Lectures and Art Galleries

November 15, 2011 § 52 Comments

From yesterday’s Times:-

When you are a plankton, you are told to go to lectures.  Everyone seems to think this is a  good idea, and there is nothing people like more than telling plankton their good ideas.  Lectures and art galleries are deemed to be excellent places to meet “people”, by which of course they mean, potential husbands.

Last night I went to a lecture.  It was by an intellectual of renown and the audience promised to be brimming with clever, cosmopolitan, right-on-thinking folk.

I arrived before my (married) girlfriend and had twenty minutes to scan the bar and the packed auditorium for husbands.  I am not sure how I would have known one if I’d seen one, or indeed what the hell I was supposed to have done if I had?  Introduce myself?  Make a passing remark to a stranger in the supermarket about the rising price of a can of beans and they take you for a psycho.  Had I done the lecture theatre equivalent – “Golly, how our speaker does rather fancy his grey ringlets!  How do you do?  The name’s Plankton” –  there would have been a call for Security.  So I held my tongue.  As it was, the men were nearing their dotage or so young that I did not exist.  I realised, to them, I was the human equivalent of polyfiller: present but so smoothed into the general flimflam of the crowd as to be whitewash.

I looked round desperately for a seat feeling self-conscious and like a prat, both wasted emotions because the men weren’t seeing me and if the wives thought my shoes looked shoddy, they weren’t volunteering it.  I found two narrow seats at the back next to a possible plankton of not inconsiderable proportions.  She was on her own, and had the air about her of someone properly, terminally alone.  She had, as my mother would have put it, “let herself go”.  Three bags hemmed her into her seat and she read the leaflet about the revered intellectual with more concentration than it had a right to wield.  In front of me was a man in his thirties, by himself.  I wondered for how long?  Sure enough, within five minutes, a pretty slip with a sofa of red lipstick, white T-shirt and silly yellow dress with falling straps, smooched into the seat beside him and kissed him as though they were in an arbour.

Great lecture.  Afterwards, my kind girlfriend and I ate take-away sushi and carrot cake in my car because she had to catch a train.

We have agreed that next time we go to a lecture, she won’t take the train, so we have more time together to look for a husband.  Or perhaps we should consider an art gallery?

§ 52 Responses to Lectures and Art Galleries

  • Jane says:

    Hmmm, this was pretty much what I feared about the lecture idea, having been to both, lectures (very occasionally) and art galleries (a lot) I would say they are not the ideal place for meeting potential suitors. Oh sure, there are undoubtedly a few people somewere in the world who turned round from marvelling at the Lucien Freud or the Francis Bacon, locked eyes with a member of the opposite sex and from then on it was all violins and dinner a deux, but I don’t believe that’s the norm. Maybe I am just unlucky, but more often than not, on a gallery visit, there are smoochy couples, very arty looking men and women, usually with other people, a few ‘odd’ looking types, school kids and more recently, families with quite small children (totally beyond me that one, why they take them at such young ages. Little Jemima/Rory is usually bored stiff and either squawking or whining or trying their best to run amok). I find if you go into the art gallery alone, or with a friend that’s the way you also leave.
    I know you are trying to be creative and go to places not just geared toward the ‘pick up’ (sorry to be base about it, but you know I am not being dismissive) but there’s a lot to be said for at least narrowing down your target audience, why make life difficult for yourself. Being business like about it (and I am not a total brainless fuckwit I do realise that no one wants this to be a business project, but sometimes you have to look at things in a different way)
    If you want to buy a bike you don’t go to the chemist do you? what’s wrong with finding a band playing music you like locally in a pub or similar convivial venue and bowling along to that, you do at least have a chance to interact with the rest of the audience in the break and afterwards. I know you are going to roar with derision at this one but (and I know it’s a cliche) I did actually meet someone at an evening class..(web design) and a friend met her husband at a French class…obviously it would be best to avoid embroidery for beginners or anything very ‘girlie’ I still think you are missing a trick not doing the ‘personals’ or online agencies, but I realise that it’s no good beating you round the head with that, since you have decided that it’s not for you. Sorry if I’ve waffled on a bit, but I am in ‘smile and soldier on’ mode having had to be upbeat for a son that didn’t get his ideal job, a friends daughter that didn’t get through the audition and a high flying friend who can’t get any job! so I am kind of on a roll.

  • Leftatforty says:

    Spot on P! I also went ‘to a lecture’ last week. I went on my own though for my friends don’t know (or cannot believe) I am a Plankton. They genuinely think men queue outside my door. So I drag myself to these things and, with a slight touch of bewilderment, I become aware of my invisibility.

