Tightrope Time

December 1, 2011 § 41 Comments

My own DNA and several friends advised me to leave it for several days before replying to Long Shot’s email.  His was so nutty – if charming – that it would anyway have taken me a while to work out how on earth to respond, even if I hadn’t had a single notion of cool.  I went round to Charlotte’s house the other evening because she is so brilliant and clever and I knew she could help me, and we thrashed out a first draft together.   To have sought help may have been feeble beyond belief, particularly bearing in mind I have strung the odd sentence together in my time, and so should have been able to do it by myself.  But, frankly, I need all the input from Charlotte, Janey, and the rest, that I can get at this point.

It is tightrope time.  And I am a funambulist who, never terribly talented in her heyday, is even less so now she’s nearing the dimming lights of her circus days.

The analogy, hackneyed as it may be, is absolutely spot on.  These embryonic days are utterly crucial.  One can fuck it up anywhere along the rope.  One can topple and fall off at any point.  One can break one’s neck if one doesn’t hang oneself with the wretched rope beforehand.  When there is a potential flicker of something, it can go either way, on the turn of a sixpence.  It is strange that in the early stages, a word out of place here or an unbidden move there, can prompt a crash.  I have done my fair share of causing crashes in the past and I know I have also been guilty of allowing others to crash before me.  For all of us, fledgling fancying is a fragile and fickle thing indeed.  I remember a perfectly nice radio producer taking me out to a film and to dinner, years ago (he’s now a Radio 4 big-wig).  In the cinema, I became aware of his very singular smell.  It was not unpleasant in itself, I just knew at that moment that I could never have sex with it.  Later, at dinner, this mild-mannered man suddenly interrupted our conversation and grabbed my wrist.  “WILL YOU BE MY GIRLFRIEND?” he barked, so I started, and all the other diners must have too.  While many a woman may have been taken with this rather intense tactic, it was not one, I am afraid, that I found winning.  A man’s intellect or bi-cep may appeal initially, but soon one can find oneself happening upon something other in that person which destroys the fancy completely.  I remember a friend saying he out of the blue felt repelled by a woman after whom he had extravagantly lusted because she let on that she raved about some paintings he considered to be total shit.  For me, language is a slalom.  I am such a fucking snob: there are some innocent enough words to which I object so strongly (I could list a few of them but you would kill me because objecting to them is so utterly irrational), that if an attractive man uses one or more of them in the early stages of something that could or might be, it has been known to flail my feelings for him utterly.  I am only being honest here.  We all have our areas of snobbishness, prejudice, things that turn us off.  I know fine well I have unwittingly said or done or worn things, or spoken or moved or danced or eaten in some way that has made many a man’s superficial attraction to me turn instantly to ice.  One man used to tell me that I stood with my feet at the “wrong” angle and he found it off-putting.  Per…lease!  Yet, fair enough, kettles and pots and all that.

It was with all this in mind that I composed my email to LS.  The tightrope consisted of trying my utmost to be encouraging but not pushy, friendly but not gushing, funny but not crass, coquettish but still myself, clever but not clever-clever, sexy but not desperate, and so on.  All in under 500 words (I may say, his email was a lot longer and must have taken ages to put together) and without putting a toe let alone a foot wrong. Fucking hell, I defy anyone… Yet, if I have got it wrong – it has now been sent – I won’t just fall into a lovely, bouncy safety net and ping back up again with a thousand and one other twinkles to gaze at.   As I am there on my back thrashing about like a total arsehole trying to pick myself up, there are no other twinkles to look up at in the tent’s galaxy of tiny lights above, because by definition it is always a starless night for planktons.  Get it wrong, and I break my back and neck and all is darkness again and can I find the strength, in the face of elephantine humiliation and failure, to brush down my fading florescent leotard and make aged and limping steps back up the bloody ladder again?  Let’s take a wild guess.

