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.