  • Steve says:

    Dear P,

    I know I risk the wrath of your many contributors here, but have you ever thought about sport?

    If you’re looking for a man, why not go to a football match? There are plenty of people on their own at football – it’s not unusual. Yes, I know that there is this image that football fans are cerebrally challenged or mindless thugs, but I’m neither and I love going to games.

    Or, if that doesn’t interest you, what about tennis? I’m going to the ATP finals at the O2 next week (on my own) and very much looking forward to it.

    And if you struck up a conversation with someone about the event, it wouldn’t be considered unusual. Might be more fun than a lecture as well!


    • The Plankton says:

      Dear Steve, Thank you but I hate sport, bored rigid by all of it, and have never been involved with anyone remotely interested in it. But I appreciate the suggestion all the same. Best, Plankton

    • Redbookish says:

      Also, in my actual experience, a man who goes to football matches alone (or with a mate) does so because he really does want to be without female company — both at a match, and in the rest of his life. There’s a reason he’s there on his own. Believe me.

      • Steve says:

        So…”a man who goes to football matches with a friend is because he really wants to be without female company – both at a match and the rest of his life”.

        I think thats the biggest crock of shite I have read in a long while. How is someone going to a sporting event indicative of their unwillingness to be without female company for life.??

        One might as well say that women who go to art galleries together are determined to shut men out of their lives!

        You may be speaking from bitter experience, but please don’t tar the millions of us that go to football /rugby with the same brush!

      • fi says:

        P- how about a post on the sweeping generalisations that are made about the other sex? Your views on that would make interesting reading. Going further maybe you could ask your readers to write in with suggested plankton related topics and questions and you could give us your viewpoint eg what is attractive and does it change as you age, do people who have lived on their own for a long time become too selfish to share (yes in my case), what happened to those women who settled when they were young in order to have babies, when the kids have grown up and left home?

  • Elle says:

    I would have thought the men who frequented art galleries and the like had boyfriends already. Ironically men like these often get on better with women than the other kind.

  • Barry says:

    “Jane” is so upbeat! A pleasure to read…the Lecture Hall never struck me as a pickup point either, but lovely description. I really feel this new attitude in your Life…Plankton my arse ….. two twinkles on the horizon and a good attitude to the dearth of life at the Lecture….. now , about this palm reading……lol

  • MissBates says:

    Well, yes, “ditto.” Spot-on as usual, Plankton.

    Apropos of what Jane says about classes (above), things in NY are so dire for the plankton that even courses/lectures one would think would be FULL of men (Basic Auto Maintenance, or How To Play Poker Like a Pro, or Ten Tips For A Healthy Prostate or whatever) tend, instead, to be populated by single middled-aged women who leave at the coffee break, never to return. Maybe it’s better to sign up for Beginner’s Embroidery — at least a female fellow student might have a recently-divorced brother-in-law and a mind to matchmaking.

    Or one could just not bother, which is very much where I am at the moment. Certainly not meeting anyone, but definitely less exhausted.

  • Mark says:

    Can I recommend the Creative Writing evening class? I’ve never actually been to one but I know a couple of couples who met there. Meaningful interaction with the other attendees is guaranteed as everyone reads out their own work and gets constructively criticized. After the class everyone piles into the local pub to continue the social interaction without the distraction of literature.

    The trouble with a lecture is that you sit and listen; the lecturer talks, but there’s no forced interaction with the other members of the audience. Plus it’s a one-off event. The CW class is weekly so you get to know people over time.

    The men present will at a minimum be literate, and solvent enough to pay the course fees, but possibly not very numerous it must be admitted.

    A friend of mine attended one because he’s been determined to write a best-selling novel since Uni. So much so he didn’t bother getting a “first job” since his obvious future was “famous author”. But then real life took over and it wasn’t until twenty or more years later he decided to get serious about writing again and joined the course. So far he has acquired a wife but the novel languishes unpublished on a hard drive.

    The woman giving the course, a moderately well-known children’s author, (who I’ve discovered has another pen name for her Black Lace efforts!) also coupled up with one of the students – leaving her then husband to do so. I know them all as friends although I’ve never attended the course.

    If you are a published author yourself Plankton, the CW course assures veneration from the others who will want your help getting book deals. Literary agents are also popular in the CW world.

    • The Plankton says:

      Thank you, Mark, for the suggestion. I had thought of it but when I told friends I was going on a CW course, they guffawed laughing at me because they thought it’d be pointless for someone who had already been published to do such a thing. Thanks anyway. Px

  • rosie says:

    Or a cookery course? Lots of newly divorced single men having to learn how to feed themselves. Like shooting fish in a barrel. Well you’ve gotta have hope!