Drafts two to a hundred and two took the whole of the following afternoon.  (For any of you who might be wondering if I have nothing better to do of a weekday, you can bog off because the answer, clearly, is no.)  I sent it to about 143 girlfriends for their approval, and it came back from all of them gratifyingly with an A*.  They said I had pitched it perfectly and Janey, the original and unsurpassed authority in these matters (as well as the person who actually knows and is after all related to LS) ordered me not to change a syllable.  This masterpiece duly went into the cyber ether.

So, you find me today, balancing like a prat upon the frayed and dreaded rope and, once more, playing a wearying, wobbling waiting game.

But if it works, inshallah, I shall be hiring out my services as a latter-day cyber-Cyrano.

But I warn you, if it works, it means I am good – he is such a Long Shot, remember – so I won’t come cheap.


§ 41 Responses to Tightrope Time

  • Aggie says:

    As always, hilarious and brilliant. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

  • Jude says:

    Use of the word ‘funambulist’ is surely worthy of an A* on its own.
    Waiting with bated breath to hear about his reply….

  • Geoffrey says:

    Crikey P, if he put more than 500 words together he is keener than 99.9% of the male population. Why did you not just pick up the phone?!

    Thanks for a wonderful post anyway. As others have said – you are in a purple patch, so let’s hope that applies to your love life too.

  • MissBates says:

    Wonderful as always, and extra points for use of “funambulist.”

    It is indeed hard in these early days when almost anything can turn someone fickle. Similar to your distaste for certain words, my opinion of someone (romantic or otherwise) can plummet if they don’t know the difference between it’s and its, or your and you’re…. Please no responses about “no wonder you’re alone!” — even in my salad days I recognized the irrationality of this prejudice and have always quelled it, no more so than when I reached plankton status. Now that I’ve officially “given up,” however, I find myself giving it free rein. After all, no reason not to become a Grumpy Old Woman, which I do believe is the next official stage.

  • Jamie says:

    Miss Bates – I need your phone number. We are made for each other. Jx

  • rosie says:

    I’ve learned a new word today, thanks P!

    MissBates, I’m with you on the your/you’re debate, so much so that I once cancelled a date with someone who texted me to say ‘hope your ok’, which was probably a bit extreme looking back but hey ho.

    An old school friend once ditched a sex-on-legs boyfriend (I met him and can verify he was indeed sexy) because he sat in some chewing gum on the bus, which stuck to the seat of his pants and she thought he looked a dork.

    Now that’s what I call irrational!

  • rosie says:

    Just to explain, in case I get the ‘no wonder you’re alone’ bit too, that the cancelled date had previously displayed traits of latent jealousy and possessiveness so it wasn’t his tenuous grasp of grammar alone that got him dumped.

  • Sarah says:

    Oh yes, it’s such a tightrope for all concerned, dating. Loved the analogy.

    We will now be waiting with bated breath for the reply, which by my reckoning based on past results, should be just before Christmas. If it’s any sooner, he must have received the proverbial wet fish and woken up.

    Fingers crossed (again).

    • TwinkleToes says:

      Baited breath here too!

      The number one dealbreaker for me is when the prospective date starts making innuendo before we’ve met. I was chatting to a man on Fish the other evening who made four innuendo comments in the space of a first 15 minute instant messenger ‘conversation’. When I asked him not to make such remarks, he turned nasty. Won’t waste my time meeting him then.

      • Dawn says:

        Well, that was a lucky escape for you! Clearly, he had one goal and one goal only. Which is fine when that’s all you’re both looking for. I wonder if that approach ever works for him?

      • MissM says:

        I’ve had that happen more than once and I consider it an advantage to know where his mind is before having to waste time on a date. Sexual innuendo is a man’s way of testing whether you are up for some no strings attached sex, his mind is not interested in a long term relationship. That is how they test the chance of your reciprocating, and if you had responded positively he would consider himself in like Flynn. More often that not they are probably knocked back, but it is a low cost enterprise for them. Maybe only one in 100 responds well, but the 99 rejections are of no consequence.

