Something that’s come up a lot since Ed Balls is people being slightly concerned at my ability to predict the, um, activities of people I’ve never met. To which I can only reply ‘Adventurous youth.’ I may have been with Alistair for over fourteen years, since we were both teenagers, but before we got together, I pretty much got a lifetime’s worth of handling the opposite sex out of my system. And for the most part, I seem to have unfortunately encountered an awful lot of blokes who really just don’t get it.
So, as an act of selfless public service, I’m going to pass on some tips to the males of our species on what not to do. Some happened to me, some to friends, but trust me, they all happened. Learn from our suffering so that it does not happen again.
If you’ve been seeing a girl for a few months, and you’re planning on travelling to Central America for four months (without her, obviously), it’s a good idea to tell her before you book your ticket. And not let her find out your plans when she takes a message from your travel agent. And during the four months that you’re away, it might also be a good idea to keep in touch. The odd postcard or letter, say. But don’t turn up on her doorstep after no contact in four months, expecting everything to be as it was before you left. It won’t be, and she won’t be delighted to see you.
Unless it’s something the two of you decide on together, don’t dress up in her clothes. And keep wearing them when you’re doing something fairly mundane, like watching a film. She may emit a gay trill of laughter when you first waft down the stairs towards her, but after five minutes of this, she will be thinking ‘Please take my dress off, please. It’s one of my favourites. And I’m not too happy about you wearing my stockings either. I feel deeply uncomfortable in this situation, especially because you seem deeply comfortable.’
Don’t agree with her when she says she dislikes something about her physical appearance. If, for example, she says she’s never liked her hands because her fingers are too short and stubby, for the love of god, do not pick up her hand, examine it and then say ‘Yee-aah, they are a bit baggy, aren’t they?’
Don’t tell her you fancy other girls. The following is an exchange that took place between an unnamed teenage girl (let’s call her ‘L’) and her then beau (let’s call him ‘T’). T has just told L that he thinks the girlfriend of a mutual friend is ‘massively sexy’ and he once had a wank over her.
L: I really didn’t need to know that.
T: It’s true though. She is really sexy.
L shrinks away inside herself, feeling hugely unsexy and vulnerable, being, as she is, in a state of undress.
T: It’s just a male thing. All blokes think about having sex with women they met, every woman.
L [faintly]: Every bloke does it?
T: Yeah! Of course we do! Any bloke who says he doesn't wonder what it would be like to have sex with you is lying. Trust me.
L: Every woman? Like, every woman?
T: Yes! I’ve thought about what it would be like to have sex with your mum. And your sister. And your friends. And that friend of yours that I hang out with quite a lot when you're not around.
L [even more faintly than before]: I think I’ll go home now.
T: What? Was it something I said?
Don’t buy underwear for her, unless she is with you. If you buy it in too small a size, she will feel fat. If you buy it in too big a size, she will think you see her as fat. Even if you have her exact measurements, sizing varies between shops. An M&S size 10 is not the same as a Topshop size 10. And that’s even before we get to the design of it.
If you’re going to commit the toe-curlingly awful atrocity that is writing poetry for her, then make it about love. Rhyme June with moon. Love with above. Do not, and I cannot emphasise this enough, DO NOT write terribly pretentious non-rhyming, non scanning drivel about the state of the world. Someone did this for me when I was sixteen and the words still BURRRRNNNN in my head.
There amid the grotesqueries of hallucinacia
Must lie a truth of some sorts.
To bestride the wasteland of the ruined cities
And the raped jungles…
Two pages of A4 that cannot be unseen. And cannot be forgotten either (although it did make my friends and I cry with laughter until we all felt sick). And please don’t give her your fiction to read either. It might be brilliant. But it’s probably terrible, and will change how she thinks of you (and make her hate you a little for making her read it in your bedroom, whilst you stare at her, waiting for her reaction).
