January 31, 2012 § 77 Comments
An extended version of yesterday’s column in The Times:-
A friend told me that she has a plankton friend who goes to concerts a lot on her own, the Royal Festival Hall and so forth, and that she is ALWAYS meeting and having affairs with men. She goes alone, sits in the bar and they start chatting her up. My friend who is Japanese and hilarious – more outspoken than you can believe – said this 47 year old friend of hers is fat and unattractive and sartorially challenged (my friend is not a bitch, I promise, though I have done an excellent job of making her sound like a prize one) and she still has all these men… The fact that none of them seems to stick around for very long – “She doesn’t seem to be able to keep them,” was how my friend put it – is something of a downer, but she promised me they weren’t married men, or goats.
I have a very ballsy American friend in New York, a single mother with grown-up children. She is a journalist and writer (novels, film scripts) and hangs out with A-listers, shows me pictures of herself with film-stars on her phone in a way no English woman would. We are so incredibly different it is untrue but there is a big part of me which enjoys the company of that very New York go-getting, wise-cracking, loud, ambitious sort of woman, vivacious, obsessive, and into all that all-American, “I love you, Girlfriend!” kind of bollocks which could be seen as a pain in the ass but she has the kind of spirit and zest which can be so affecting, and the ability really to laugh, not least at herself. Anyway, she is always telling me to get dressed up and go to the bar of a particular hotel on a Tuesday night, even, and just “hang”. She says likely men, business types and so forth, are always there and she has spent many an hour at that bar falling into conversation with them and being picked up.
A commentator wrote recently that she was meeting a mystery man in a gallery/bar and whilst waiting for him she happened to fall into chatting to a gorgeous other man, a stranger. The mystery man was fine but it was scoring the stranger’s email address that gave her so much more pleasure and filled her with hope and excitement that has us all – well, me, at least – in a flurry.
Of the three scenarios, I know which appeals to me most. The fat classical music plankton and my noisy NY plankton friend are of the opinion that actively hanging out alone in a bar is as good a way as any to meet men. They are right. But somehow I don’t think I could do that. Something so bleak about dressing up to go out on a solitary quest which is most likely to end in the solitary journey home again feeling more miserable than when you started out or, at best, an encounter the provenance of which is decidedly wobbly, fraught with a myriad of unknowns, more unknowns even than an internet meeting. It has to be said, this high-risk practice doesn’t seem to have done either of these plankton many favours. (Remember, I only saw Shame very recently, and if nothing had prompted a somewhat sceptical view of the handsome charmer at the bar, that film sure sets one to rights on that score!)
The happy commentator, on the other hand, had not gone out bar cruising deliberately and I think this is enormously different for some reason, though I am not entirely sure I can put my finger on what that reason might be. Stranger unknowns and/or dangers of the emotional sort can occur in any situation, even between two singles set up by best friends. Of course, it is early, embryonic days for the commentator (she only met him a few days ago!) and who knows what may happen between her and the chance-stranger, and she must be cautious of course, but the way it happened, so utterly unprovoked and organic, I don’t know, I like to think it has more integrity or legs to it than the more calculated encounter of Lonely Plankton At Bar and On A Mission?
Call me a foolish romantic, because there’s nothing wrong with bar cruising – it is being bloody brave and ballsy and imaginative and proactive after all; and it’s not sitting at home feeling sorry for oneself, for sure, all of which is to be encouraged. I just kind of know it is not for me.
It may be, one day – never say never (God, I am so comatose with boredom at that annoying phrase!) – but I am just not sure it isn’t a route fraught with disappointment, and an even more serious case than usual of the slough of dispiriting despond?