  • AJ says:

    Well done P. Like you say, it’s out in the ether now, winging it’s way into his inbox. I feel sure even if you do wobble off your tightrope (funambulist – fab word), he’ll be there to catch you… and if he isn’t, we will be!! keep the faith x

  • EmGee says:

    🙂 O had to look up “funambulist” too.

    I have also enlisted the help of others when approaching as delicate a matter as ‘the proper response’. Although from a man’s perspective, no wonder they see us as clucking hens – they just don’t get it.

  • TwinkleToes says:

    Oh er… think that should’ve been bated breath. Have slapped my own wrist.

    • Jane says:

      Oh I dunno, baited breath, conjures up a great picture. Made me smile anyway. Would that be baited for someone to come innocently by, take the bait and find themselves being snogged to within an inch of their life, just a thought

      • Twinkletoes says:

        Jane, yes, in the past I’ve had my moments… 😉 Nowadays, the chance would be a fine thing!

  • Chris says:

    Wow, the amount of TIME you invest in all this. I have to say that if a woman treats me like LS does you I move on. I know a lot of drivel is written about the thrill of the chase but sod that. If someone appears not to want me I move on. That is the beauty of not being too fussy in life, of not seeking ‘ the one ‘ who probably does not exist anyway. Anybody who ticks 50% of my boxes ( and there ain’t many ) is good enough for me. Makes life kind of easier I guess. You ladies want to agonise over yer dream men good luck to you, I’ll just get on with having fun in ‘ good enough’ and ‘ compromise ‘ mode. Not that I’m looking anyway, I am happy with someone I ‘ settled ‘ for !!

    • Lydia says:

      Dlon’t tar us all with the same brush. The amount of effort going into these emails, makes me just want to write – Get a life. Work hard. enjoy life, enjoy men but all this teenage like angst over one single man is hardly believable.

      If many other women are like this no wonder so many never get to positions of power in this country. We need to drum this kind of thing out of all little girls when they are young and make people be straight forward. If you want him call him.

      Anyway I find it all very hard to understand.

  • Caz says:

    Totally agree with all the comments re habits … when my date didn’t know what a “Salad Nicoise” was – let alone how to say it….he lost lots of points….and I can’t bear e-mails with at least 4 exclamation marks in a row.
    I’m also strange about certain words too. However – like Miss Bates – I’m very worried about becoming a grumpy old woman!
    Please Plankton – do tell us your deal-breaker words??
    Anyway – all the best and sounds as if you have covered every base for now.

    • The Plankton says:

      Dear Caz, Am so tempted, but I daren’t for fear of unleashing a diatribe. I have a list so long! I shall give you two, see how that goes, and I may brave a few more, depending. Gusset and carvery! Px

      • Jane says:

        hahaha! blimey P, I can only guess at the conversations you must have on your dates…gusset. I have known men for years and years and never heard them utter that word. Go on then tell us some more.
        My pet hate is people who say pacific (when they mean specific) people who hold their knives and forks all wonky (and I work predominantly with Americans, so I’ve seen some pretty amazing versions of that) the aforementioned your and you’re and also there, their and they’re. Grumpy ol’ woman…probably, but hey, back in the day, it was called having certain standards. Not fashionable now I know, my kids get quite shirty with me when I say stuff like this, but I’m going down fighting. ,

      • The Plankton says:

        I am with you all the way! px

  • Dawn says:

    Bated breath over here, too! Fingers crossed. He obviously felt the need to be careful how he phrased his email as well. I would think that would bode well. Otherwise, why would he care?

  • rosie says:

    Lydia, if indeed you are for real, your comments are becoming increasingly irritating and not a little contemptuous. Freedom of speech is one thing but you come on here seemingly with the sole intention of telling people what sad sacks they are. If we planktons really are so pathetic why not get one of those ‘lives’ you’re so fond of promoting and attend to one of the adoring men you’ve got swarming around you. There must be at least one waiting for that call you keep telling us to make or are they all beneath contempt too?

