Many a time I have pondered the question of why and how it is that I have hardly ever been directly and properly asked out by a man, and had so few actual boyfriends.
And then I have pondered the secondary question of why people assume that I have had lots of offers and a ceaseless round of boyfriendry. ‘Tis not the case.
Well what has emerged from my memory is a set of themed scenarios that form a distinct pattern. And they began at primary school…
The Silent Fighter Friends
These days I’m always hearing tales about how someone’s 7-year-old has a girlfriend or boyfriend. Back in my day, at a Catholic primary, I barely even knew what a boy was at seven, let alone wanted to go out with them. All I knew was, boys giggled at drawings of human anatomy in science class and sometimes showed the girls their willy (so tiny!). But sometime towards the end of those primary-school years, probably between nine and eleven, I sort of became aware of their ‘appeal’ (not the willies – that came much later).
Anyway, I became aware that Peter and Kevin, who were firm friends, liked me. I also heard about, but never saw, the fight they had over me in the playground, over which one was going to be my boyfriend. Neither of them ever looked at me, let alone asked me out, after that, and I was too busy crushing on Jonny to notice. Jonny didn’t notice me.
Secondary school. Along came Geoff and his mate Paul. Both ginger and freckly (no wonder I’ve got a thing for Eddie Redmayne and Prince Harry). I was their friend for a couple of years – we used to chat in the cloakroom – but at one point they just stopped talking to me. I distinctly remember a disco where I wore my best frilly New Romantic shirt, knickerbockers and gold shoes to impress them. They both sat there sullenly, while Mirror Man and Fascination by The Human League played and I tried to dance like the girls from the band. Later I found out that they both liked me and fought about it. Neither of them ever asked me out. I was still crushing on Jonny. Jonny never noticed me.
The Man Swapper
This has happened twice – I’ve been lobbied by a guy who is really wooing me on behalf of his less-confident friend, and been subtly passed me from man-to-man in a move that has confused the hell out of me (and this was way before PUAs were a thing.)
When I was sixteen, Derek, a guy who seemed so much older than everyone else (he probably was), did his best to reel me in with his best cool-guy performance. I wasn’t allowed into Poppies nightclub in North Wales at that time (it’s closed now), but I used to get in, on account of looking older than my age. Derek was the unofficial leader of our Poppies ‘gang’ and I kinda liked him. But what happened in a move that is still shrouded in the dry ice of the club was that he passed me on to his friend Paul, using a sleight of hand worthy of a stage magician. Paul was a lovely geekish guy, but so not for me. In the weeks that followed, I remember sitting with him in his bedroom, moving out of the way every time he tried to sit next to me, wondering how I’d ended up there. In the end I offered an ‘I’m too busy doing my A-levels’ excuse and got out of this weird pseudo-relationship.
This happened again when I was in my twenties and working at Liberty. I really fancied a guy called John who ran the bookshop department – he was funny, intelligent, from Yorkshire (I know – all three things together!), and looked like a shorter version of then-Bond Timothy Dalton. I went out for coffee breaks with him and his mate Leon from the goods-in department came along too. Before I even knew what was going on, Leon was appearing in the coffee shop on his own and I found myself going out with him without actually being asked. I managed to continue like this for six weeks – but I still wanted John. John didn’t want me.
The Look But Don’t Speak-ers
During my ballet-teaching years I developed a crush on Ian – the guy working at the Sports Centre where I taught. Week after week (year after year!) I turned up for class early, inventing ways to be in the same room as him as I ‘prepared’ for class. He looked, he smiled – I looked, I smiled, I danced! – hell, we even said ‘hello’ once or twice, but nope, nothing. Same went for another guy I had a crush on at my brother’s cricket club. I think the looks between us powered the small Welsh village where the cricket ground stood but it shocked him into silence. I couldn’t have made it more obvious that I wanted to be spoken to but it never worked.
The Gay Cock-Blocker
David. Oh David. I met him at Liberty – he was another goods-in guy. David was beautiful – of Portuguese Goan descent. My crush was so huge I kept a diary called The Book of David. I used to go out to the infamous coffee shop with him and our gay friend, Neil.
Neil, who didn’t tell me that David had confided in him that he had a crush on me until David had left Liberty to travel in South America for a year.
Neil fancied David too. Go figure.
The David Scenario actually gave rise to another phenomenon:
The Stealing Woman and the Passive Man
Such was David’s beauty that lots of women were throwing themselves at him. I didn’t, unfortunately. We were once at a Liberty party and one of our female colleagues made a much more obvious play for him than me, with my normal conversation, lack of moves, and (at that time) non-sexy clothes. They spent the rest of the night snogging so I left. The next day at work David apologised to me and tried to explain what had happened, pitching it as an unavoidable scenario. Oh you poor lamb – being preyed upon like that by a lady. How you must have struggled.
Interestingly, when I went to do my MA in Sussex, I met the same woman in the first week. She triumphantly told me that David had been there studying the year before (and no doubt failing to avoid her charms). ‘Knock yourself out, love,’ I thought.
This had happened to me before in the sixth form. I had a crush on the headmaster’s son and he had one on me. We were both prefects and used to stare at each other as we manned the dinner queue. As soon as I told my ‘friend’ Victoria, she threw herself at him at a school party and that was that. Another guy bit the dust. And so did a friendship.
I Take Matters Into My Own Hands
By the time I reached my late twenties, I’d given up on the idea that I’d be asked out so I started to do it. I met my ex-husband at a club in Brighton. We had a brilliant night chatting and dancing and we swapped numbers, but predictably he didn’t call. I called him four days later and that was that. Four years later, I was the one to ask HIM to marry ME.
Then, after my marriage had ended (initiated by me, obvs), I waited for the invitations to flood in, thinking that things would be different, I was more confident and ‘out there’, I had loads of male friends. I couldn’t wait to go on dates!
Hand on heart I can say that in the past four years, two guys have actually asked me out properly, and both were in their twenties and not British. They were confident in their approach and I was so surprised by them that of course I agreed. British male friends tell me it’s incredibly scary asking a woman out – you risk rejection – so I suppose these guys had the benefit of being brought up in countries with more bravura in their DNA.
As I am now the ‘asker’, I know how scary it is, but I’m usually pretty sure of what the response will be before I ‘go in there’. But even on Tinder, where I’ve indicated the likelihood of me accepting a date request simply by swiping right, they still don’t make the move.
And people wonder why I’m single.