    • Jane says:

      Not so crazy – cookery is the new trendy thing, that’s assuming you are into it P. no point in doing it if it’s just going to bore the arse off you!

    • MissBates says:

      In my experience, “newly divorced single men” don’t have to cope for themselves for more than ten seconds, during which which they eat out or order in. No cooking courses for them. LOL!

      • Jane says:

        Yes, must admit don’t think you’d get many of the newly divorced variety, they are usually way too busy ‘putting themselves about’ catching up on all the sex they have (or think they have) been missing out on in their failed marriages. Cooking is the new buzz thing to be seen to be into though, so it does have possiblilties. Failing that you could host an episode of Come Dine with Me and invite unpleasant people round to insult you in your own home….there’s an appealing prospect!

  • Steve says:

    Of course, there are some “newly divorced single men” who manage just fine and can cook without instruction.

    Some of us can even work the washing machine. Honest….

  • june says:

    Loved the bit about the woman “who had let herself go” plankton, and yes i suppose we planktons who dont want to look like planktons comfort ourselves with the fact that at least we dont look like that as you like me, presumably would never let “yourself go”. Being a plankton is enough, looking like one, unforgiveable.

    I am off to the opera on friday, La Boheme with a coupled up friend, i am not terribly highbrow but i do like opera and ballet, so possibly any men there might be a shade too highbrow for me, Still will be an enjoyable night., and who knows.

    Like you i hate all sports,and cannot pretend i enjoy it, i dont, dont most women, mind you the friend i am going to opera with, loves football, she is a season ticket holder at our local club, so some women do enjoy it,wonder if they ever meet anyone, she is happily coupled up,so wouldnt affect her.

  • Would you consider attending an author’s book reading/ book signing event at a bookstore or at a library?

  • Margaux says:

    Lectures – yes, in principle a great idea – but we Brits are not good at striking up random conversations with strangers. Try it and that ‘Oh my God, is this strange woman talking to me?’ look comes over their faces.

    In the movies you would find yourself sitting next to ‘The One’ – you’d exchange glances, he’d ask to borrow your programme as he’d forgotten to buy one, a conversation would strike up, he’d suggest a drink at the end – (to chat about the lecture ofcourse!) …but in Real Life how often does this happen?

    Ok – another suggestion along the lines of Jane’s local bands in pubs idea.
    Pub Quiz nights. Get a team together and head for your nearest one -or take a friend and ask to join a team. I have a friend who met someone that way. He was on one of the opposing teams. ( I am thinking of giving that idea a whirl myself!)

  • Lydia says:

    I would imagine a bunch of saddos frequent lectures usually although I do go to some work stuff packed with suitable men (although usually all married I suppose, not that I mix work and pleasure anyway).

    Work in a profession where most people are male. I’m very lucky all those lovely men. If you are a rare woman amongst loads of men it improves the odds.

    What might you have said to men in the bar in the first 20 mins? Do you come here often? I’m looking for my friend. Have you come with someone? All kinds of things or spill your drink down the front of your top right next to a good looking man I suppose. I suspect you’re better off with normal internet dating however.

    • MissBates says:

      “A bunch of saddos”? You must live somewhere very parochial and narrow-minded. A small town, I assume. Of course, perhaps you’re just very busy with the exciting internet dating life you’ve boasted of (albeit not with the “lovely men” with whom you work), unless, of course, you’re stuck at home with the recently-invented children. LOL!

      • T Lover says:

        The theme of this blog is the unhappiness which holds your hand if you are single. Most correspondents seem unhappy with their lot – and their desperation, how do you find a bloke/woman? It’s pretty difficult in mid life.

        Assuming for the moment that Lydia is genuine – not a provocative plant intended to spark this blog, the number, timing and all over the place content of her comments makes me wonder – I suspect, despite her best attempts to put a positive spin on life, the actual picture is of an unhappy person.

        There is a question mark behind credibility as to much of what is said on this blog – perhaps Lydia is an extreme example hence the comment about her unhappiness. But if she is “real” you must feel for her. If she is not, someone will have a chuckle when (if) they read this pompousness.

        Some women (I underline some) are never happier when having a good bitch about another woman. I see your comment as a good bitch. The addition of “LOL”, which I assume is to be taken as lots of laughs, makes it even crueller.

      • Lydia says:

        I am quite happy. I don’t mind if it makes people who feel bad want to think I’m not.