It’s better to jizz in your pants than to be a Feathery Stroker. No one like a Feathery Stroker. Seriously, it’s really bloody annoying to be in contact with one. A Feathery Stroker is someone who seems to think they are being massively considerate and in touch with their partner by doing lots of feathery, not entirely felt, little touches along the spine, or gently rubbing a finger up and down the inside of an arm, or placing light little kisses on the collarbone. A bit of feathery strokiness can be appreciated at times. But if it goes on longer than ten minutes, it just becomes really, really irritiating, and may cause your partner to snap ‘Oh just fucking GRAB me, will you?’ It’s hard to feel desired when someone seems able to control themselves to such a degree that all they can do is stroke you feathery style (it also makes them think that you don't fancy them all that much, if you need quite so much time to get in the mood).
Don’t comment on another man’s tackle. Really, just don’t. If you’ve only been going out with a girl for a week, and she’s up in your bedroom for the first time, don’t point out the poster of a singer and say ‘I love those trousers he’s wearing. Plus they make his bollocks look HUGE.’ She might laugh weakly and point at another poster to avoid answering, but in reality she’s thinking ‘Well, I think this could be a mistake.’ and plotting how to dump you. Especially when…
…You used to go out with her friend, and you made exactly the same comment to her friend in similar circumstances. Because, and trust me on this, when it all goes tits up between you two, she and her friend will compare notes on things you said and did, such as, but not limited to:
- Comments you have made on the size of another man’s testicles.
- The way the bottom half of your face used to go slack when you leaned in for a snog.
- The number of sexual partners you claim to have had (if applicable)
- The circumstances under which you lost your virginity (if applicable)
- How badly you took it when she dumped you.
- Cringy poems you wrote for her (especially if you used the phrase ‘grotesqueries of hallucinacia’)
Don’t break up with her via a typed letter. Seriously. This happened to a friend of mine, and the crowning insult was that he signed off with ‘Best wishes’ and then signed his name with a green biro.
Don’t make inappropriate comments during intimate moments. By which I mean, don’t squeal ‘Jiney!’, or comment that ‘I think my right hand got callouses when you were away’ or say ‘If I had one of these, I’d never leave the house!’. That last one took quite a lot of hard swallowing and blinking to try to forget, thanks to my overactive imagination (I mean, seriously? Did you really want me to imagine you, a currently naked male with… Yeah. It’s been many years, but still I shudder when I remember).
Don’t ‘forget’ to tell her you’re getting married. Yes, that did really happen. I saw him on Friday night, he said he was going into town the following morning to ‘sort out some visa paperwork’. This ‘paperwork’ was him marrying his best female friend. I found out via gossip at lunchtime, so gave our usual meetup a miss. He arrived at my door. Why was I not where I said I’d be? ‘Sorry. I don’t date married men.’ I wish I’d taken a photo of his face, because it was the very definition of horror.
Don't make a huge declaration of love to your intended when you are drunk/a bit obsessed. It will not end well. It could quite possibly end up like the chap from the Balkans (whom I viewed as a friend) who appeared at my door late one night, totally off his tits and proceeded to tell me 'I love you, I don't love you, I don't want to fuck you, I don't, oh god, I want to fuck with you, I really do, I don't, I love you, you fucking bitch, please let me fuck you...' for about ten minutes. Or the friend I had at school who loved me sadly from afar. Until Valentines Day 1995, when he threw caution to the winds and sent me a card he'd made, which consisted of an arty photo of my face with an actual razor blade glued to it, and a message:
Fall for you
Kill for you
It could not have been more awkward, as he delivered it, rang the doorbell, then hid. Five minutes later, he turned up on my doorstep. Had I got any Valentines cards? Perhaps from my then boyfriend? oh! That card looks interesting! Who could have sent it? I was alone in the house with him, and it's fair to say I was quaking slightly. Funnily enough, I didn't wrap my arms around his neck and croon 'I second that emotion!'
And finally, don’t be a twat. Seriously. 100% of break ups are caused by twattishness. In some cases, your beloved might have the patience of a saint, the wisdom of Solomon and the allround jolly good eggness of Claire Balding. But combine any two of the above examples, and she might start to view you less than benignly. Add another or two from the list, and frankly, you deserve to be mocked several years in the future by the girl who endured your twattishness, and now has a blog. So yeah. Don’t be a twat.