  • Caz says:

    thanks for sharing two Plankton…..yes – please unleash a few more words at some point!

    ps..have just had another e-mail with a string of exclamation marks!!!!!…grrr

  • MissM says:

    Like Rosie I am inclined to think Lydia is not real. However if she is, someone who has to worry about whether or not to take the live-in staff to join a new man (when she finds a new one) is living in a world that is so very different from mine they may as well not be real. It is a little like watching Paris Hilton. She is real but there is no way I could possibly imagine her life let alone relate to her. (Actually I just imagined Paris Hilton telling us to Get a Life. lol ) Such high flying people regard everyone not in their sphere with contempt I am sure. Having said that, I do believe a genuinely confident and contented person has no need to put down others in an effort to boost their own self esteem.

    As Geoffrey said, a man who writes more that 500 words in the first place is showing an amazing level of interest. This is the most encouraging thing I have heard about LS yet. Along with almost everyone here, I am also hoping for great things to develop between you, dear Plankton, and LS. I am confident that your not inconsiderable writing skills are going to serve you well, and if positive thoughts can have any power at all there are certainly a lot heading your way from all around the world.

  • Brigitte says:

    What agony! If only we were guaranteed a return on our investment (or rather ‘gamble’).

    I have always hated the period before knowing if someone liked you back enough to ask you out. I have always said I wanted to be smack into the second year of a relationship when we are both finally comfortable with each other. Since high school, when I used to cross the gymnasium at school dances to ask a guy to dance, I have always been impatient with the whole process (very idiotic). I will still put a fire under a guy who isn’t making the first move, although more tactfully. It shouldn’t be so damned complex. “I like you, do you like me? Let’s give it a go.” If only it were so simple. Not romantic maybe, but damned more efficient. We would just need nerves of steel and a thick skin.

    Between my boldness and P.’s hesitation, I believe there is a Goldilocks zone where there are no mixed messages or crossed wires and romances start effortlessly. How I envy the men and women that reside in this zone. My best friend clicked with the first man she was introduced to after her divorce and is still with him 8 years later. Maybe she was afraid to live alone, but she is also a lot less picky than I am.

    I’m also guilty of letting a guy go after a few dates if there is something superficially ‘wrong’ about him. My last date walked with his feet out at quite an angle. I have always found this dorky. And he also did this thing with his jaw while eating that made me think perhaps he had dentures. He also had other ‘old man’ ways about him (he was only 55). No matter how hard I tried to get past these quirks, I just couldn’t. This was a man that had chosen me as much as I had chosen him at a singles’ event. This is so rare for a Plankton. I can’t believe that I haven’t outgrown this ‘teenage’ behaviour at this stage in my life.

    I shouldn’t wonder why I may be single for the rest of my life.

    • Lizzie from Oz says:

      Brigitte – that is very well written! I believe there to be quite a few contributors to this blog who have conquered and mastered the English language! It is a pleasure to read.
      But referring to how brave we are when approaching the delicate issue of ‘does he like me’ – I can remember being with someone when I was 20, a serious long-term relationship at that time, and screaming inside as if my very heart was being wrenched out because I felt incredibly drawn to another guy in our group. Did I ever say anything? Of course not. Far too introverted. And still, at 54, too shy and awkward to ever approach a man with sophistication and allure. Damn! Half of us need lessons in this stuff.

      • Lizzie from Oz says:

        PS. If only, if only we could have a look at the letter to Long Shot ! Best of luck P!

      • Brigitte says:

        Hi Lizzie,

        Thanks for the compliment on my writing. I’m not a natural and I’m surprised anyone would find it noteworthy. I’m certainly not eloquent like our P.

        I could certainly use those lessons as well. My approaches haven’t exactly been successful now that I’m a plankton. It was easier when I was younger and men were everywhere. I didn’t have to “cross the gymnasium floor” when I was in my 20’s and 30’s. Now I feel like I’m swimmng a bloody ocean just to engage the rare one in conversation. Everybody is so afraid.

