Sex and Relationships

The Single Girl: When love is telling someone they’re not cool

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I’m still regularly having terrible sex with an absolutely adorable man. For context, see last week.

I’ve seen Stephen three times this week, and we have had sex three times. And it remains farcically bad. I mean, it’s getting better — but not by much. If good sex is the moon and our first-time sex is the earth, this week we’re at least standing on the kitchen counter. What I’m saying, however hamfistedly, is that the improvement is pitifully incremental, and ultimately inconsequential.

I text Clem last Sunday suggesting a Tuesday lunch catch up. I needed to bounce the idea of bringing it up with him off someone. My text went unanswered until late Monday night, a rarity for Clem. She usually replies with a promptness that most people would find at the least endearing if not a little desperate.

What’s more her reply didn’t even really answer my original text. It was alarmingly curt for her — three screensworth is the norm. It simply read: Absolutely must see you – The Mill House, 6?

I sent her a rambling reply to see if it might coax the normal Clem out from the textual shadows. If didn’t work. She replied: “See you then. X”

A kiss, so she’s not mad at me at least, I thought… What could she be mad at me about?

Clem is a tremendous friend, with a plethora of great qualities, and one such trait, that I had clearly underrated about her — and I think it is underrated in general, is her predictability, her steadfastness.

Feeling the evaporation of this cornerstone of my best friend’s character unnerved me, and left me feeling wrongfooted all day. I couldn’t even concentrate enough to feign interest when one of my less offensive work colleagues was telling me about her holiday home flooding over the weekend. It wasn’t until David, also present at the recounting, told me I’d wandered off midstory, saying “Terrible, just terrible.”

I couldn’t wait for six to arrive. Couldn’t wait so much I arrived at The Mill House a full 45 minutes early.

I was feeling almost frantic. I had a drink to take the edge off. That helped. Then I panicked again because I remembered reading once that drinking to take the edge off was an indicator of a drinking problem. This made me edgier still! So I had another wine to take the edge off.

A couple of plucky saleslads meandered over and spent a fruitless 20 minutes talking about how successful they were at selling whatever it is they sold. I think they mistook my apathy for incredulity, and were soon scrolling through spreadsheet on their iPhones, showing me specific weeks when, apparently, they sold many more of the things they sold than the other people who also sold the things they sold.

They were further confounded when I asked why they were showing me. One even got a little upset. He asked me what the fuck my problem was. “I haven’t got a problem. Because, and trust me on this, really listen, you could never, ever be a problem for me,” I said, fixing his eyes, speaking slowly.

Affronted, furious, his privilege stunted, he opened his mouth “What a fucking…”
“…Don’t even, don’t, because if you do, then you will have a problem.”

The younger, wiser saleslad pulled him away, and as I watched them swagger off to a dark corner I wondered if Sheryl Sandburg would be proud of me.

Clem arrived shortly thereafter and initially everything seemed hunky dory. Her complaints were the same, shit clients being shit, dumb bosses being dumb.

“I’m so glad you’re okay!” I blurted after 10 minutes. I was waiting for Clem to raise her right eyebrow in the way that she always did when I was being neurotic. But she didn’t. “I was so worried after your texts the other day, I thought you were mad at me. Usually they’re different. They were so short – I was like, what the fuck? But you’re fine! You’re fine!”

Clem was leaning back. “Has anyone ever told you, you’re the conversational equivalent of a bulldozer? I’m not fine, but that’s not how it works. You don’t just meet someone and say, so I’ve got this problem, and it’s bugging the fuck out of me. You make chit chat, and then, when the mains arrive you say, ‘so I need to talk to you about something,’ that’s how it’s done.”

“Oh fuck what’s up?”
“No, before we get to that, will you say you understand that that’s how it works?”
“I understand,”
“And you’ll do it?”
“Fuck no, if something’s wrong I want to know as soon as possible, preferably as it’s happening. If you’re ever burgled, I would like a like running text commentary if possible. I mean, we could just install cameras at yours, then I could just watch them 24/7. That’d probably be easier for you.”
“I love you, you fucking weirdo,”
“What’s wrong?”
“It’s Gerard.”

Gerard? Lovely beetly Gerard? With this lovely wiggly unibrow? Say it ain’t so. I realised then the fondness I had for Gerard. I’d seen him heaps over the last few weeks and it’s fair to say I was coming to adore him. His blend of dad jokes and absurdist humour, his genuine interest.

“I can’t get over the feeling that he’s just too much of a dork, I think honestly, I’m too cool for him,” said Clem, folding an entire slice of pizza into her mouth. “And it’s been bugging the fuck out of me, because it’s made me realise that this whole thing we’ve had hasn’t really got a future. We’re not right for each other. But it really felt like it had a future. And now I’ve got to break up with him.”

Oh. Dear. And not for the reason you’re thinking. Remember earlier, about oooh, 10 paragraphs ago I mentioned Clem’s many and various great traits — well, one of those traits is not self awareness, because Clem is not, and never had been, even remotely cool.

To a passing observer she might affect a particular brand of professional cool, but that is a creation, one created for her line of work, advertising, where everything is shiny and bollocks.

The truth is she listens to SEN on her morning commute. I mean, seriously, I rest my case.

Time for some tough love. “Clem, you don’t have to break up with Gerard. I mean this in the kindest way, but you really aren’t cool. And coolness doesn’t mean anything to you,” I said.

I bit my lip, that had come out 5% harsher than I had intended.

“Am I not?”
“No, I mean, name three cool things you want to do.”
“I want to do more shopping in Fitzroy for designer one-offs,”
“But do you really?”

She considered this.

“No, I think you’re right, I think I don’t, I think I just want to be the type of person who might. And perhaps it strikes me that the type of person who might wouldn’t have a Gerard as a longterm life partner,”
“Someone adorable and smart and professionally successful and oddly handsome, like Gerard.”
“I’m being a twat aren’t I?

What unfolded was a couple of hours of emotional unpacking. And ended with no firm answers. (That’s what life is sometimes — and I suspect, always is) And I think sometimes that the process is more revealing and being there for that is what being a friend is.

We didn’t get to my sexual frustrations with Stephen, I mean at this rate we’ll be having reasonable sex by the time we’re 70ish — that’s fine, right? Gotta have something you’re working towards.

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TMGR's girl on the front lines of love. The Single Girl is an indie-obsessed, wine aficionado buff drinker, with a penchant for vinyl and French novels. She finds her goldfish Evelyn's indifference upsetting so she's sharing her dating stories here instead.