        I would imagine that any analysis of my posts on here would show I have always had children. I’ve a large family and I’m very lucky that that is so.

        What is annoying though is people who think single people are miserable and can only be happy with a partner.

        I would very much disagree with a sentiment that unhappiness holds your hand if you’re single. Smug married like to think so and single people of either gender who are sad think so but huge numbers of others don’t.

        Secondly people who think people cannot be happy alone and you have to be socialising at pointless parties all the time to have internal contentment. We are not all like that.

        “Bunch of saddos” in relation to those people who go to public lectures may have been a little unfair but I doubt it really is a hot spot for finding the man of your dreams.

      • fi says:

        I’m totally 100 percent in agreement with Lydia here. Sad singles always think we happy singles are lying. But they have to for a number of reasons, not least because it would mean recognising that they, not their circumstances, are responsible for their own unhappiness.

      • EmGee says:

        Fi, you are so right. I think a ‘sad single’ is doomed to remain so unless he/she can learn to be love who they are first, otherwise, at the very least, they seem exude negativity. I am a happy single, but I would be happier still with someone of the opposite sex around.

        My ex bf is staying for a couple days to work on a building project at my house, as part of a business venture for me with someone else. Just catching a whiff of his unique smell is a nice surprise.

        I read a very wise quote from Anais Nin yesterday on another blog (not about singles, but living life on life’s terms):
        “Anxiety is love’s greatest killer. It makes others feel as you might when a drowning man holds on to you. You want to save him, but you know he will strangle you with his panic.”

      • fi says:

        “I am a happy single, but I would be happier still with someone of the opposite sex around”. Me too.

    • Margaux says:

      (*Note to self : must remember the next time I go to the NFT or The National Theatre to hear someone speak – just what a saddo I am)

  • Joe says:

    I met my current sweetheart through OK Cupid, though I had tried almost everything from Cooking Classes (diamond ring-encrusted Doctor’s wives and blue-haired elderly widows seemed to predominate) to book readings to gawking into the shopping baskets at Supermarkets (in an effort to determine if they were already cooking for a man).
    I really do think that dating sites are the best choice.

  • EmGee says:

    Mark, I was thinking the same regarding lectures, and no interaction. But – no courses either! And No sports, unless you are interested in that sport!

    Same goes for art galleries, if it is the sort where you gawk at a few masterpieces and move along. An art opening is a different matter – the whole point, besides ostensibly selling the odd artwork, is to socialize. At my last gallery opening Saturday night, I met a photographer/videographer who is new in town, we exchanged cards, and he emailed me within 2 days; being unable to resume our conversation Saturday evening because I was constantly engaged with other people, he wants to get together for coffee.

    I would imagine an opening at a place like Halcyon would be a stuffy affair, but smaller galleries attract people who love art for art’s sake, or go because they have a friend who hangs work there. Informal social events can be a great place to meet people.

  • Caz says:

    No -one has mentioned art in the context of smaller art clubs. I’m lucky to live in a very cultured town and our art club has lots of interesting talks….in fact as a result of your blog a couple of weeks ago plankton I went to one which was so good that the artist has invited a few of us to a painting day next w/e. Conversation is natural and spontaneous and can lead onto more personal subjects if one chooses. I always meet interesting men with the huge bonus of an added mutual interest….pretty essential when dating someone in later life.
    But then – painting is my passion which helps!

    • EmGee says:

      Maybe mine hadn’t been okay’d before you posted?

      Anyway that is 2 very strong endorsements for the local art scenes, and you do meet all kinds of people. Also, free wine and nibbles are usually included. 🙂

      • EmGee says:

        Okay, gallery openings and art clubs are 2 different animals, but I wouldn’t go near an art club in my community – they suck you dry when it comes to volunteer work, and the members tend to be comfortably retired and looking for something to fill their time.

        Having said that there are loosely organized creative groups around that discuss all sorts of topics, host documentary screenings, artists in residency, author readings and the like.

  • Fi0na says:

    The approach in lectures would be to be informed about the subject and ask insightful, thought provoking even provocative questions in the Q&A session at the end. Then everyone (including the eligible men) will want to talk to you in the bar afterwards.

  • Lydia says:

    I give loads of lectures a year (although it’s just a sideline) not that that leads fo men proposing and I only procured one man that way but that does show I suppose if you give the lecture yourself that might be worth it,. Put one on in London about being a plankton – get the various dating agencies to sponsor the events, get some interesting speakers such as Esther Rantzen who was in the press talking about loneliness this year and a few others. Get The Times to sponsor it and publicise it – Times Encounters column I suppose. Ensure you have equal numbers of men and women

    Get a motivational speaker in there like that McKenna one or someone

    Get every delegate a year’s free subscription to the dating agency sponsoring it..