    • MissM says:

      It being a gamble rather than an investment is precisely why the whole romance thing is so difficult. It would be so much better if romance were more like an investment, so that you did get returns in direct relation to the effort you put in. When studying to get qualifications, you know if you do the work well you will get your degree. Unfortunately there are not steps to follow that will guarantee that as long as you do the work well enough you will end up with a partner. Even if you do everything that is supposedly “right” you can still just be unlucky and end up alone.

      I’ve heard gambling is a mugs game, but sadly in romance there is no other option but to hope that at some point Lady Luck will be on your side. (Lady Luck is rather stingy with luck in my humble opinion.)

      I absolutely whole heartedly am with you 100% on just wanting to be smack into the second year of a relationship, at the point where you know how you feel about each other, and have done the whole meet the relatives thing too. The whole courtship period with the uncertainty that it involves is a complete, total and utter nightmare.

      The idea of “I like you, do you like me? Let’s give it a go.” also sounds brilliant to me. I’m not really sure why on earth it can’t be like that. I know life wasn’t meant to be easy, but does it really need to be quite so hard?

      • Lizzie from Oz says:

        I think the whole ball game is so hard now because all we are trying to do is protect our hearts. When we were younger we never gave a thought to protecting our hearts – we were too busy running around all the pubs and clubs, and jooffing off to Spain or wherever our fancies took us! Not a care in the world! I thinks that’s why the whole LS thing is so appealing – it is inaccessible, dangerous, risky stuff!

    • june says:

      Brigitte, you cannot be as picky as me, no-one can, i always think i am one of the pickiest women ever born, which is probably why i am still single, I know i am i just cant change, in spite of not liking my planktoness.If my dear Mum is watching me from wherever, she will be saying dear god shes still too damm picky. It seems most of the women on this blog are , thats why they alone too. Even Fi, after a dose of POF is becoming pickier!

      Do you think it teenage behaviour then, i always think teenagers not at all picky, you often see such pretty girls with real dorks. No i think to be honest you get fussier as you get older, with such a sell by date as we females have, you shouldnt but you do. Any female over 40 i know who is alone is very choosey about men, with very high standards and will not take crap from them. Says it all really.

      • Brigitte says:

        I just thought that by now I would be able to oversee the physical imperfections and be attracted to a man’s “inner beauty”. I think teenagers are very much into physical attractiveness. I do agree, though, that many of us over forty are very choosey, but are we choosier than we were in our teens? Don’t forget that many teens are “cute”, but grow into not so cute midlife adults. Smooth skin, a full head of (non-white) hair, and a thin, firm build in our teen years go a long way. I’m still hoping I’ll get over this choosiness when I’m older and gray. At least I hope to look past the gray hair, the balding, the beer gut, etc. etc. OMG! I’ll be alone forever. The only way I’ll outgrow this is if I go blind.

      • MissM says:

        I don’t know about becoming pickier, since even in my youth I was turned off by both a lack of intellect and significantly older men, I have not acquired those tastes in later life and as such I can’t see myself dropping those standards anytime soon either. I suspect they are as intrinsically me and unchangeable as the colour of my eyes and the way I sneeze.

        I’d have thought they were rather meagre standards anyway, but once I rule out those men old enough to be my father, and those who have an IQ in double digits, I am left with no one. But I think it is that the stockpile I have to choose from has shrunk, rather than my standards have increased.

        Everyone wants someone they find physically attractive, that is only natural. There is a bit of wiggle room in that notion however. I admit I can be swayed by a personality into finding someone physically attractive even if, when judged by any regular standards, they are not. I do find that how you feel in the person’s company can colour how visually attractive they are. If they are a joy to be with you associate them with that joy, and the very sight of them becomes a pleasure.

        I am also a believer in beauty being in the eye of the beholder, and what appeals to me simply may not appeal to anyone else. For example, I seem to be the only woman here who actually likes facial hair on a man (something well groomed mind you, nothing that can hold the remains of meals). On the other hand someone could perhaps present to me someone they consider, and indeed everyone else considers, to be perfectly pleasant in appearance, and I will find him to be the most physically repellent man on the planet.

        In other words, physical attractiveness is really quite complex.

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