound engineer at the bar.  We are talking for 20 minutes quite spontaneously, forgetting to order a drink  and ask each other’s names.  He’s cute.  Then he says something about a girlfriend.  He reminds me we should order a drink, I offer to pay, but he pays for me anyway.  We have a talk about the institution of marriage, which he doesn’t believe in, but he is marrying his Filipina girlfriend so she can come to England.  I’m trying to explain why I like it even though it’s part of the patriarchal concept of owning women.  It’s also like a promise protecting your partner from the rest of the affects of sexism on her body… saying that she is not a consumable discardable person.  But he says that she should know that anyway.   I’m thinking about N’s ex spending almost a decade with him without the piece of paper, never really feeling secure, and being disappointed in the end.  I think about all the times men have said all the nicest things to me…and they can still believe those things even, but it doesn’t have any effect on my relationship status or even whether they want to spend time with me…So I like the piece of paper…it’s something that’s outside of their usual system of bullshit.  Maybe it’s a problem of hearing more bullshit than truth.

We get kicked out of the garden, I lose him in the crowd.  I go back to the party table… I feel like I’m inarticulate and have nothing to say to these people.  Time to go home.

Then I made the mistake  of flirting with a Frenchman.

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I am walking back to the station.  A guy  is walking  in that direction at the same time…and starts to talk to me.  I never do this, but he is cute, has a nice build, and seems age appropriate.  He starts to share cherries with me. He is French, from Bordeaux,  I tell him the rumor I have heard that ‘Frenchmen never quit’   and ask him if he likes French films.  He only watches Hollywood movies.  He becomes brave enough to place the cherries between my lips.  I start  being quite silly and dramatic about it,  getting a few twirls in..waltzing down the street, being fed cherries.  After several requests, I agree to have a drink with him, but then I will go home.  As we walk into the bar, I find out he is 29 and a manager at Nando’s in East Finchley.  I say ‘How old do you think I am?’  He says 20.  “Ha!” I say, “Yeah right!”

I have to show my license at in the door, but he doesn’t look.  I say, “No, how old do you think I am?”  He says he doesn’t care.

I tell him to buy me a Sex on the Beach.   We talk about education, family background.  No uni. that’s what I guessed. I ask him how he likes London.  I am actually hoping to hear stories of culture clash, but like with the films he disappoints me.  He says he’s happy here, and his family has moved here too.  He is asking me whether I’m Indian.  I explain that I’m only half, and I ask “Are the French racist?”  He says yes, and then it comes out that he is half Tunisian.  That’s interesting, and I never would have guessed it.   My drink is done,  I want to go home.

We walk to the station…..He’s actually telling  me that he’s hard …I’m thinking  geez, all  we did was have a drink.    Instead of kissing  me on the cheek he tries to hold me against himself.  I have faulty middle class reflexes. I say that’s not appropriate instead of screaming.  I run away.

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The Heteronormative Garden Party

The Boating Party Lunch I

 It takes a lot of effort and energy to maintenance friendships when you are single.  Most people don’t bother.   I have a lot of experience writing messages to friends:  would you like to go to this exhibition/ film/ club night/gig with me?  I often get turned down, or cancelled on at the last minute.  I have also listened to single lady friends complain that the only cohesive social group at the school I went to was a group of white men and their partners who mostly ignored the people outside of their heteronormative structures.   This is a doubly oppressive situation because as artists we know that most of our economic potential is in the social network we are able to generate for ourselves.   I have also heard single men complain that they have no one talk to about their feelings because they are not in the right space to have a partner or haven’t found one yet.   It seems like most people are aware that making heterosexuality the only way of relating is not healthy, but no one changes their behaviour.

I got the cast off my fractured wrist a few weeks ago, and decided that I will go against the flow once more.

  I plan a picnic in the beautiful Greenwich park near my home.  It is a London gem, but I know most of my friends don’t often have reason to go there.  It is also summer.   Most of my course mates not only haven’t seen each other for weeks, but will not be re-joining the course in the Fall because they are graduating.  I give two weeks’ notice and make a Facebook event.  I only invite a core group of 20 people, who I’ve had actually had good conversations and social experiences with.    I’m hoping that the smaller group will invite a higher level of social responsibility.  It seems like the idea is working.  10 people who live nearby say they will come, about 5 of which have partners.  I figure you only need 5 for a good picnic.  It’s mostly women, because this is art school.  I invite three more men personally and suggest they bring their single friends, considering the situation.

I send a reminder the day before and about 5 people cancel.. mostly single women.  I think of this in two ways:  The single women know what it’s like to be left alone, so they have enough consideration to cancel verbally, and the single women don’t know about the men I invited.   Later I find out that the couples just don’t show at all.  It’s as if people outside their heteronormative world don’t exist.  The men cancel at the last minute…. My personal connection with them has already been discoloured by the power imbalance of romantic rejection, and for one this is his way of newly rejecting me.

Not one person comes to my picnic.

I am sitting under a tree crying, eating my own food.  It is a glorious day, hot in the sunshine and just right in the shade.  I am surrounded by people in the park.  I text N.  He is one of the men who cancelled at the last minute.  He is too hung over to join, he made sure that he would be by staying out all night for no particular reason.  But he cares enough to call me and talk me through my feelings for over an hour.  He pretends that he is eating with me and the food I made for everyone is very good.  Finishing my food I go to the shop and buy some alcohol to dull my hurt feelings.   We are skyping in bed all day.. he feels too hung over to leave his bed mostly. At one point we talk about watching Magnolia together in his flat because I haven’t seen it before, but it is already too late and too far, and too much sexual tension for me to sleep over.

At around 2 am he says he’s going to tease me…like a teenage sadist.  He tells me that tomorrow he is going to make a breakfast for Elena and bring it to her flat, because she has had a concussion from her dog jumping on her.  I remember getting mugged last August. ..   A woman smashed  my head against the pavement repeatedly , but somehow I didn’t get a concussion.  No one visited me.   That was actually when J.W.  decided to dump me.   N has been talking about dumping  Elena for weeks because she wants to be in a relationship and he doesn’t.  He also talks about how she is controlling and can’t engage with him intellectually.  I feel  like no one will spend time with me unless they are planning to put their dick in me, and even when that happens, it’s like stamping a huge expiration date on your forehead.   I send a text:   sorry for being hysterical, I had a bad day.   It’s almost 4 in the morning and I’m still weeping. 

The next day I have the date with the Italian Underwear Designer.  My date is someone who will have a conversation with me without massive amounts of planning, social media, texting, and skype.  He’ll even pay for drinks.  I don’t feel that I’m in love, but I feel that I have some human dignity  and I am enjoying life.

Date #1 The Artist

 

 

Are bad internet impressions worth testing? Would you take a first date to a feminist magazine launch?

The artist behind the bad website makes a much better impression in person. He seems to have all the right opinions, and he’s good looking!

Deep conversation on a warm summer evening by a canal in Hackney can feel electric, but how long will the electricity last? The Unconventional Woman must decide to date or not to date!

You can follow the Unconventional Woman on Twitter @LeUnconventionl