    Mmm am liking this.

  • Caro says:

    Watching sport – oh, I did that. It was a non starter. And when I said did that, I really mean did that. Got a season ticket (repeatedly), stood on the touchline in all weathers (usually rain and snow!), sat in the stand, went to the bar after and even went to away matches,

    But as a single female, I was generally treated with suspicion and/or alarm, both by the men that were there and more so by any other women, who were usually wives. I got plenty of Margaux’s “Is this strange woman talking to me?” looks – and that was just commenting on the game, not even “real conversation”!! Although, perhaps knowing the rules didn’t help – should I have behaved more clueless?

    I even resorted to persuading a male friend who knew a lot of people to buy a season ticket too. Then people just assumed I was his wife. He loved being able to say “oh no, this isn’t my wife, but my wife’s best friend”, but then the “strange woman” looks started again!

    The only time I did strike up a conversation was with a nice man while queuing for a train back to London after an international. But he was married and spent most of the time wondering at my “planktonness”. His response to my query of “why are all the nice men married?” was interesting though. He said “The clue is in the question!” Not much comfort for a plankton there, methinks.

  • rosie says:

    Lots of patronising nonsense about ‘sad’ singles. Just because someone is unhappily single doesn’t mean they’re a miserable twat who walks round in a fog of doom repelling everyone within a mile-wide radius.

    And to those who claim to be ‘happily’ single, what does that mean exactly? For a month, a year, a whole life? For the record, I’ve never met anyone over 30 who’s admitted to being happy on their own for longer than a few months. Some men perhaps, but just about every man I’ve ever known (apart from the SFARs obviously) who’s actively chosen singledom can make it stop when he decides he’s had enough.

    • Jane says:

      If that is the case, that men can stop being single when they wish, it is because they make the decision that it’s going to be that way and tackle it accordingly, no messing around. If women were equally single minded, they would probably have the same success rate

      • fi says:

        I think they tend to take a more pragmatic approach and don’t hang about waiting for Ms Right. They tend to have less criteria in place than women do. They still have the same problems of where to meet women though but they aren’t as choosy about the ones they do meet.

      • Jane says:

        Agreed, also think they don’t just ‘wait’ for anyone, whether she be right or wrong. The law of averages says that the more times you go in pursuit of someone or do something positive toward meeting someone the greater your potential for finding a match has to be. I do understand why it’s different for women though. I think we invest way more into any meeting with potential partners and find it harder to just pick ourselves up and move onto the next one after someone we had high hopes for turns out not to be Prince Charming but the frog

    • Lydia says:

      I really think we have a fundamental disagreement on here on this point

      “And to those who claim to be ‘happily’ single, what does that mean exactly? For a month, a year, a whole life? For the record, I’ve never met anyone over 30 who’s admitted to being happy on their own for longer than a few months.”

      I knwo it is hard for people to put themselves in the shoes of others on this planet and indeed mucho f our wars and disputes are because of that failure but people are truly different from us. My oldest never likes to be alone. She will even call if she’s alone walking about the street for the company and I will take myself off the equator to be in toltal isolation. I am giving too extreme a picture of me as I’m quite easy to get on with and often have people around but my point is valid – that some people like their own company and others don’t.

      I think we mean without a significant other in this issue. Lots of people are happy without liviing with a partner. It is no necessary route to happiness. I wake up happy my ex husband isn’t there. it’s not that I don’t like sex (I’m quite sexy really0 but I don’t have to be married to have that internal state of happiness which I suppose is all about levels of brain chemicals such as seratonin.

      Just about every woman who wants to stop singledom can make it stop. i do internet dating. I reject men all the time and yet if I wanted not to be single I could pursue things with loads of them. i’m nto saying they’d all accerpt me but given I tend to look better than they are and am often a much higher earner, am fit, sexy etc etc it’s not really that hard to snare one if you want it but I am very happy on my own unless someone I really like comes up. I do miss someone just after. I was seeing someone in the summer and it was lovely to have someone to chat to every day about our day etc etc but then I get over that and it’s fine.

  • rosie says:

    We’ll just have to agree to disagree.

  • rosie says:

    As for the nauseating DM article (aren’t they all?) there’ll be another one next week from some relationship expert saying what a load of rubbish this one is.

  • Steve says:

    Some people are lonely. Some people are alone. There is a huge difference.

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